Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

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In December, 2005, Chicago police officers Malaniuk and Shields arrested then-14-year-old Barber. Barber claims that the arrest was without probable cause and that Malaniuk used excessive force in shoving him into a holding cell, causing him to strike his head on a hard surface. The officers deny those allegations and say that the head injury occurred because Barber was intoxicated and fell over his own feet. In Barber’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1982, a jury sided with the defendants. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, finding merit in Barber’s claims that the district court erred when it allowed defense counsel to cross-examine him about a subsequent arrest for underage drinking and about his intervening felony conviction. View "Terrence Barber v. City of Chicago, et al" on Justia Law

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Six-year-old D.B. and five-year-old twins C.C. and her brother W.C., were “playing doctor” in D.B.’s backyard when the twins’ mother arrived. She interpreted D.B.’s conduct as a sexual assault of her daughter and reported to the Department of Social Services. The Sheriff’s Department also responded. After an aggressive investigation, the District Attorney filed a petition alleging that D.B. had committed first-degree sexual assault and was in need of public protection or services. The petition was not adjudicated; the case was closed by consent decree. D.B.’s parents filed a civil-rights suit, alleging that county officials overzealously investigated and maliciously prosecuted D.B. They asserted a “class of one” equal-protection claim, noting that the twins engaged in the same behavior as D.B., but the twins’ father is a “high-ranking local political figure.” The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Allegations of improper subjective motive are not enough to state a class-of-one equal-protection claim; a complaint must allege sufficient facts to plausibly show that the plaintiff was treated differently from others similarly situated and that the discriminatory treatment was wholly arbitrary and irrational. Here, there was an objective rational basis for disparate treatment. The twins’ mother witnessed D.B.’s conduct and reported it; there was no adult witness to the twins’ behavior. View "Kurtis B. v. Kopp" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed Woods, then seven years old from his parents’ home in 1991 and placed him in a residential treatment facility. There had been many reports of sexual abuse among residents of the facility and Woods, claiming to have been abused by another resident, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the suit as untimely because Woods failed to bring his claim within two years of its accrual, rejecting Woods’s contention that the 20-year limitations period applicable in Illinois to personal injury claims based on childhood sexual abuse applied. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The limitations period applicable to all Section 1983 claims brought in Illinois is two years, as provided in 735 ILCS 5/13-202, and this includes claims involving allegations of failure to protect from childhood sexual abuse. View "Woods v. IL Dep't of Children & Family Servs." on Justia Law

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The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, runs a number of youth detention facilities. Jamal, age 16, had a history of mental illness and was known to have attempted suicide at least three times when he arrived at one of those facilities in 2008. His intake assessment noted a history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, major depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, behavior disorders, and anger and drug abuse counseling. His behavioral history included delinquency, gang affiliations, anger, aggression, setting of fires, cruelty to animals, putting a gun to a cousin’s head, threatening to kill teachers, learning disabilities, alcohol abuse, and cannabis use. Jamal denied that he had manic or depressive symptoms, that he was depressed, or that he had experienced suicidal thoughts since his June 2008 attempt; the intake doctor prescribed Prozac and lithium. Jamal was noncompliant, had disciplinary problems, and was periodically evaluated for suicide risk before he committed suicide by hanging himself from a bunk bed. In his mother’s suit, alleging deliberate indifference to Jamal’s serious mental illness, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Miller v. Nordstrom" on Justia Law

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Racine County Human Services Department caseworker Wagner removed Thor, a 12-year-old, from his parents’ home and placed him into protective custody. Thor suffers from cerebral palsy, global developmental delay, and is confined to a wheelchair. Wagner investigated after receiving a referral from personnel at Thor’s school concerning bruising on his arm and leg. A judge issued a probable cause order for removal, based on evidence of Thor’s injuries and that he had been left unattended. Thor suffered additional injuries as a result of accidents that occurred in foster care and at a rehabilitation facility. Thor’s mother and stepfather and Thor sued Wagner, his supervisor, another caseworker, and her supervisor, alleging violations of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 42 U.S.C. 1985. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on qualified immunity grounds and because plaintiffs failed to establish sufficient evidence of racial animus. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity for any alleged violation of plaintiffs’ right to familial relations; for any alleged breach of Thor’s right to bodily security and integrity based on the decision to continue his placements; and for any alleged breach of Thor’s right to individualized treatment. View "Xiong v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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A suit on behalf of a 14-year-old, eighth grade boy alleged that the failure of the public school district to prevent sexual abuse by a female teacher violated the student’s rights under Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681, and constituted negligent infliction of emotional distress under Wisconsin law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the school district; claims against the teacher remain pending. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. In a private suit under Title IX, a school district cannot be held liable on the ground of respondeat superior for an employee’s violation absent proof of actual notice and deliberate indifference. That other teachers suspected improper conduct and administrators investigated and accepted the teacher’s denials does not establish knowledge or deliberate indifference. . View "N. R. Doe v. St. Francis Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff taught sixth-grade at a public school and met with a student’s parents about a threat the student had made against another student. He met the parents again after seeing the student beating another student. The father threatened a lawsuit and told plaintiff that an older son, who had assaulted the assistant principal, should have assaulted plaintiff. During a subsequent class, the student used an assignment to write a song with lyrics about stabbing plaintiff. The police liaison encouraged plaintiff to file criminal charges; under Illinois law declaring a knowing threat of violence against a person at a school is disorderly conduct, 720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(13). School administrators feared a suit and were not supportive. After plaintiff filed charges, his evaluations went from satisfactory to unsatisfactory and administrators advised him that they would recommend that he not be rehired. Plaintiff resigned and filed suit, claiming retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on the ground that the complaint was not protected by the First Amendment because it did not involve a matter of public concern. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Principles underlying the suit are well settled, which defeats claims of qualified immunity. View "Gschwind v. Heiden" on Justia Law

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Defendant left his seriously dysfunctional home at age 14 and began living with an adult who sold him to older men for sex. They were joined by two young girls. The four engaged in group sex. Defendant was convicted of first degree sexual assault of a child, based on oral sex performed on defendant (then age 15) by a 12-year-old, and sentenced to 40 years. Wisconsin state courts rejected his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied a petition for habeas corpus. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that defendant received constitutionally ineffective assistance from his trial counsel, who failed to request a jury instruction including the statutory words defining the charged offense: "either by the defendant or upon the defendant's instruction." The state court determination that any error was not prejudicial was not unreasonable, in light of the circumstances surrounding the incident and the possibility that the statutory language court be read as covering situations in which a defendant allowed the sexual conduct. The court noted that it was not unmindful of the circumstances that led defendant to the situation and that it trusted the parole board to take those circumstances into account. View "Steffes v. Thurmer" on Justia Law

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The state agency took a 15-month-old away from his home and parents and into temporary protective custody, following an accident and a hospital visit. Protective custody involved a safety plan that limited the parents' access to the child; the parents claimed to have been threatened into accepting the plan. In the parents' suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the court determined that child welfare workers could have reasonably believed that taking temporary protective custody of the child was supported by probable cause and that the seizure did not violate a clearly established right. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to the Fourth Amendment, substantive due process, and procedural due process claims premised on the initial removal, but vacated with respect to the Fourth Amendment and substantive due process claims premised on the continued withholding of the child as well as the substantive due process and procedural due process claims premised on the safety plan. View "Hernandez v. Foster" on Justia Law