Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), an effective consent to automated calls is one that relates to the same subject matter covered by the challenged messages. Akira, a retailer, engaged Opt for text-message marketing services. Akira gathered 20,000 customers’ cell phone numbers for Opt’s messaging platform. Akira customers could join its “Text Club” by providing their cell phone numbers to Akira representatives inside stores, by texting to an opt-in number, or by completing an “Opt In Card,” stating that, “Information provided to Akira is used solely for providing you with exclusive information or special offers. Akira will never sell your information or use it for any other purpose.” In 2009-2011, Akira sent about 60 text messages advertising store promotions, events, contests, and sales to those customers, including Blow. In a purported class action, seeking $1.8 billion in damages, Blow alleged that Akira violated the TCPA, 47 U.S.C. 227, and the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by using an automatic telephone dialing system to make calls without the recipient’s express consent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Akira. Blow’s attempt to parse her consent to accept some promotional information from Akira while rejecting “mass marketing” texts construed “consent” too narrowly. The court declined to award sanctions for frivolous filings. View "Blow v. Bijora, Inc." on Justia Law

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A veterans’ group challenged an anti‑robocall statute, Ind. Code 24‑5‑14‑5, under the First Amendment. The law prohibits automated calls with recorded messages unless the recipient has previously consented or the message is immediately preceded by a live operator who obtains consent. The Seventh Circuit upheld the law, noting that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, which contains similar restrictions, has been sustained by the Ninth and Eighth Circuits. The court rejected a claim of content-based discrimination. While the law exempts messages from school districts to students, parents, or employees; messages to recipients with whom the caller has a current business or personal relationship; messages advising employees of work schedules, nothing in the law, including those exceptions, disfavors political speech. The exceptions primarily concern who may be called, not what may be said. The court noted the legitimate purposes of the law. View "Patriotic Veterans, Inc. v. State of Indiana" on Justia Law

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During their acrimonious divorce, Paula accused Barry of serial infidelity. In discovery Barry asked her for all documents related to that accusation. Paula complied and produced copies of incriminating emails between Barry and several other women. In a separate lawsuit, Barry alleged that Paula violated the federal Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, 18 U.S.C. 2520, by surreptitiously placing an auto-forwarding “rule” on his email accounts that automatically forwarded the messages on his email client to her and that Paula’s lawyer violated the Act by “disclosing” the intercepted emails in response to his discovery request. The district judge dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that Paula’s lawyer cannot be liable for disclosing Barry’s own emails to him in response to his own discovery request. The allegations against Paula, however, technically fall within the language of the Act, “though Congress probably didn’t anticipate its use as a tactical weapon in a divorce proceeding.” The emails attached to the complaint did not conclusively defeat Barry’s allegation that Paula intercepted his emails contemporaneously with their transmission, as required by the Act. View "Epstein v. Epstein" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Huon was charged with criminal sexual assault of Jane Doe. He claimed that the encounter was consensual and was acquitted. The website Above the Law (ATL) published an article entitled, “Rape Potpourri” which discussed two “rape stories,” one of which concerned Jane Doe’s allegations and Huon’s opening statement at his trial; the post was later updated to note that Huon was acquitted. Huon sued ATL, alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false light invasion of privacy. Days later, a Gawker website published an article entitled, “Acquitted Rapist Sues Blog for Calling Him Serial Rapist” with Huon’s 2008 mugshot and the ATL article. The title was later changed to, “Man Acquitted of Sexual Assault Sues Blog for Calling Him Serial Rapist.” The Gawker article generated 80 comments from anonymous third-party users. Huon added Gawker as a defendant. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the defamation claim. The title can be construed innocently when viewed with the rest of the article, which fairly reported on Huon’s trial and his initial complaint. The court reversed dismissal of the defamation claim concerning the third-party user comments. Huon adequately alleged that the publisher helped create at least some of the comments; one of the comments constitutes defamation under Illinois law. Because that claim was reinstated, the court also reinstated the false-light and intentional-infliction claims, which were dismissed against Gawker based solely on the rejection of his defamation claims. View "Huon v. Denton" on Justia Law

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Dr. Wesbrook, a former employee of the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, sued Dr. Belongia, a former colleague, and Dr. Ulrich, the chief executive officer of the Marshfield Clinic. Wesbrook claimed that Belongia and Ulrich tortiously interfered with his at-will employment, engineering his termination by publishing defamatory statements about him to the Marshfield Clinic board of directors. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The defendants’ statements about the plaintiff were true or substantially true and therefore privileged. Wesbrook’s time with the Clinid was marked by conflict and complaints about his “management style.” The statements concerned those conflicts and complaints. Under Wisconsin law, an at-will employee cannot recover from former co-workers and supervisors for tortious interference on the basis of their substantially truthful statements made within the enterprise, no matter the motives underlying those statements. View "Wesbrook v. Ulrich" on Justia Law

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Cbeyond provides telecommunications service to small businesses using telephone lines. AT&T Illinois provides similar service on a larger scale. Their networks are interconnected; a new entrant (Cbeyond) may connect with existing local exchange carriers, 47 U.S.C. 251; if the parties are unable to agree on terms the issue is referred to arbitration. In 2004, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved the agreement between Cbeyond and AT&T. In 2012 Cbeyond complained to the ICC: when Cbeyond leases new digital signal level loop circuits, AT&T charges a separate price for “Clear Channel Capability” (CCC) for the loops. CCC codes the electrical pulses in a line to improve data streaming. Cbeyond argued that there was no extra work involved. The Seventh Circuit affirmed rejection of Cbeyond’s claims, noting that the parties’ agreement designates CCC as an “optional feature” available “at an additional cost” and that some of the loops did not have CCC built in. The court noted the lack of information about how AT&T charges others for CCC or whether AT&T’s charges are inconsistent with 47 C.F.R. 51.505, which constrains incumbent carriers to lease network elements to newcomers at a price slightly higher than the incumbent’s marginal cost. Finding no violation of federal law, the court called the claim “a dispute over a price term in a contract,” a matter of state law. “Cbeyond has imposed an excessive and unnecessary burden on the district court by bringing this sloppy lawsuit.” View "Cbeyond Communications, LLC v. Sheahan" on Justia Law

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Carlson, along with scholarly, journalistic, and historic organizations, sought access to grand-jury materials sealed decades ago. The materials concern an investigation into the Chicago Tribune in 1942 for a story it published revealing that the U.S. military had cracked Japanese codes. The government conceded that there are no interests favoring continued secrecy, but declined to turn over the materials, on the ground that Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure entirely eliminates the district court’s common-law supervisory authority over the grand jury and that no one has the power to release these documents except for the reasons enumerated in Rule 6(e)(3)(E). Carlson’s request is outside the scope of Rule 6(e). The Seventh Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling in favor of Carlson. The text and history of the Rules indicate that Rule 6(e)(3)(E) is permissive, not exclusive, and does not eliminate the district court’s long-standing inherent supervisory authority to make decisions as needed to ensure the proper functioning of a grand jury. While this inherent supervisory authority is limited to “preserv[ing] or enhanc[ing] the traditional functioning” of the grand jury, that includes the power to unseal grand jury materials in circumstances not addressed by Rule 6(e)(3)(E). View "Carlson v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Union erected a giant inflatable rat and an inflatable fat cat during a labor dispute in Grand Chute, Wisconsin. Both are staked to the ground in the highway median, to prevent the wind from blowing them away. Grand Chute forbids private signs on the public way and defines signs to mean “[a]ny structure, part thereof, or device attached thereto” that conveys a message. The Union removed them at the town's request and filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, citing the First Amendment. The district court denied a preliminary injunction and, a year later, granted the town summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that the case may be moot because the construction that led to the use of demonstrative inflatables was complete; the Union was no longer picketing. The court also noted that the town amended its code and changed the definition of a sign. If the Union persists in seeking damages, the district court must weigh the probability of a fresh dispute between this union and Grand Chute and the risk that it would be over too quickly to allow judicial review to apply the “capable of repetition yet evading review” exception to the mootness doctrine and must address the validity of current ordinances, rather than one that was changed before the final judgment. View "Constr. & Gen. Laborers' Local Union v. Town of Grand Chute" on Justia Law

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Attorney Turza sent fax advertisements to accountants. In 2013, the Seventh Circuit affirmed that these faxes violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, but reversed a plan to distribute a $4.2 million fund to the class members and donate any remainder to charity. Meanwhile, Turza posted a $4.2 million supersedeas bond. Invoking the common-fund doctrine, the district judge awarded class counsel about $1.4 million. TCPA authorizes an award of up to $500 per improper fax. The court ordered two-thirds of that sent to every class member. If some members fail to cash their checks or cannot be found, there would be a second distribution. The maximum paid out per fax would be $500. If money remains, the residue returns to Turza. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. This is not a common-fund case; suits under TCPA seek recovery for discrete wrongs. If a recipient cannot be located, or spurns the money, counsel are not entitled to be paid for that fax. TCPA is not a fee-shifting statute. Turza is not required to pay the class’s attorneys just because he lost the suit. Distributing more than $500 per fax ($333 to the recipient and $167 to counsel) would either exceed the statutory cap or effectively shift legal fees to Turza. The $4.2 million represents security for payment, so once the debt is satisfied, the surplus can be returned to Turza. View "Holtzman v. Turza" on Justia Law

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Indiana Rules for the Admission to the Bar and the Discipline of Attorneys state: “No person who advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or this state by force, violence or other unconstitutional or illegal means, shall be certified to the Supreme Court of Indiana for admission to the bar of the court and a license to the practice of law.” Plaintiff intends to engage in “revolutionary advocacy,” as by distributing the Charter of Carnaro and Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto. He challenged the Rule, without stating that he intends to advocate the overthrow of the government. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit as premature. Plaintiff has not applied for admission to the Indiana bar and lacks standing. The rule will harm him only if he would be admitted to the Indiana bar were the rule to be invalidated: “that is highly unlikely,” given “his tempestuous relations with the Illinois bar authorities,” who deemed him unfit to practice law, citing his failure to acknowledge on his applications his multiple arrests and firings over the previous decade. View "Otrompke v. Skolnik" on Justia Law