Weekly Case Digests December 23, 2019 December 27, 2019.

 
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7th Circuit Digests

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Deborah Amling v. Harrow Industries LLC, et al.

Case No.: 19-1805

Officials: EASTERBROOK, HAMILTON, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Court Error Abuse of Discretion

Deborah Amling and her husband Robert sued Harrow Industries and other businesses in an Illinois state court for causing Robert to develop mesothelioma by exposing him to asbestos. Two years later, the Amlings sued Harrow again, this time in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment on the meaning of an asset-purchase agreement between Harrow and another company, Nexus, also a defendant in the Amlings' state suit. The district judge thought the declaratory judgment action unripe and dis- missed it. Even if it were ripe, the judge ruled in the alternative, she would decline to exercise jurisdiction over it. The Amlings appealed. Robert died while this appeal has been pending; Deborah now prosecutes the state and the federal lawsuits in her own right and as representative of Robert's estate.

We affirm. It is virtually certain that the Amlings' state suit will answer the question presented by their federal suit: whether under the terms of the asset-purchase agreement Harrow or Nexus could be liable for their injuries. That fact makes this a live controversy but simultaneously justifies the district court's sound exercise of its discretion in deciding not to issue a declaratory judgment.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Jeremy Glispie

Case No.: 19-1224

Officials: RIPPLE, ROVNER, and BRENNAN, Circuit Judges.

Focus: ACCA Violation

On January 23, 2018, the Government filed a single-count indictment against Jeremy Glispie for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g). Mr. Glispie entered a plea of guilty, but reserved the right to challenge his anticipated designation as an armed career criminal based on his prior convictions for residential burglary under Illinois law. Following our guidance, the district court concluded that residential burglary in Illinois is no broader than "generic burglary" and that it therefore qualifies as a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii). Consequently, it sentenced Mr. Glispie as an armed career criminal and imposed a sentence of 180 months.

Before this court, Mr. Glispie renews his objection to his designation as an armed career criminal based on his convictions for residential burglary under Illinois law. Acknowledging that our decision in Dawkins v. United States, 809 F.3d 953 (7th Cir. 2016), is controlling, he urges us to revisit that decision. According to Mr. Glispie, Dawkins did not explore all of the relevant aspects of Illinois burglary. Had we fully considered the question, he submits, we would have reached the conclusion that residential burglary in Illinois covers a broader swath of conduct than generic burglary for purposes of the ACCA and, therefore, cannot be used as a predicate offense for purposes of the ACCA.

After considering the briefs and hearing oral argument, we conclude that Mr. Glispie has raised an important issue that has not been considered fully: whether the limited-authority doctrine applies to the Illinois residential burglary statute. As we will explain, if the limited-authority doctrine applies to residential burglary, then a conviction for Illinois residential burglary is broader than generic burglary and cannot qualify as an aggravated felony for purposes of the ACCA. If, however, the limited-authority doctrine does not apply to Illinois residential burglary, then a conviction under that statute is no broader than generic burglary and qualifies as an aggravated felony. Because the Supreme Court of Illinois has not made this determination, and because the question is likely to arise frequently and to affect the administration of justice in both the state and federal courts, we respectfully seek the assistance of the Supreme Court of Illinois by certifying this controlling question of law.

Decision

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Harold Stone, et al. v. Signode Industrial Group LLC, et al.

Case No.: 19-1601

Officials: SYKES, HAMILTON, and BRENNAN, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Breach of Contract Health-care Benefits

Defendant Signode Industrial Group LLC assumed an obligation to pay health-care benefits to a group of retired steelworkers and their families. Signode then exercised its right to terminate the underlying benefits agreement. When it terminated the agreement, Signode also stopped providing the promised benefits to the retired steelworkers and their families, despite contractual language providing that benefits would not be "terminated notwithstanding the...

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