Weekly Case Digests July 15, 2019 July 19, 2019.

 
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Byline: Rick Benedict

7th Circuit Digests

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Gheorgui Martov v. United States of America

Case No.: 18-3424

Officials: FLAUM, HAMILTON, and SCUDDER, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Asset Forfeiture

The government arrested Gheorgui Martov for wire fraud and seized several items of his personal property including a watch, $4,035 in cash, a car, and nine firearms.

In exchange for Martov's guilty plea, the government agreed not to pursue criminal forfeiture. But the government never agreed to forgo administrative forfeiture proceedings, which it had already initiated by sending notice to Martov and his attorney. Martov responded to the government's notice of administrative forfeiture by filing claims for the car and guns. The government denied both claims and declared the property forfeited.

Martov then brought this action in the district court, seeking the return of the property. The district court denied relief, and we now affirm, as Martov has failed to advance any meritorious arguments. In doing so, however, we note our reservations with the procedural path that the government took in executing the forfeiture.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Catherine Wanko v. Board of Trustees of Indiana

Case No.: 18-2767

Officials: RIPPLE, MANION, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Title VII Violation Discrimination

Catherine Wanko brought this suit under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, alleging Indiana University (IU) discriminated against her by having her retake her entire first-year curriculum at IU's School of Dentistry. In discovery, IU produced spreadsheets containing the demographics and grades of the students in Wanko's class. Those spreadsheets showed no student, let alone one outside of a protected class, was similarly situated to Wanko. Wanko moved to compel the production of the actual student records, but that motion was denied. As Wanko was unable to show a sufficient comparator for her discrimination claim, the district court granted summary judgment to IU. We affirm.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Tyrone Gabb v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., et al.

Case No.: 18-2351

Officials: RIPPLE, MANION, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Prisoner - 8th Amendment Violation

While serving a prison sentence at the Lawrence Correctional Center in Illinois, Tyrone Gabb experienced severe back pain whenever he stood too long (15 to 20 minutes). After treatments he received did not relieve his pain, Gabb sued two members of the medical staff at Lawrence, Dr. John Coe and Nurse Tammy Kimmel, alleging they were deliberately indifferent to his back pain in violation of his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments. Gabb also sued Wexford Health Sources, Inc., the private company that provided medical services at Lawrence. The district court granted summary judgment to all defendants, and Gabb appeals. Because Gabb has not presented any evidence showing the defendants caused him any harm, we affirm.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: John Doe v. Kevin K. McAleenan

Case No.: 17-3521

Officials: RIPPLE, MANION, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Immigration - Jurisdiction

Plaintiff John Doe, an Iranian national, petitioned for conditional permanent residency in 2013. He used the EB-5 admission category, which offers visas for immigrants who invest in new job-creating enterprises. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service ("USCIS" or "agency") initially approved Doe's petition but revoked its approval roughly two years later. Doe sought judicial review of the agency's actions under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. 701 et seq. But the district court concluded that Congress had stripped its jurisdiction to review discretionary revocations of visa petitions and dismissed Doe's suit. See 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii).

We affirm. Doe relies on the narrow jurisdictional gateway offered by Musunuru v. Lynch, 831 F.3d 880 (7th Cir. 2016). In Musunuru we held that 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii) doesn't preclude judicial review of purely procedural rulings during the adjudication of a visa petition. 831 F.3d at 88788. But the ruling at issue here wasn't procedural. Doe is challenging the agency's substantive decision-making. And he cannot evade a jurisdiction-stripping statute by repackaging his substantive complaints as procedural objections.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Jeremiah Felton v. Bryan Bartow

Case No.: 18-1954

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

Focus: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

A jury convicted Jeremiah Felton of first degree intentional homicide in Wisconsin state court for the death of his three-month-old son, Jeremiah Felton Jr. (J.J.). The jury heard testimony about the days leading up to J.J.'s death, such as those who cared for and had contact with him, including Felton. The jury also heard about Felton's conversations with police, whom he told that J.J. had slipped and hit his head in the bathtub, and with fellow jail inmate, Douglas House, who testified that Felton said he had swung J.J. into a bathroom door. J.J.'s treating physicians and the medical examiner also testified about J.J.'s injuries and cause of death, which two of the physicians stated, in part, was due to shaking. The medical examiner concluded that blunt force trauma was the cause of death. The jury found Felton guilty.

Felton sought post-conviction relief in the Wisconsin state court based on ineffective assistance of counsel. In particular, Felton cited his attorney's failure to object to the prosecutor's statement during closing argument that House could not receive a sentence modification for his testimony in Felton's trial and failure to secure medical expert testimony to rebut the State's witnesses. At the post-conviction hearing, Felton's counsel testified as well as three medical experts who concluded J.J. had not been shaken and J.J.'s injuries were consistent with a fall of two to four feet. The state trial court denied Felton's petition, and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the denial. The Wisconsin Supreme Court summarily denied Felton's petition for review. Felton sought a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254 in the district court. The district court denied Felton's petition, and Felton now appeals to this court. Because the decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals was not unreasonable, Felton's petition is denied.

Petition Denied

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: City of Chicago v. Robbin L. Fulton, et al.

Case No.: 18-2527; 18-2793; 18-2835; 18-3023

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

Focus: Bankruptcy - Automatic Stay

In this consolidated appeal of four Chapter 13 bankruptcies, we consider whether the City of Chicago may ignore the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay and continue to hold a debtor's vehicle until the debtor pays her outstanding parking tickets. Prior to the debtors' filing for bankruptcy, the City impounded each of their vehicles for failure to pay multiple traffic fines. After the debtors filed their Chapter 13 petitions, the City refused to return their vehicles, claiming it needed to maintain possession to continue perfection of its possessory liens on the vehicles and that it would only return the vehicles when the debtors paid in full their outstanding fines. The bankruptcy courts each held that the City violated the automatic stay by "exercising control" over property of the bankruptcy estate and that none of the exceptions to the stay applied. The courts ordered the City to return debtors' vehicles and imposed sanctions on the City for violating the stay.

This is not our first time addressing this issue: in Thompson v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 566 F.3d 699 (7th Cir. 2009), we held that a creditor must comply with the automatic stay and return a debtor's vehicle upon her filing of a bankruptcy petition. We decline the City's request to overrule Thompson. We therefore affirm the bankruptcy courts' judgments relying on Thompson, and we also agree with the bankruptcy courts that none of the exceptions to the stay apply.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Duncan Place Owners Association, et al. v. Danze, Inc., et al.

Case No.: 17-3474

Officials: WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Product Liability - Negligence

In 2009 faucets manufactured by Illinois-based Danze, Inc., were installed in all 63 units of a new condominium building in Seattle, Washington. In the years that followed, some of the faucets failed, causing damage to the building and replacement costs. The condominium association, Duncan Place Owners Association, filed a proposed class-action suit against Danze raising multiple claims for relief, including breach of express warranty, unjust enrichment, negligence, and strict product liability. The district judge dismissed all but one of the claims and later entered summary judgment on the sole remaining claim.

Duncan Place appeals, seeking reinstatement of the claims that were dismissed on the pleadings. We affirm, with one narrow exception. The Washington Product Liability Act ("WPLA" or "the Act") subsumes all common-law product liability claims, so we construe Duncan Place's negligence and strict-liability claims as one cause of action under the Act. In a suit for damages caused by a defective product, Washington's "independent duty doctrine" (formerly known as the "economic loss doctrine") generally bars recovery in tort for direct and consequential economic losses stemming from the product's failurethat is, damages associated with the "injury" to the product itself. But the doctrine does not bar recovery for damage to other property caused by the defective product. See Eastwood v. Horse Harbor Found., Inc., 241 P.3d...

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