U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recent Contract Law Decisions

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld subsidies passed by the state of Illinois in 2016 to support clean and nuclear energy producers in the state.

The state law, as the challengers alleged, allowed in state energy producers to undercut out of state producers in the federally regulated interstate energy auction markets, thereby violating a federal law preventing states from interfering with interstate energy commerce. However, as the appellate court found, the Illinois law didn't infringe upon the interstate energy trade as much as it just gave in state producers more of an incentive to produce clean energy.

Debt collector, Portfolio Recovery Associates, recently lost their consolidated appeal in the Seventh Circuit seeking to overturn four summary judgment orders granted to four different claimants alleging violations of federal debt collection practices.

The violation each of the four debtors alleged involved their debts being reported to the credit reporting agencies without notice that the debt was disputed. The debt collector claims that the letters they received from the debtors did not clearly state that the debts were being disputed. Fortunately for the four debtors, the court of appeals didn't agree.

School Can't Lay Off Tenured Teacher

Joe Elliott, a Dupont Elementary School teacher for almost 20 years, had a reputation for being "too rigid," "sarcastic," and "moody."

The Indiana school let him go him for his "negative effect on education," but officials had seen nothing yet. Elliott had tenure, and so he sued in Elliott v. Board of School Trustees of Madison Consolidated Schools.

After a ruling by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, it looks like good news for tenured teachers and bad news for Indiana schools trying to shed them.

Water Analyst Can Publish Water Use Report, 7th Cir. Rules

A water analyst hired by Chicago's non-profit Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) will be allowed to publish the findings of a water report that "left the Alliance dissatisfied."

Even though the plaintiff in the case sought to be completely disassociated with the report, it does not appear that will be possible under the terms of the court finding. The circuit's response? Tough luck.

Unconstitutional to Reduce Pension Benefits: Ill. Supreme Court

Illinois, like many states, was facing a funding crisis: State liabilities to public employees on pensions have been on the rise as more and more employees retire, with no proportional increase in funding for those pensions. The state could either raise more money or cut benefits.

Which one did legislators pick?

Break Plea, Flee to Mexico, Get Below-Guidelines Sentence, Appeal

Got all that?

Javier Munoz pled guilty in 2007 to possession and distribution of cocaine charges. As part of his pretrial release terms, he agreed to show up to court as needed. After entering his guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement, but before actual sentencing, he fled to Mexico.

Five years later, U.S. Marshalls tracked him down, extradited him, and he faced sentencing. This time, however, the government wasn't feeling nearly as generous and recommended a higher sentence than the plea bargain provided for. The probation officer's presentence report added upward adjustments for additional drugs, obstruction of justice, and possession of a dangerous weapon. It also deleted credits for acceptance of responsibility.

Voluntary Payment Provision: Don't Rush to Do the Right Thing

As children, we're encouraged to do the right thing. Make a mistake? Admit it. Tell a lie? Confess. Hurt someone? Apologize.

As adults, all that do-good nonsense becomes a thing of the past. We can't be forced to incriminate ourselves. We should never admit fault at the scene of an accident.

While the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals admires a business that strives to do right by its customers, it acknowledges that the law is governed by the adult-world CYA rules. Those people who approach the world with a childlike perspective? They're just suckers who voided their insurance coverage.

Think Before You Sue: Did Your Client Satisfy Duties After Loss?

How much documentation must Indiana policyholders provide to their insurers to collect on a claim? According to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, it’s everything the insurer asks for in the “Your Duties After Loss” section of the policy, as long as the company doesn’t badger policyholders with irrelevant demands.

Seventh Circuit Sides with Alltel in Arbitration Case

You have a cell phone, and most likely a contract for the service plan that goes with that cell phone. So when you run into problems with your wireless provider, are you tempted to use your legal know-how to challenge the arbitration clause in your cell phone contract? If you are, keep in mind that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, like the Supreme Court, favors arbitration clauses.

This Seventh Circuit arbitration case hits close to home because we can remember a time where we faced a similar battle.

City-Sanctioned Fines Not 'Debts' Under FDCPA

Is a debt-collection law firm retained to collect fines for a city obligated to comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

Apparently not.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that city-levied fines are not debts under the FDCPA.