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Home / Case Digests / Weekly Case Digests – October 19, 2020 – October 23, 2020

Weekly Case Digests – October 19, 2020 – October 23, 2020

7th Circuit Digests

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Apex Mortgage Corporation v. Great Northern Insurance Company, et al.,

Case No.: 19-2525

Officials: BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and MANION, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Summary of Judgment – Issue of Material Fact

Federal Insurance Company refused to cover Apex Mortgage for the settlement of state tort claims filed against Apex. Apex sued but the district court granted summary judgment for Federal. Because the record contains an open question of material fact, summary judgment should not have issued and remand is necessary.

Decision

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Marcus Harrington v. Derek Duszak, et al.,

Case No.: 16-4120; 19-2379

Officials: BAUER, FLAUM, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Abuse of Discretion – Admittance of Evidence

Marcus Harrington brings this appeal requesting us to reverse the district court’s admitting evidence of his firearm, prohibiting him from arguing racial animus in closing arguments, failing to sanction the Appellees, and denying his motion for post‐trial discovery. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion or commit legal error, we affirm.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Scottsdale Insurance Company v. Columbia Insurance Group, Inc.,

Case No.: 19-3315

Officials: MANION, KANNE, and WOOD Circuit Judges.

Focus: Insurance Claim – Duty to Defend

While performing HVAC work at a construction site in Chicago, Eduardo Guzman fell approximately 22 feet through an unguarded opening in the second floor, sustaining serious injuries. Guzman sued Rockwell Properties (the owner), Prairie Management & Development (the manager), and others in state court.

The issue before us is whether Columbia Insurance Group (Guzman’s employers’ insurer) owes a duty to defend Rockwell and Prairie. Scottsdale Insurance Company (Rockwell’s insurer) wants Columbia to take over the defense. The district court granted Scottsdale judgment on the pleadings, declaring Columbia has a duty to defend Rockwell and Prairie, and ordering Columbia to reimburse prior defense costs. We affirm.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Sarah Johnson v. Northeast School Corporation

Case No.: 19-2870

Officials: SYKES, Chief Judge, and RIPPLE and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Summary Judgment – Title IX Claim – Evidentiary Rulings

Sarah Johnson sued North Central High School and Northeast School Corporation (“NESC”) in 2018, claiming that their inadequate response to her allegations of sexual harassment violated Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). The district court entered summary judgment for North Central and NESC on all claims. Johnson now takes issue with two of the district court’s evidentiary determinations and its disposition of her Title IX claim. Because Johnson has waived any arguments regarding the district court’s evidentiary rulings and because NESC was not deliberately indifferent to Johnson’s claims of sexual harassment, we affirm.

Affirm

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Mohammad Siddique v. Michael Laliberte, et al.,

Case No.: 19-2580

Officials: KANNE, WOOD, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Qualified Immunity

In 2013, Mohammad Siddique applied for a temporary student-government position at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His application was said to have been rejected because he did not meet a minimum enrollment requirement crafted for the position. Siddique offers an alternative narrative: his application was rejected not because of the enrollment criteria but because of his critical stances against members of the University administration who worked with the student government and who were involved with the application process, including the Defendants.

Siddique sued University officials, Laliberte, Stockton, and Thomas, in their individual capacities, under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleged that these Defendants’ rejection of his application for the student-government position violated his First Amendment right to be free from governmental retaliation.

The district court determined that qualified immunity prevented Siddique’s claim from proceeding to trial and granted summary judgment to the Defendants. We affirm because federal law does not clearly establish that enforcing an enrollment requirement for a student-government position violates the First Amendment.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Donald Bator, et al., v. District Council 4, Graphic Communications Conference, IBT, et al.,

Case No.: 19-2626

Officials: BAUER, KANNE, and BARRETT, Circuit Judges.

Focus: ERISA – Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Plaintiffs Donald Bator, Edmond W. Moses, Christopher O’Malley, Michael Anthony Pappa, and Rogelio Jimenez, Jr. are former members of a union, Local 458- M. The Union participated in an employee-benefit pension plan administered by a Board of Trustees. In 2014, the Plaintiffs discovered the financial health of their pension plan was deteriorating. Several years later, the Plaintiffs sued the Trustees and the Union under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) for a breach of fiduciary duty. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(2). The Plaintiffs allege the Defendants’ actions and inaction resulted in an underfunding of their pensions. The district court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim under ERISA. We affirm.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Scott A. Carnell

Case No.: 19-2207

Officials: ROVNER, WOOD and BARRETT, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Sentencing Guidelines

Scott Carnell pled guilty to a conspiracy to distribute a mixture containing methamphetamine. The United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) distinguish between mixtures involving run-of-the-mill methamphetamine and methamphetamine that is at least 80% pure. U.S.S.G. 2D1.1, note C. The latter the Guidelines refer to as “ice,” and that definition carries with it sentences that are substantially higher than those for non-ice methamphetamine. Carnell claims that the government failed to meet its burden of proving that the substance in which he dealt was ice methamphetamine, and therefore he should have been sentenced as though he was involved in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine that is less than 80% pure.

Decision

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Byron Brown, et al.,

Case No.: 17-1650; 17-2854; 17-2858; 17-2877; 17-2899; 17-2917; 17-2918; 17-2931; 17-3063; 17-3449

Officials: SYKES, Chief Judge, and WOOD and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Sentencing Guidelines – RICO Act

This case offers a window into the violent and ruthless world of the Hobos street gang, which operated in Chicago from 2004 to 2013. With the credo, “The Earth is Our Turf,” the Hobos worked to build their street reputation and control certain areas on Chicago’s south side. Ten gang members were charged and convicted for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, among other crimes. Nine of those defendants have joined in the present appeals: Byron Brown, Gabriel Bush, Gregory Chester, Arnold Council, William Ford, Rodney Jones, Paris Poe, Derrick Vaughn, and Stanley Vaughn. We find no reversible error in the convictions for any of the defendants. Nor do we find any error in any of the sentences, except for Chester’s, which must be revisited.

In the end, almost the entirety of this complex criminal trial will remain undisturbed thanks to Judge Tharp’s excellent handling of the case. We AFFIRM the convictions of all the defendants. We also AFFIRM the sentences of all the defendants except for Chester. We VACATE Chester’s sentence in 13 CR 288, appeal No. 17‐3063, and order a limited remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. In Jones’s case, No. 17‐3449, we GRANT Counsel’s motion to withdraw and DISMISS the appeal.

Affirmed in part. Vacated and remanded in part. Motion granted and appeal dismissed in part.

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WI Court of Appeals Digests

WI Court of Appeals – District I

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. Octavia W. Dodson

Case No.: 2018AP1476-CR

Officials: Brash, P.J., Blanchard and Dugan, JJ.

Focus: Plea & Sentencing – Resentencing

Octavia W. Dodson appeals from a judgment of conviction, entered upon his guilty plea, for one count of second-degree intentional homicide. See WIS. STAT. § 940.05(1) (2015-16). Dodson also appeals from an order denying his postconviction motion. Dodson seeks resentencing on grounds that the trial court relied on an improper factor at sentencing: Dodson’s legal gun ownership. Upon review, we affirm.

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WI Court of Appeals – District III

Case Name: Richard A. Larson v. Laurie A. Larson

Case No.: 2019AP373

Officials: Stark, P.J., Hruz and Seidl, JJ.

Focus: Divorce – Maintenance Modification

Laurie Larson appeals a post-divorce order, arguing that the circuit court erred by amending an earlier maintenance order and modifying a maintenance payment schedule. For the reasons discussed below, we agree. Therefore, we reverse that part of the order. Laurie also challenges that part of the order denying her motion for contempt against Richard Larson. We reject her arguments related to the contempt determination and, therefore, affirm that part of the order.

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WI Court of Appeals – District III

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. Ricky Tyrome Johnson

Case No.: 2019AP516-CR

Officials: Stark, P.J., Hruz and Seidl, JJ.

Focus: Sufficiency of Evidence

Following a bench trial, Ricky Johnson was convicted of one count each of misdemeanor battery, sexual intercourse with a child aged sixteen or older, and third-degree sexual assault as party to the crime. Johnson now appeals his judgment of conviction, arguing that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction on the third-degree sexual assault count. We reject his argument and affirm.

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WI Court of Appeals – District I

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. Mohammed A. Maghfour

Case No.: 2019AP1123-CR

Officials: Brash, P.J., Blanchard and White, JJ.

Focus: Court Error – Evidentiary Hearing

This is an appeal from an order denying postconviction relief to Mohammed Maghfour and the underlying judgment of conviction. Following his convictions at a jury trial, Maghfour seeks relief from judgments on two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety with use of a dangerous weapon. Maghfour makes two arguments. The first is that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to determine whether he is entitled to a new trial because the State violated one of its discovery obligations under the criminal discovery statute, WIS. STAT. § 971.23(1)(e) (2017-18), by failing to produce a recording of an interview with a witness. We reject this argument because Maghfour forfeited it by failing to raise it in a timely fashion at trial. Maghfour’s second contention is that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to determine whether he received effective assistance of counsel. We conclude that he failed to make a showing sufficient to obtain a Machner hearing.  Accordingly, we affirm.

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WI Court of Appeals – District III

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. Joshua D. Goldsmith

Case No.: 2019AP1380-CR

Officials: Stark, P.J., Hruz and Seidl, JJ.

Focus: Sentencing Guidelines – Resentencing

In these consolidated appeals, Joshua Goldsmith argues he is entitled to resentencing on his convictions for substantial battery and possession of child pornography because inaccurate information was introduced and relied on by the circuit court at sentencing. We reject both of Goldsmith’s claims and affirm.

Regarding the substantial battery conviction, Goldsmith contends the circuit court relied on the State’s representation that the victim’s head wound was eight inches long when it was, in fact, slightly less than four inches. He argues this erroneous belief contributed to the court’s conclusion that the wound was severe and disfiguring. We conclude Goldsmith has not shown actual reliance on the inaccurate information about the length of the wound, as it is undisputed that the wound was significant and cut to the bone.

In the child pornography case, Goldsmith argues the circuit court’s statement that the child pornography was “on” his phone was inaccurate when the pornography was, in fact, located in his e-mail account and merely accessible from the phone. We conclude Goldsmith is judicially estopped from making this argument, as he stipulated at the sentencing hearing that most of the pornography was located “on his phone.” We also conclude his claim fails on its merits, as the State has demonstrated that Goldsmith’s sentence would have been no different had the court believed the pornography was located on Goldsmith’s e-mail account.

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WI Court of Appeals – District III

Case Name: David A. Steinke v. Scott R. Poppe, et al.,

Case No.: 2019AP2028

Officials: Stark, P.J., Hruz and Seidl, JJ.

Focus: Summary Judgment – Insurance Claim – Duty to Warn

David Steinke appeals a summary judgment dismissing his lawsuit against Scott R. Poppe, Scott’s Septic Pumping, LLC, and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (collectively, “Poppe”). Steinke argues the circuit court erred by concluding, as a matter of law, that after pumping Steinke’s septic tank, Poppe did not have a duty to warn Steinke about the poor condition of the septic tank’s cover or to take other action to prevent Steinke from falling through the cover into the tank. We agree with the court that the undisputed facts establish Poppe owed Steinke no such duty. We therefore affirm.

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WI Court of Appeals – District I

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. D.S. et al.,

Case No.: 2019AP2230; 2019AP2231; 2019AP2232; 2019AP2233

Officials: BRASH, P.J.

Focus: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

D.S. appeals the orders of the trial court terminating her parental rights for J.I.S., A.T., E.S. and D.G. She argues that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel at a motion hearing held in June 2019, during which she was without representation. She contends that this was a structural error, which is not subject to a harmless error analysis. D.S. further asserts that her trial counsel was ineffective in his failure to request an adjournment of the dispositional hearing when he had received a substantial amount of discovery the day before the hearing. We disagree and affirm.

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WI Court of Appeals – District II

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. Chadwick P. Schwerdtfeger

Case No.: 2018AP1322-CR; 2018AP1323-CR

Officials: Neubauer, C.J., Gundrum and Davis, JJ.

Focus: Sufficiency of Evidence

Chadwick P. Schwerdtfeger and Paula Schwerdtfeger, husband and wife, each appeal from a judgment of conviction and order awarding restitution payments to the victims of their crimes and from an order denying their postconviction motion for stay of restitution. The Schwerdtfegers raise numerous challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, evidentiary rulings, and restitution. We reject each and affirm.

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WI Court of Appeals – District II

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. Gilberto Castaneda-Bobadilla

Case No.: 2015AP2250-CR

Officials: Blanchard, Kloppenburg, and Graham, JJ.

Focus: Warrantless Search – Suppression of Evidence – Blood Test

This case arises from a 2012 warrantless blood draw that police ordered performed on Gilberto Castaneda-Bobadilla while he was unconscious in the hospital after he was involved in a fatal car crash. On appeal, Castaneda-Bobadilla argues that the blood draw was an unlawful search in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and that evidence obtained from the blood draw should be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. Because we conclude that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule precludes suppression of evidence obtained from the blood draw, we affirm.

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