Tag Archives: 7th Circuit

7th Circuit smacks Outland with sanctions

Here’s a fun story about what not to do. As part of a personal injury case,  Outland Renewable Energy was involved in a complicated mess of claims and counter-claims that were eventually all dismissed or settled. Six months later, Outland sought to amend their claims and re-open the case. Their claim was based on the incredible theory that their own original claims were so “fatally flawed,” that they never should have been allowed in the first place. This didn’t fly.

Then, taking it one step further, they asked for a rehearing, on the same general theory. This time, the other party – no doubt sick of paying their lawyer for this mess – asked for sanctions under Federal Rule 38, under which a court may award single or double costs as punishment for a frivolous appeal. That’s exactly what the Court did.

I don’t know who Outland’s lawyers were, but they should have tried a lot harder to convince their client that it was game over, and they needed to stop.

What the SCOTUS decision means

When the Supreme Court decided not to hear appeals from five states in three circuits regarding same-sex marriage bans, they in effect legalized same-sex marriage in those five states, as well as six others in the same circuits which have similar laws that have not yet been struck down. A majority of Americans now live in states where same-sex marriage is (or shortly will be) legal. Nate Silver and Allison McCann over at FiveThirtyEight have a breakdown.

Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSblog has an in-depth discussion of what happened, why and what it means on a national level. It is well worth the read. Also, stay on top of things with the Indiana Law Blog, as well.

As for Indiana, when will we see marriage licenses issued? Certainly very soon. The 7th Circuit hasn’t yet made it official, but the Indiana AG is telling county clerks to be ready, as it could happen as early as today or tomorrow. Read the AG Office’s “Important Communication” to county clerks here.

What does the future hold? Well, the Supreme Court has left open the opportunity to revisit this issue, obviously. The Court is probably sitting at a 4-4 vote, with Anthony Kennedy the fence sitter. It’s possible that none of the other Justices wanted to hear the cases because they couldn’t be sure if he would be on their side or not. Not worth the gamble. However, when (and if) a Circuit Court rules in favor of a state ban, the disagreement among the Circuits will virtually guarantee that the Supreme Court will have to decide the issue. If they reverse course, and the bans are again allowed, some states – and in the current climate, Indiana may be one of them – will see same-sex marriages go from banned to not banned to banned again. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of Hoosier couples in a precarious position. Having this issue decided once and for all was what most people – on either side of the debate – were hoping for.

Pence reinstated as marriage defendant

Judge Richard Young removed Governor Pence as a defendant in the marriage cases after buying Pence’s argument that he didn’t have the authority to actually enforce the marriage laws. After finding out that Pence purported to exercise exactly that authority, the Judge has put his name back on the file. File this under “Watch Out for Watchful Judges.”

Two sentencing decisions

ILB points out that the 7th Circuit issued two rulings yesterday related to sentencing. There is a lot to go through, so this post will be updated, but in the meantime check out what they have over at ILB.

EDIT: 6:14 PM

In the first case, U.S. v. Jones, et al., the 7th Circuit highlights several issues with regards to sentencing. Two most important ones:

  • Defendants must be sentenced according to the guidelines in place when the crime was committed, and not subsequent guidelines, if those new guidelines would increase the sentence, as to do otherwise would violate the ex post facto clause of the Constitution.
  • Any element that would serve to increase the mandatory minimum sentence must be submitted to and found by a jury.

In U.S. v. Adame-Hernandez, which involves the same criminal conspiracy (cocaine-dealing) as the first case, the Circuit court makes a very narrow rule regarding plea deals. Adame pleaded guilty to a specific charge, and only after did the trial court reject a plea agreement on virtually identical charges. He ended up being sentenced to 196 months longer than the agreement would have called for. The 7th Circuit vacates and sends the case back to have him sentenced under the original agreement. This case needs some closer reading to really grasp, but on the surface it does appear to be the type of narrow case unlikely to be used often in the future.

Big day for marriage cases

We’ll have to wait a few more weeks (Aug. 26) for the hearing on Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban with the 7th Circuit, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. Target is joining the growing list of companies supporting marriage equality by filing a brief with the court. Generally, companies are lining up in favor of same-sex marriage recognition for two reasons: it’s good PR, and they believe allowing same-sex marriages in states where they do business will help them attract better employees.

Meanwhile, the 6th Circuit is looking at the bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee right now. Shortly after the hearing is over, a link to the audio will be posted on the 6th Circuit’s website.

And SCOTUSblog updated late yesterday afternoon that both Utah and Virginia officials are wasting no time asking the Supreme Court to step in. Things are moving fast. Stay tuned.

Early Monday roundup 8/4

I took an early weekend, so I have a couple of things to catch up on. Most legally important news happens before Friday, but things do still happen. I might make it a regular habit to dump the stuff that slips through the cracks over the weekend on Monday morning.

First, same-sex marriage. The plaintiffs aren’t going to be given a lot of time in the Indiana/Wisconsin consolidated case to make their arguments. Meanwhile, a county clerk in Virginia is filing for cert with the Supreme Court on the marriage ban there.

With the Seventh Circuit case moving so quickly, it seems likely that the issue of same-sex marriage is going to be decided once and for all during the next Supreme Court term.

Next, health care. The issue of health subsidies for states using the federal exchange is also being pushed forward as fast as possible. Nothing new here, but I expect the Court to take this up right away, as well.

Looking ahead. Nothing much on the SCOTUS front, as the new term doesn’t start until the very end of September.  The Indiana Supreme Court starts hearing cases again just after Labor day.

However, there will be some interesting legal topics in the news this week. Definitely pay attention to the Toledo water crisis. As of this writing, the water was officially down to safe toxin levels(!), but mayor Collins wasn’t ready to lift the advisory on account of two “too close for comfort” results. We’re going to be talking a lot about the cause of the algal bloom, which is almost certainly directly related to farm fertilizer runoff (thanks to a heavy rain season). I suspect the end result on the legal front will be either 1) Ohio enacting new regulations and farmers suing or 2) Ohio not enacting many new regulations and environmental groups suing (or 3) both).

There is also one execution to watch for this week. There were three scheduled, but two have already been stayed. Michael Worthington is set to die Wednesday in Missouri. Worthington broke into his neighbor’s house while drunk and high, strangled her unconscious, raped her, and then beat her and strangled her to death when she woke up and tried to fight him off. Interestingly, he was sentenced to death despite pleading guilty, which is not something you see every day. After Joseph Wood appeared to suffer tremendously in a prolonged death in Arizona last month, all eyes will be on Missouri. I don’t think either the public or the Supreme Court has the political desire to ban executions outright, but if states prove that they are unable to kill people without torturing them (whether or not you blame it on the European Union), that sentiment might begin to shift in both cases.

Another marraige ban dumped

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban, becoming the second circuit to do so (along with the Tenth).

It’s starting to look more and more like the Indiana/Wisconsin appeal (along with ten other states who joined) is set to be a potential game-breaker. If the Seventh Circuit determines the bans are unconstitutional, it’s going to be near impossible – if it’s not already – for states to justify the expense of arguing positions that have been repeatedly rejected in different courts.

That still leaves the Supreme Court, of course, and I’m sure Virginia, Indiana, et al., will file for certiorari in due time, but smart states will sit on the sideline and watch what happens on another state’s dime.

Same-sex marriage movement today

The excellent Indiana Law Blog has distilled today’s developments on the challenges to Indiana and Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage bans in the 7th Circuit today.

Long story short, the Appellants (in this case, the states) had requested a hearing en banc, which has now been denied. Instead, the appeals from both states will be heard together before a three-judge panel on August 26th, 2014.

As things move along, there doesn’t seem to be anything to be done about the people who have already been married during the “window” in which same-sex marriages were briefly legal. Governor Pence has instructed the state to treat those marriages as invalid. The ACLU doesn’t feel like they can do much about it at the moment.