Weekly Case Digests May 18, 2020 May 22, 2020.


Byline: Derek Hawkins

7th Circuit Digests

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Jason Douglas v. The Western Union Company, et al.

Case No.: 19-1868

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

Focus: Class Action Jurisdiction

Appellant Bethany Price objected to a proposed class-action settlement, but the district judge ruled that she was not a class member and she did not contest that ruling. Price then sought attorney's fees and an incentive award for objecting. The judge denied her requests because as a nonclass member, she had no standing to object or to receive fees or an award. Price appeals the denial of her fee and award requests, arguing that nonclass members can be compensated for objecting. Because Price does not challenge the ruling that she is not a class member, we conclude that she is not a party and lacks standing to appeal. Thus we dismiss the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction.


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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Gerald Winfield v. Stephanie Dorethy, Warden,

Case No.: 19-1441; 19-1547

Officials: BRENNAN, SCUDDER, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Gerald Winfield confessed to police that he shot Jarlon Garrett. Based on that confession, a judge on the Circuit Court of Cook County convicted Winfield of attempted murder. Winfield was also accused of killing Dominick Stovall in the same shooting, but the trial judge acquitted him of that charge because no credible witness had placed Winfield at the scene of the crime and his confession did not mention Stovall. The judge rejected Winfield's argument that his confession had been coerced, as well as his half-hearted alibi defense, and sentenced him to thirty years' imprisonment. In his direct appeal, Winfield's new counsel raised one unsuccessful argumentthat the judge had abused his discretion at sentencing.

These appeals require us to consider the performance of Winfield's trial and appellate counsel. The Illinois state courts, on post-conviction review, concluded that trial counsel's presentation of Winfield's alibi was not so deficient that it violated the Constitution, but they did not address the performance of appellate counsel to any meaningful degree. The district court, therefore, applied the stringent and deferential standard of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254(d), to Winfield's claim that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and denied that part of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. On the matter of appellate counsel, the district court concluded that AEDPA did not apply because the claim had not been "adjudicated on the merits in State court," id., but had instead been overlooked. It considered the claim without any deference to the state courts' denial of relief. Through that lens, and although it believed it to be a close case, the court found appellate counsel had rendered ineffective assistance by omitting an argument that there was insufficient evidence to convict because Winfield's confession was uncorroborated.

Both parties have appealed. The state argues that the district court erred in granting relief on the appellate counsel claim; Winfield contends that the court erred in denying relief on the trial counsel claim. We affirm the judgment in part and reverse it in part, as we conclude that Winfield is not entitled to habeas corpus relief under either theory.

Affirmed in part. Reversed in part.

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Michael L. Chaparro

Case No.: 18-2513

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

Focus: Sufficiency of Evidence

A jury found Michael Chaparro guilty on three felony charges for viewing and transporting child pornography. The charges arose from three crimes separated by significant gaps in time: viewing child pornography on a hard drive in July 2013, transmitting child pornography files over the Internet in August 2014, and viewing child pornography on a smartphone in November 2014. Chaparro was sentenced to three concurrent prison terms of 210 months each. On appeal he challenges his convictions on three distinct grounds: the sufficiency of the evidence that he was the person using the electronic devices; the admission at trial of a statement that he made to Pretrial Services; and allegedly improper remarks by the prosecutor during rebuttal.

The first and third challenges were not raised in the district court and provide no basis to disturb the convictions. Granted, the government's case could have been stronger as to the identity of the devices' user. The computer forensics led investigators to a home, not to an individual, and little evidence showed that Chaparro resided at the relevant street address before December 2014. Nevertheless, there was sufficient evidence to sustain the convictions on plain-error review. Any improper rebuttal comments did not affect Chaparro's substantial rights.

The admission of Chaparro's pretrial services statement was an error, though. When Congress created Pretrial Services, it made pretrial services information "confidential" and specifically prohibited its admission "on the issue of guilt in a criminal judicial proceeding." 18 U.S.C. 3153(c)(1) & (3). This rule may protect some accused defendants, but its most important benefits accrue to the judicial system as a whole. Confidentiality helps pretrial services officers obtain the information needed to make quick and accurate recommendations about pretrial release and detention.

This case concerns a judge-made impeachment exception to Congress's mandate of confidentiality. In his pretrial interview, Chaparro had said that he lived at the scene of the crimes on all the relevant dates. The government left the record blank on that key point during its case in chief. Chaparro's lone witness, his uncle Eddie Ramos, then testified that Chaparro did not live at the address until just before his arrest. As rebuttal, the government sought to call the pretrial services officer who interviewed Chaparro. The district court allowed the testimony, over objection, relying on cases from other circuits that have recognize an exception to pretrial confidentiality for impeachment. See, e.g., United States v. Griffith, 385 F.3d 124 (2d Cir. 2004).

Those precedents were inapposite, and it was a legal error to admit Chaparro's statement to Pretrial Services. Chaparro's words were not a prior inconsistent statement by Ramos, the testifying witness. Instead, the government used them for "impeachment by contradiction" against Ramos. Despite the "impeachment" label, someone else's contradictory statement is relevant only if it is offered for the truth of the matter asserted. The statement by Chaparro was thus offered as evidence of guilt, a purpose specifically prohibited by statute. This error was not harmless for two of the three convictions. Considered for its truth, Chaparro's statement filled a key gap in the government's cases on the July 2013 and August 2014 charges. Those convictions must therefore be vacated. Chaparro is entitled to a new trial on those charges or, in the alternative, to resentencing on the remaining conviction.

The convictions as to Count One and Count Three of the indictment are REVERSED, and the sentence on Count Two is vacated. The case is remanded to the district court for a new trial on Counts One and Three and/or resentencing on Count Two in a manner consistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded in part Vacated in part.

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Davin Hackett v. City of South Bend, et al.,

Case No.: 19-2574

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

Focus: USERRA Violation Retaliation Claim

Davin Hackett was a police officer for the City of South Bend. He asserts that the city discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, 38 U.S.C. 4301 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the city. On appeal, Hackett raises a new hostile work environment claim. Because this new argument was forfeited and Hackett fails to confront the grounds for the district court's decision, we affirm.


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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Dustin Caya

Case No.: 19-2469

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

Focus: Warrantless Search Extended Supervision Suppression of Evidence

Dustin Caya was indicted on drug-trafficking and firearms charges based on evidence found in his home during a search conducted on the authority of section 302.113(7r) of the Wisconsin Statutes. The statute authorizes law-enforcement officers to search the person, home, or property of a criminal offender serving a term of "extended supervision"the period of community supervision that follows a prison termbased on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or a violation of supervision. Caya moved to suppress the evidence recovered from his home, arguing that the search was unlawful under the Fourth Amendment. The district judge denied the motion. Caya pleaded guilty, reserving his right to challenge the suppression ruling on appeal.

We affirm the judgment. Fourth Amendment law has long recognized that criminal offenders on community supervision have significantly diminished expectations of privacy. More specifically, the privacy expectations of offenders on post imprisonment supervision are weak and substantially outweighed by the government's strong interest in preventing recidivism and safely reintegrating offenders into society. Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that a law-enforcement officer may search a person on parole without any suspicion of criminal activity. Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843, 847 (2006). In Wisconsin extended supervision is essentially judge-imposed parole. It follows that a...

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