Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

by
Brock-Miller pled guilty, with a plea agreement, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. She received a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. She then challenged her conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations. The court declined to hold a hearing and denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded for a hearing. The district court erred when it concluded that her prior conviction under Indiana Code 16- 42-19-18 was a felony drug offense under 21 U.S.C. 802(44) and that Brock-Miller was eligible for a recidivist enhancement. The court analyzed the wrong version of the state law; there is little to no overlap between the controlled substances listed in the federal definition of “felony drug offense” and the prescription “legend drugs” regulated by the Indiana law. Counsel’s apparent error in identifying the applicable Indiana statute and failure to file a plainly meritorious objection could constitute deficient performance if proved. View "Brock v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Brock-Miller pled guilty, with a plea agreement, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. She received a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. She then challenged her conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations. The court declined to hold a hearing and denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded for a hearing. The district court erred when it concluded that her prior conviction under Indiana Code 16- 42-19-18 was a felony drug offense under 21 U.S.C. 802(44) and that Brock-Miller was eligible for a recidivist enhancement. The court analyzed the wrong version of the state law; there is little to no overlap between the controlled substances listed in the federal definition of “felony drug offense” and the prescription “legend drugs” regulated by the Indiana law. Counsel’s apparent error in identifying the applicable Indiana statute and failure to file a plainly meritorious objection could constitute deficient performance if proved. View "Brock v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In 2012, Dobbs hired McLaughlin to represent him in a products liability suit against DePuy for a 35% contingency fee agreement. The attorney filed Dobbs’s complaint in the DePuy Hip Implant Multidistrict Litigation in the Northern District of Ohio. In 2013, DePuy proposed a settlement, offering parties represented by counsel on a certain date $250,000 and parties not represented $177,500. Dobbs stated that he did not want to settle. McLaughlin advised Dobbs to accept the settlement due to the costs of going to trial. Dobbs moved to remove McLaughlin as his counsel. The motion was granted in January 2015, leaving Dobbs unrepresented. In February 2015, Dobbs decided to accept the settlement offer. Though he was then unrepresented, he was considered a represented party under the settlement terms, entitling him to a base award of $250,000. McLaughlin asserted a lien on Dobbs’s award and sought attorneys’ fees under quantum meruit. The fee dispute was transferred to the Northern District of Illinois, which awarded McLaughlin 35% of Dobbs’s base settlement award, $87,500. Following a remand, the court considered evidence, addressed each quantum meruit factor, and again awarded $87,500. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court considered all of the relevant evidence and engaged in a thoughtful analysis of the factors required by Illinois law, given that it was not the court that presided over the underlying litigation. View "Dobbs v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2012, Dobbs hired McLaughlin to represent him in a products liability suit against DePuy for a 35% contingency fee agreement. The attorney filed Dobbs’s complaint in the DePuy Hip Implant Multidistrict Litigation in the Northern District of Ohio. In 2013, DePuy proposed a settlement, offering parties represented by counsel on a certain date $250,000 and parties not represented $177,500. Dobbs stated that he did not want to settle. McLaughlin advised Dobbs to accept the settlement due to the costs of going to trial. Dobbs moved to remove McLaughlin as his counsel. The motion was granted in January 2015, leaving Dobbs unrepresented. In February 2015, Dobbs decided to accept the settlement offer. Though he was then unrepresented, he was considered a represented party under the settlement terms, entitling him to a base award of $250,000. McLaughlin asserted a lien on Dobbs’s award and sought attorneys’ fees under quantum meruit. The fee dispute was transferred to the Northern District of Illinois, which awarded McLaughlin 35% of Dobbs’s base settlement award, $87,500. Following a remand, the court considered evidence, addressed each quantum meruit factor, and again awarded $87,500. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court considered all of the relevant evidence and engaged in a thoughtful analysis of the factors required by Illinois law, given that it was not the court that presided over the underlying litigation. View "Dobbs v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2002 a Greyhound bus struck and killed Claudia. Her daughter, Cristina, age seven, witnessed the accident. In 2016 Cristina settled claims against Greyhound and other potentially responsible persons for $5 million. Klein, Cristina’s stepfather, believes that Cristina allocated too much of the settlement to herself as damages for emotional distress and not enough to him. His suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleged that Cristina conspired with state judges, law firms, Greyhound, and others, to exclude him from financial benefits. Klein sued as the purported administrator of Claudia’s estate although he had not been appointed as administrator. Klein and Cristina became co-administrators, but Klein was soon removed by a state judge. Defendants asked the federal judge to dismiss the suit as barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, under which only the U.S. Supreme Court may review the civil state court judgments. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal on the merits. Collateral litigation in federal court is blocked by principles of preclusion and by Rooker's holding that errors committed in state litigation cannot be treated as federal constitutional torts. The court noted that the “long and tangled history" of the case was caused by Klein’s (or his lawyer’s) "inability or unwillingness to litigate as statutes and rules require.” They had neither briefed the proper issue on appeal nor attached the judgment, as required. “They are not entitled to divert the time of federal judges” and will be penalized for any further attempts. View "Xydakis v. O'Brien" on Justia Law

by
Jansen pleaded guilty to wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and tax evasion, 26 U.S.C. 7201. Before sentencing, Jansen’s third attorney (Steinback) withdrew. His new attorney, Beaumont, requested Rule 16 discovery and obtained 42,700 documents. Jansen filed a pro se motion to continue his sentencing proceedings because none of his prior attorneys had requested or reviewed those documents. Weeks later, Beaumont withdrew, citing irreconcilable differences; he was replaced by Richards. Jansen indicated to the court that he wished to withdraw his guilty plea as not “knowing and voluntary” because of ineffective assistance of counsel. Richards also withdrew. The court permitted Jansen to proceed pro se but denied his motion to withdraw his plea and sentenced Jansen to 70 months’ imprisonment with a restitution payment of $269,978 to the IRS. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, remanding the issue of restitution to allow the district court to clarify that its imposition of restitution is a condition of supervised release rather than a criminal penalty. The district court made the sound factual finding that Jansen hired Steinback “to negotiate the best possible plea agreement,” not to go to trial. Steinback formulated a “four-fold” “tactical strategy” that included forgoing investigation and discovery so that such a strategy was objectively reasonable. View "United States v. Jansen" on Justia Law

by
Doe sought lawful permanent residence in the U.S. under the EB-5 visa program, which requires applicants to invest in a new U.S. commercial enterprise, 8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(5)(A). Doe invested $500,000 in Elgin Assisted Living EB-5 Fund, to build and operate a memory care facility. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Doe’s petition because the facility had not been built since it was proposed in 2011. Doe filed suit. The court granted the government summary judgment. Doe is represented by the three-attorney Kameli Law Group. Floss, an associate, is Doe’s counsel of record. Kameli is the firm’s principal. While briefing was underway, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit, accusing Kameli of defrauding 226 immigrants who invested over $88 million. Kameli allegedly misappropriated the memory care center's funds. The Seventh Circuit disqualified the firm from Doe’s appeal. The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit representation if “there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest.” Neither of Kameli's conflicts can be waived by informed client consent. It “strains credulity to think that Kameli would be diligent.” Kameli would not advise Doe to allege fraud and seek reconsideration of the USCIS decision. Kameli also has divided obligations to his investor-clients, which create an unacceptably high risk of materially limiting Doe’s representation by Floss. View "Doe v. Nielsen" on Justia Law

by
Doe sought lawful permanent residence in the U.S. under the EB-5 visa program, which requires applicants to invest in a new U.S. commercial enterprise, 8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(5)(A). Doe invested $500,000 in Elgin Assisted Living EB-5 Fund, to build and operate a memory care facility. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Doe’s petition because the facility had not been built since it was proposed in 2011. Doe filed suit. The court granted the government summary judgment. Doe is represented by the three-attorney Kameli Law Group. Floss, an associate, is Doe’s counsel of record. Kameli is the firm’s principal. While briefing was underway, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit, accusing Kameli of defrauding 226 immigrants who invested over $88 million. Kameli allegedly misappropriated the memory care center's funds. The Seventh Circuit disqualified the firm from Doe’s appeal. The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit representation if “there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest.” Neither of Kameli's conflicts can be waived by informed client consent. It “strains credulity to think that Kameli would be diligent.” Kameli would not advise Doe to allege fraud and seek reconsideration of the USCIS decision. Kameli also has divided obligations to his investor-clients, which create an unacceptably high risk of materially limiting Doe’s representation by Floss. View "Doe v. Nielsen" on Justia Law

by
Jaworski provided construction services to Master Hand, an Illinois general contractor, over several years. Some of these services went unpaid. Jaworski alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, and the Employee Classification Act, which makes it unlawful for construction firms to misclassify an employee as an independent contractor. The Classification Act presumes that the complainant is an employee unless the contractor proves otherwise; a misclassified employee is entitled to double “the amount of any wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation denied or lost to the person by reason of the violation.” The judge held that Master Hand had misclassified Jaworski and was entitled to the compensation guaranteed by the Minimum Wage Law and Wage Payment and Collection Act without having to prove that he is an employee. Those statutes do not include the presumption that plaintiffs are employees. The judge rejected Master Hand’s insolvency defense and ordered Master Hand to pay $200,000 in damages, plus $150,000 in attorneys’ fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, adding attorneys’ fees for the frivolous appeal. The court declined to review the rulings challenged by Master Hand, as a sanction for failure to follow court rules. View "Jaworski v. Master Hand Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Jaworski provided construction services to Master Hand, an Illinois general contractor, over several years. Some of these services went unpaid. Jaworski alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, and the Employee Classification Act, which makes it unlawful for construction firms to misclassify an employee as an independent contractor. The Classification Act presumes that the complainant is an employee unless the contractor proves otherwise; a misclassified employee is entitled to double “the amount of any wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation denied or lost to the person by reason of the violation.” The judge held that Master Hand had misclassified Jaworski and was entitled to the compensation guaranteed by the Minimum Wage Law and Wage Payment and Collection Act without having to prove that he is an employee. Those statutes do not include the presumption that plaintiffs are employees. The judge rejected Master Hand’s insolvency defense and ordered Master Hand to pay $200,000 in damages, plus $150,000 in attorneys’ fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, adding attorneys’ fees for the frivolous appeal. The court declined to review the rulings challenged by Master Hand, as a sanction for failure to follow court rules. View "Jaworski v. Master Hand Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law