Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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The lead plaintiffs in consolidated purported class actions received faxed advertisements that allegedly did not comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227 and the Federal Communication Commission’s Solicited Fax Rule. Each district court refused to certify the proposed class, largely on the authority of the D.C. Circuit’s 2017 decision in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, regarding the validity of the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. At a minimum, it is necessary to distinguish between faxes sent with permission of the recipient and those that are truly unsolicited. The question of what suffices for consent is central, and it is likely to vary from recipient to recipient. The district courts were within their rights to conclude that there are enough other problems with class treatment here that a class action is not a superior mechanism for adjudicating these cases. View "Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. Lagasse, LLC" on Justia Law

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Shaf, a New Jersey company, sells apparel. Seventh Avenue, a Wisconsin-based catalog merchandiser, sells clothing protected by a trademark. After a dispute over Shaf’s alleged infringement of Seventh Avenue’s trademark, the parties entered into a consent agreement. Months later, Seventh Avenue discovered what it saw as continuing infringement by Shaf and moved to hold Shaf in contempt. Shaf was represented in the district court by Milwaukee counsel. The attorney received an email notification (from the court’s electronic docketing system) of the motion upon its January 17 filing, indicating that response was due January 24. Shaf failed to respond. The court scheduled a hearing for February 14. Nobody for Shaf appeared. The court held Shaf in contempt and required that it pay Seventh Avenue’s fees and costs. The contempt order prompted Shaf's local counsel to move for reconsideration, explaining that counsel was traveling internationally when the motion was filed. Counsel returned to work five days before Shaf’s written response was due and 26 days before the hearing, but took several weeks to catch up on his email. Shaf’s request also explained that local counsel believed national counsel would attend to any ongoing needs in the case. The court denied the motion to reconsider. Seventh Avenue supplemented its fee petition to reflect additional expenses. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $34,905 in fees and costs. While the delayed response was better than no response, the court acted within its discretion to find that Shaf’s initial unresponsiveness warranted a sanction. View "Seventh Avenue, Inc. v. Shaf International, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1988, Huber pleaded guilty to making fraudulent credit card charges of $800. He spent the next 25 years either on probation or in prison for violating his probation, although Wisconsin had no lawful basis for extending his sentence beyond November 1995. It took the state until 2014 to recognize this problem and to vacate his ongoing sentence. Huber filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, ruling that Huber had failed to bring most claims within six years of their accrual, as required under Wisconsin’s statute of limitations. Some of Huber’s claims were timely, but the court granted the defendants summary judgment on the merits. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Huber’s claims were timely and summary judgment was premature on those claims that the district court reached. Huber’s claim did not accrue until the court invalidated his sentence. Huber filed this action in 2016, within Wisconsin’s six-year statute of limitations. He did not sit on his rights under the Heck doctrine, which ensures that civil litigation does not undermine the basis of criminal convictions and sentences. A reasonable jury could find deliberate indifference here. Construing facts and inferences in Huber’s favor, Huber’s Eighth Amendment claims are not suitable for summary judgment. View "Huber v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Waushara County wanted to improve a rural highway. A dispute erupted about who owned land on which DeCoster had erected a fence. State court litigation settled for a $7,900 payment to DeCoster, who then sought more than $110,000 in attorneys’ fees and other expenses. The court of appeals affirmed an award of about $31,000, ruling that any outlay after the $7,900 offer was unreasonable. DeCoster then sued in federal court, seeking an award under 42 U.S.C. 4651–55, the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act, which conditions federal grants for highway projects on states’ providing assurance that they will compensate affected landowners for reasonable attorney, appraisal, and engineering fees. The district court ruled that the Act does not provide a private right of action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, without deciding the merits. DeCoster had to present his claim in the state suit. Wisconsin employs the doctrine of claim preclusion under which all legal theories, pertaining to a single transaction, that could have been presented in the initial suit, are barred if not so presented. It does not matter whether the “transaction” is identified as the (arguable) taking of DeCoster’s land or his litigation expenses; the federal suit rests on a transaction that was before the state court. In addition, both Wis. Stat. 32.28 and the Act call for reimbursement of “reasonable” litigation expenses. Wisconsin’s judiciary determined that an award exceeding $31,561 would be unreasonable. View "DeCoster v. Waushara County Highway Department" on Justia Law

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Courthouse News Service (CNS) sought injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983, arguing that the First Amendment requires the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, to release newly filed complaints to the press at the moment of receipt by her office—not after processing. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s order granting a preliminary injunction and ordered the action dismissed without prejudice, noting that neither the Seventh Circuit nor the U.S. Supreme Court provides the press with such instant access to court filings, but undertake certain administrative processing before a filing is made publicly available. Adhering to the principles of equity, comity, and federalism, the district court should have abstained from exercising jurisdiction over this case. The court noted that the procedures at issue involve a delay of no more than one business day in access to the vast majority of electronically filed complaints and stated that the state courts deserve the first opportunity to hear such a constitutional challenge to their internal procedures. View "Courthouse News Services v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Dvorak’s suits contend that the defendants mishandled a capital call for a limited partnership in which he had invested. Dvorak’s first suit, in federal court, claiming diversity jurisdiction, named the partnership among the defendants. His lawyer failed to investigate the citizenship of other partners and overlooked that the suit did not come within federal subject-matter jurisdiction. Dvorak refiled the suit in state court. A state judge dismissed one of his claims on the merits. Rather than wait for a decision on his remaining claims, Dvorak dismissed the state suit and filed this third action in federal court, omitting both the partnership and the theory on which he had lost in state court. The district judge deemed Illinois law applicable and dismissed the third suit with prejudice. A plaintiff may dismiss a federal suit once without prejudice to refiling: “[I]f the plaintiff previously dismissed any federal- or state-court action based on or including the same claim, a notice of dismissal operates as an adjudication on the merits,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(B). Illinois follows the same rule, 735 ILCS 5/13-217. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The stipulated dismissal of Dvorak’s first federal suit counts under section 5/13-217, making the current suit his third. View "Dvorak v. Granite Creek GP Flexcap I, LLC" on Justia Law

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The appellees sought permission to file a brief containing more words than the 14,000 permitted by Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(7) and Circuit Rule 32(c). Vermillion, the appellant, represented that his brief contains fewer than 14,000 words, after excluding the portions not counted by Rule 32(f). Seventh Circuit staff found 16,522 countable words in Vermillion’s brief. The judge struck Vermillion’s brief, ordered him to file a new brief with fewer than 14,000 words, and directed him to explain why he should not be penalized for falsely representing that his original brief complied with the word limits. The court subsequently discharged the rule to show cause, upheld the order striking Vermillion’s brief, and reset the briefing dates, noting that Vermillion is litigating pro se. The court explained that Vermillion erred in his use of Microsoft Word because footnotes count toward the word limit. The fact that Rule 32 does not “specifically include” any category of words does not imply that it does not count toward the limit. Once Vermillion files a complying brief, the appellees will be subject to the 14,000-word limit; 14,000 suffices for all but the rare cases with lengthy trials, complex administrative records, or multiple complex issues. View "Vermillion v. Corizon Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit denied a “Request for Judicial Notice,” publishing an “explanation in the hope of forestalling other, similar applications, which recently have increased in frequency.” Federal Rule of Evidence 201(b) permits a court to take judicial notice of an adjudicative fact that is “not subject to reasonable dispute” because it is generally known within the trial court’s territorial jurisdiction or can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned. The “Request” asked the court to take judicial notice of four documents. Two are orders entered by a Wisconsin state court, which are public records and appropriate subjects of judicial notice. The third is a power of attorney filed in state court. The fact that a document is in a court’s record does not make it an appropriate subject of notice; its provenance may be disputed. The fourth document is a motion filed in the same state case, which is not evidence of an adjudicative fact. The court further noted that the right place to propose judicial notice, in a court of appeals, is in a brief. When evidence is “not subject to reasonable dispute” there is no need to multiply the paperwork by filing “Requests.” If a brief proposes judicial notice, any objection can be presented in a responsive brief. View "In re: Lisse" on Justia Law

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The Affordable Care Act’s three premium‐stabilization programs were designed to redistribute money among insurance companies and mitigate each company’s exposure to market risks, 42 U.S.C. 18061–18063. The Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) intended to implement these programs in a budget‐neutral way paying out only the funds that each program had taken in from other insurance companies. Land of Lincoln participated in these premium‐stabilization programs and incurred a debt of roughly $32 million but HHS owed Land of Lincoln over $70 million. HHS was not able to pay what it owed because it was taking in far less money than expected, and it refused to dip into its discretionary funds. Like other insurance companies, Land of Lincoln sought the overdue payments in an unsuccessful suit. Land of Lincoln became insolvent and began liquidation. Despite an Illinois court order, HHS began to offset its overdue payments against Land of Lincoln’s debt, as its own regulations permitted. The Director of the Illinois Department of Insurance, Land of Lincoln’s appointed liquidator, asked the state court for a declaration that HHS violated the order, but HHS removed the motion to federal district court arguing that the federal government was not subject to state court jurisdiction. The district court remanded the case back to state court relying on a narrow reading of 28 U.S.C. 1442, and principles of abstention. The Seventh Circuit reversed on both grounds and remanded to the district court. View "Hammer v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Standard sued, on behalf of itself and “all others similarly situated," alleging that was injured when it “purchased several items of steel tubing [at an inflated price] indirectly … for end use," claiming that eight U.S. steel producers colluded to slash output to drive up the price of steel so that plaintiffs overpaid for steel sheets, rods, and tubing. Eight years later, the plaintiffs amended their complaint, asserting that they overpaid for end-use consumer goods, including vehicles, washing machines, and refrigerators, that were manufactured by third parties using steel. The district court dismissed the suit as time-barred because it redefines “steel products” to give rise to an entirely different, and exponentially larger, universe of plaintiffs, and, in the alternative, for not plausibly pleading a causal connection between the alleged antitrust conspiracy and plaintiffs’ own injuries. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. No reasonable defendant, reading the original complaint, would have imagined that plaintiffs were actually suing over the thousands of end-use household and commercial goods manufactured by third parties—a reading so broad that it would make nearly every person in the country a potential class member. The court further noted that it was unclear how to trace the effect of an alleged overcharge on steel through the complex supply and production chains that gave rise to consumer products. View "Supreme Auto Transport, LLC v. Arcelor Mittal USA, Inc." on Justia Law