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

Recent Court Rules Decisions

Court Clerk Can't Withhold Press Access

If you want to find the bleeding edge of press freedoms, look no further than legal news stories.

In a case filed by a news agency, a federal judge has ordered a Chicago court clerk to make newly filed complaints immediately available to the press. That includes lawsuits that haven't yet been processed by the clerk's office for electronic filing.

It's one of many cases filed by news companies, which will challenge any law that curtails their freedoms. It's about more than fighting for the First Amendment, however; it's because yesterday's news isn't news anymore.

Judge David Hamilton of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has some rather novel advice for lawyers that would likely make his former colleague, Judge Posner, smile ear to ear: Pick up the phone and call (or email) opposing counsel before filing your motion with the court, especially those administrative case management motions.

While this cold-blooded calling out in an appellate in-chambers opinion was phrased much more eloquently, in short, Judge Hamilton explains that it is much easier for the court to rule on case management motions if the moving party certifies that the opposing party does not oppose the motion. Rather than waiting for the requisite time for an opposing party to file an opposition to expire, if a court knows the other side doesn't oppose the motion, it can grant it sooner.

7th Circuit Employs Rarely Used FRE 807 Residual Hearsay Rule

The always insightful Seventh Circuit employed the rarely used Federal Rule of Evidence 807 "residual hearsay" rule recently to allow phone evidence connecting a man to the illegal sale of a gun used in a shootout with Indiana police.

The analysis, in our view, could have gone either way -- especially when looking at the authoring judge's language.

Selling of Students' Personal Info Is Not an Injury, Says 7th Cir.

In a decision that will outrage many, the Seventh Circuit has affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss the case Silha v. ACT, Inc. for lack of standing. The court ruled that the sale of students' personal information alone is not an injury by itself.

The case involves plaintiff students who had registered to that the ACT and SAT which were administered by the defendants and for which plaintiffs paid a fee. In a routine that is familiar to all students, plaintiffs divulged personally-identifiable information (PII) to the defendants which included their race, gender, contact information, and names.

Another Seventh Circuit judge is in hot water these days, and no, it's not for forgetting a case for a few years this time. Judge Posner, perhaps one of the highest profile judges in the federal courts, minus only those on SCOTUS, came under fire after he did his own Internet research on a case -- and citing Wikipedia in the process.

The case involved a prisoner suing pro se after prison officials took away his medication. His suit was originally tossed out, only to be revived in part because Judge Posner did his own research to show that a genuine factual dispute existed, relying on information that wasn't submitted by the parties or present during trial. As Judge David Hamilton noted in his dissent, that goes beyond the "permissible boundaries" of an appellate court.

The Seventh Circuit simply forgot about a case, for over five years. In a surprising ruling issued by Judges Easterbrook and Kanne last Thursday, the court admitted that it had misplaced court filings, then forgotten about them for more than five years. The case was lost for so long that one of the three judges originally on the panel, Judge Terence Evans, passed away before it was rediscovered.

The case, involving investment adviser's fees, was on remand from the Supreme Court when it vanished among the clutter. It's rare to see a case languish for so long, but ridiculous delays and oversights in the justice system aren't unheard of, whether they're Seventh Circuit cases, decade's long failures to arrest convicts, or jailing individuals for years without charges.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson's suit challenging Obamacare's changes to congressional health plans was dismissed by the Seventh Circuit for lack of standing on Tuesday. Johnson and his legislative counsel had sued after the Affordable Care Act resulted in changes to their healthcare options, including federal subsidies for their health care plans. Johnson, however, had purchased his own private healthcare instead of participating in the federal program.

The two couldn't show an injury, needed to provide standing to sue, a unanimous Seventh Circuit ruled. The government had simply provided them a benefit which they refused.

On Monday, the Supreme Court decided a case that had circuit court of appeals split, that is, whether property, as defined by the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 ("Act"), is "'returned' when a victim takes title to collateral securing a loan that an offender fraudulently obtained from the victim."

The Supreme Court clarified its stance, and affirmed the Seventh Circuit's opinion.

Francis Grady was on a mission to "blow up" a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, and when we was arrested, tried and convicted of arson and intentionally damaging property, he was surprised. With no wiggle room to get out of his conviction, he challenged the district court's definition of "maliciously" on appeal.

The Arson

Grady went to Daniel Wolf's house seeking gasoline and told him "that he wanted to blow up Planned Parenthood." Wolf refused, and Grady proceeded to buy gasoline, go to Planned Parenthood and start a fire. After hearing about the fire on the news, Wolf contacted police about Grady. During the police interview Grady confessed and said that he "lit the clinic up," that his "intention was to light the building," and he had told a friend afterward that he "thought as far as I know I though it f*****' burned right down."

We've been writing a bit about the "Benchslappy" Seventh Circuit -- we can't help ourselves. The Seventh Circuit's benchslaps are funny, and often illuminating -- so much so we had to do a review of some that have occurred only within the past three months.

After reviewing some of the more notable Seventh Circuit benchslaps through the years, we've decided to put a list together for you on how to avoid getting whapped the next time you submit a brief, or argue, before the Seventh Circuit.