Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

by
Attorney Turza sent out a fax, titled the “Daily Plan-It,” containing business advice. The fax was sent to CPAs who were not Turza’s clients, about every two weeks. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 47 U.S.C. 227, prohibits any person from sending unsolicited fax advertisements; even permitted fax ads must tell the recipient how to stop receiving future messages. Turza’s faxes did not contain opt-out information. The district court certified a class of the faxes’ recipients and ordered Turza to pay $500 in statutory damages for each of 8,430 faxes. ($4,215,000): $7,500 to the representative plaintiff ; $1,430,055.90 to class counsel for attorneys’ fees and expenses; and any residue, after payments to class members, to the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago “as a cy pres award.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed on the merits, rejecting an argument that the faxes were not ads, but vacated the remedial order. View "Holtzman v. Turza" on Justia Law

by
Scottie Pippen won six championship rings with the Chicago Bulls and was named to the National Basketball Association’s list of the 50 greatest players in its history. Since he retired in 2004, he has lost much of the fortune he amassed during his playing days through bad investments. He has pursued multiple lawsuits against former financial and legal advisors. The media learned of Pippen’s problems and several news organizations incorrectly reported that he had filed for bankruptcy. Pippen contends that the false reports have impaired his ability to earn a living by product endorsements and appearances. He filed suit, alleging that he was defamed and cast in a false light. The district court dismissed, finding that the falsehoods did not fit any of the categories of statements recognized by Illinois law to be so innately harmful that damages may be presumed and that the complaint did not plausibly allege that the defendants had published the falsehoods with knowledge the statement was false or reckless disregard of whether it was false, as required for a public figure such as Pippen to recover defamation damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Pippen v. NBC Universal Media LLC" on Justia Law

by
Peele worked for the Portage Police Department as a detective. In 2007 he supported Charnetzky’s Democratic primary campaign to become mayor. Charnetzky lost. Peele spoke to a local reporter and criticized Sheriff Lain for endorsing the opponent, apparently stating that Sheriff Lain “won’t get any support here.” The day after the comments were published, Peele was reassigned to the more deskbound position of “Station Duty Officer.” Peele sued, claiming that he was demoted and constructively discharged without due process; retaliation for his support of Charnetzky; and defamation. The defendants counterclaimed malicious prosecution and abuse of process. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. The Seventh Circuit reversed with respect to retaliation, noting that the district court did not address conspiracy, immunity, or the city’s liability. View "Peele v. Burch" on Justia Law

by
Seitz and Welter were partners in Wasco, a property management company. Greg was also a police officer. Elgin’s police chief confronted Greg with the emails showing that Greg had used the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS) to research cars parked in front of Wasco properties. Illinois limits use of LEADS to criminal justice purposes. The chief notified Gregg of a misconduct investigation regarding his use of LEADS. The city allegedly received its information after Tamara, Greg’s then wife and a fellow police officer, and Beeter accessed Greg’s email account and conveyed print-outs to the corporation counsel under cover of anonymity. Greg and Seitz sued Tamara and Beeter, alleging violations of the Federal Wiretap Act (FWA), the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and state law claims. They sued Elgin under the FWA. The district court dismissed the complaint against the city, concluding that the FWA, 18 U.S.C. 2511(1) prohibits “persons” from intercepting communications, but does not extend its definition of “person” to municipalities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A 1986 amendment permits suit against governmental units by adding “entity” to the text, but only for substantive provisions that identify an “entity” as a potential violator of that provision. View "Seitz v. City of Elgin" on Justia Law

by
Allegedly in retaliation for Modrowski’s unwillingness to skimp on building repairs, defendants fired him, withheld $11,000 in wages, had Modrowski jailed, and locked Modrowski out of his personal Yahoo email account. Modrowski sued, challenging the refusal to relinquish control over his email account. The district court issued a temporary restraining order, but Modrowski discovered that years’ worth of personal correspondence had vanished. Modrowski claimed violation of the Stored Wire and Electronic Communications Act (18 U.S.C. 2701), the Federal Wire Tapping Act (18 U.S.C. 2511), and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. 1030). The district court dismissed the first two claims because Modrowski acknowledged that he voluntarily linked his personal account with the defendants’ business account. The district court dismissed without prejudice the Computer Fraud Act claim for failure to allege an injury of at least $5,000. When Modrowski returned his first amended complaint, defendants moved for summary judgment. The window for fact discovery had closed and neither party had sought an extension. Modrowski responded by attacking perceived deficiencies of the defendants’ motion. Noting Modrowski’s failure to offer “any evidence in response to defendants’ motion, let alone evidence sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact,” it granted defendants’ motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Modrowski v. Pigatto" on Justia Law

by
In 2006 a teenager accused Gakuba of kidnapping and raping him. State charges are pending Gakuba sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that investigating police barged into his Rockford hotel room without a warrant and seized his wallet and other items after obtaining Gakuba’s video rental records from Hollywood Video to corroborate the accuser’s story that he had spent time watching videos in Gakuba’s room. He also sought damages under the Video Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. 2710. The district court dismissed without prejudice, granting Gakuba leave to amend his complaint if the indictment concluded in his favor. The court advised Gakuba that certain claims would be barred on immunity grounds. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Gakuba’s claims of damages resulting from illegal searches, seizures, and detentions involve constitutional issues that may be litigated during the course of his criminal case. Monetary relief is not available to him in his defense of criminal charges and his claims may become time-barred by the time the state prosecution has concluded, so the district court should have stayed rather than dismissed Gakuba’s civil-rights claims. The court noted that Hollywood Video employees knowingly disclosed his rental information to the police without a warrant. View "Gakuba v. O'Brien" on Justia Law

by
Kristofek, a part-time police officer in Orland Hills, arrested a driver for traffic violations, but the driver turned out to be the son of a former mayor of a nearby town. Kristofek was ordered to let him go. Kristofek disagreed with what he believed was political corruption and expressed his concerns to fellow officers, supervisors, and eventually the FBI. When Police Chief Scully found out about this conduct, he fired him. Kristofek sued, bringing First Amendment retaliation claims against Scully and the village under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed, finding that Kristofek’s speech did not involve a matter of public concern, principally because his sole motive was to protect himself from civil and criminal liability. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The complaint did not allege that Kristofek’s only motive was self-interest, and the mere existence of a self-interest motive does not preclude the plausibility of mixed motives, which is consistent with protected speech. Kristofek plausibly pled, “albeit barely,” that Scully had at least de facto authority to set policy for hiring and firing, sufficient to sustain a “Monell” claim against the village. View "Kristofek v. Village of Orland Hills" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, an active genealogist and animal rights activist, claimed that her name had commercial value and that search engines generated revenue as a result of internet searches of her name. She specifically alleges that various features of Google’s search engine violate her right of publicity by using her name to trigger sponsored links, ads, and related searches to medications, including Levitra, Cialis, and Viagra, all of which are trademarks of nationally advertised oral treatments for male erectile dysfunction. The district court dismissed her suit alleging common law misappropriation and violation of the state right-of-privacy law, Wis. Stat. 995.50(2)(b). The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the public interest and incidental use exceptions. View "Stayart v. Google Inc." on Justia Law

by
Indiana Code 35-42-4-12 prohibits certain individuals required to register as sex offenders (Ind. Code 11-8-8) from knowingly using a social networking web site, an instant messaging, or chat room program that the offender knows allows access or use by a person who is less than 18 years of age. Violation constitutes a Class A misdemeanor; subsequent violations constitute Class D felonies. The law does not differentiate based on the age of victim, the manner in which the crime was committed, or the time since the predicate offense. It provides a defense if the individual did not know the website allowed minors or upon discovering it does, immediately ceased use, and exempts persons convicted of consensual “Romeo and Juliet relationships” where the victim and perpetrator are close in age. In 2000, Doe was convicted of child exploitation. He challenged the law on First Amendment grounds on behalf of a class of similarly-situated sex offenders. The district court rejected the challenge. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding the law unconstitutional. Though content neutral, it is not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest. It broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors. View "Doe v. Prosecutor, Marion County" on Justia Law

by
Bogie attended a comedy show featuring Joan Rivers, who told a joke about Helen Keller, offending an audience member who had a deaf son. The audience member heckled Rivers; their brief exchange was filmed and was part of the documentary. When Rivers exited to a backstage area, closed to the public, Bogie gained entry and expressed frustration with the heckler and sympathy for Rivers. Rivers responded with an expression of sympathy for the heckler. The film shows at least three others present. The interaction was filmed and included in the documentary entitled Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Bogie’s conversation lasted 16 seconds in the film’s 82 minutes, 0.3 percent of the entire film. The documentary was distributed nationwide. Bogie alleges that she was portrayed in the film as having approved of condescending and disparaging remarks by Rivers toward Wisconsin, its citizens, and the heckler. Bogie’s complaint alleged that her privacy was invaded by the distribution of the film and that the film misappropriated her image for commercial purposes without her consent. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the footage was “incidental,” newsworthy, and not used for advertising. View "Bogie v. Rosenberg" on Justia Law