Seventh Circuit Review
Volume 9, Issue 1 (Fall 2013)
Introduction (contains Table of Contents, Masthead, and About the Seventh Circuit Review)
Abstract: In order to hail a defendant into federal court, a plaintiff must establish personal jurisdiction and venue. Under general principles of federal law, personal jurisdiction is proper whenever the defendant would be amenable to suit under the laws of the state in which the federal court sits. And venue is proper in any district where the defendant "resides" (i.e., is subject to personal jurisdiction). Section 12 of the Clayton Act, however, supplements these general principles. It has a liberal service-of-process provision that allows personal jurisdiction in any federal district court in the nation. But venue is proper only in the district(s) the corporation inhabits, is found, or transacts business.[Read more...]
Congress obscurely drafted Section 12, however, and this has raised an important question: if a plaintiff relies on Section 12's nationwide service-of-process provision, must he establish venue under Section 12 as well? Or may he mix and match, relying on Section 12 for personal jurisdiction and 28 U.S.C. § 1391, the general federal statute, for venue?
In KM Enterprises, Inc. v. Global Traffic Technologies, Inc., the Seventh Circuit held that Section 12 must be read as a package deal: "[t]o avail oneself of the privilege of nationwide service of process, a plaintiff must satisfy the venue provisions of Section 12's first clause." This Comment argues that the Seventh Circuit reached the right result for the right reasons. It argues that Congress's obscure drafting demands a more careful and nuanced analysis. And it notes that Judge Wood's careful reasoning and plain, precise writing is a model for the plain-language reform that the legal profession sorely needs.[Condense Abstract]
Abstract: Can a for-profit, secular corporation exercise religion? If so, does the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employer-provided health insurance plans offer women of reproductive age contraceptives violate free exercise rights? [Read more...]
Plaintiffs challenging the "contraceptive mandate," as it is commonly known, argue that it violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because it imposes a substantial burden on their religious exercise without meeting strict scrutiny. Although these challenges do present courts with a novel issue (whether a secular, for-profit corporation is a "person" capable of "exercising religion"), the answer to the broader question should be clear: requiring corporate-provided health insurance plans to include coverage for contraceptives does not ipso facto violate the free exercise rights of corporate shareholders.
The Seventh Circuit's opportunity to weigh in on this debate came in the consolidated cases of Korte v. Sebelious and Grote v. Sebelious. The decision—a sixty-four-page majority opinion and a ninety-page dissent—has been the most expansive against the contraceptive mandate among the federal circuit courts thus far. While other circuits have allowed either the companies or the owners to challenge the contraceptive mandate, the Seventh Circuit was the first court to rule in favor of and to allow challenges by the companies and their respective owners.
This Comment argues that the Seventh Circuit's decision was incorrect in at least two major respects: first, because their claims derive solely from the alleged injury to the corporations, the plaintiffs-shareholders do not have standing to assert a free exercise claim; and second, the majority wrongfully concluded that for-profit, secular corporations are "persons" that can exercise religion. Never before has the Supreme Court allowed secular, for-profit corporations to claim religious freedom. For good reason. Free exercise of religion is "purely personal" guarantee, which, like the privilege against self-incrimination, should not be extended to corporations.[Condense Abstract]
Expanding the Scope of the Federal Arbitration Act: An Examination of the Seventh Circuit's Opinion in Green v. U.S. Cash Advance, Illinois, LLC
Christine L. Milkowski
9 Seventh Circuit Rev. 50 (2013) [Full Article] [Synopsis: 4 MB mp3]
Abstract: The Roberts Court's expansive interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) has ushered in a new era of pro-arbitration jurisprudence, allowing lower courts to categorically enforce arbitration agreements. Underlying this zealous application is Section 2 of the FAA, which states that arbitration agreements are "valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of a contract." [Read more...]
In Green v. U.S. Cash Advance, Illinois, LLC, the Seventh Circuit enforced an arbitration agreement between a consumer and payday lender, despite the fact that the named arbitration forum had been unavailable since the inception of the agreement. In reaching their conclusion, the majority rejected the integral part test, used by the Third, Fifth and Eleventh Circuits, which bars the judicial appointment of a substitute arbitrator when the named arbitration forum was an integral part of the agreement. The dissent also rejected this test but passionately argued that the arbitration clause was unenforceable based on principles of contract law.
This Comment chronicles the passage of the FAA and the Supreme Court's recent arbitration decisions. It discusses the Green case at the district court and appellate levels, and it addresses other circuit court decisions in similar fact situations. This Comment argues that the Seventh Circuit majority made the wrong decision in Green. It also argues that the majority and dissent wrongly rejected the "integral part" test implemented by other circuits when determining whether Section 5 of the FAA can be invoked.[Condense Abstract]
Chain Gang: Examining the Seventh Circuit's "Chain of Distribution Test" When Applying Minimum Sentences for Drug-Related Deaths
9 Seventh Circuit Rev. 81 (2013) [Full Article] [Synopsis: 9 MB mp3]
Abstract: If a person dies or is seriously injured after using illegal drugs, the person who sold them the drugs is subject to mandatory minimum sentences under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b). But what happens when the person who sold the drug is a member of a drug distribution conspiracy? How can the courts go after the other members of that organization? [Read more...]
The Seventh Circuit answered these questions in United States v. Walker, when it held that other members of the conspiracy could also be subject to § 841(b)'s minimum sentences as long as they were within the "chain of distribution" for that fatal dose. Therefore, when someone takes a fatal dose of drugs, courts can use the chain of distribution rationale to impose minimum sentences all the way from the street-corner drug dealer to the drug kingpin.
This Comment looks at the legislative history behind § 841(b) and comments on Congress's attempts to use drug laws to target high-ranking members of drug organizations. Next, this Comment analyzes how the various circuits apply minimum sentences for individual drug crimes without any proximate cause or foreseeability requirement. Finally, this Comment looks at the facts in Walker, analyzes why the Seventh Circuit adopted a fact-intensive test for members of conspiracies, and argues that Walker best unifies the Seventh Circuit's sentencing standards for other drug-conspiracy crimes.[Condense Abstract]
Abstract: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provides that an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee's request for a leave of absence due to a religious observance or practice, as long as that accommodation does not present an undue hardship for the employer. The amendments to Title VII, and the Guidelines issued by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in response to Title VII, reveal a trend towards a broad interpretation of religious accommodation in the workplace. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals continued and exemplified this trend in Adeyeye v. Heartland Sweeteners, LLC. [Read more...]
In Adeyeye, where an employee requested a leave of absence to attend his father's funeral ceremony in Africa, the Seventh Circuit presented a liberal understanding of religious accommodation and acknowledged a variety of non-traditional and less common religions. The court analyzed whether the employer, Heartland Sweeteners, LLC, provided sufficient accommodation for Adeyeye's religious request, or in the alternative, whether the employer showed that this request would present Heartland with an undue hardship. The court found that Adeyeye's request arose from a sincere religious belief and would not have presented Heartland with an undue hardship.
This Article explains the Seventh Circuit's interpretation of religious accommodation in the workplace by looking to the amendments of Title VII, the relevant EEOC Guidelines, and the recognition of sincere religious beliefs by the Supreme Court in cases regarding conscientious objectors. This Article asserts that the Seventh Circuit's decision in Adeyeye reflects the appropriate tolerant statutory interpretation of Title VII regarding reasonable accommodations for religious requests. This decision came from the movement towards greater religious acceptance and understanding as reflected in the statutory language of Title VII and the evolution of the EEOC Guidelines.[Condense Abstract]
Immigration and Asylum
Abstract: Individuals seeking asylum must prove past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of one of five protected grounds, one ground being membership in a particular social group. In Matter of Acosta, the Board of Immigration Appeals defined a social group as a group of persons who share an immutable characteristic, meaning a characteristic that is either unchangeable or fundamental to one's identity or conscience such that the person should not be required to change. Despite listing sex as an immutable characteristic in Acosta, courts are reluctant to accept social group formulations based on gender alone. A number of circuits, however, have recognized social groups defined by gender and one or more characteristics. In Cece v. Holder, the en banc Seventh Circuit recognized that the formulation of "gender plus one or more narrowing characteristics" is a legitimate method to form a cognizable social group. [Read more...]
Historically, courts have narrowly construed gender-based social group formulations to limit the breadth of asylum claims. When courts found gender plus groups cognizable, they reasoned each plus characteristic was immutable. For example, the majority in Cece v. Holder found the social group of young Albanian women living alone cognizable because the group shared the immutable characteristics of being (1) young, (2) Albanian, (3) women, (4) living alone. While the Seventh Circuit was ultimately correct to find the gender plus group cognizable, the reasoning had the same convoluted logic as other courts that have found gender plus groups cognizable. Interpreting gender-based social group formulations to require each plus characteristic to be immutable as well has led to a lack of uniform decision making, including circuit splits, uncertainty for applicants claiming gender-based persecution, and ultimately, an underinclusive effect of granting asylum to persecuted women.
The Board of Immigration Appeals already determined gender is an immutable characteristic that could define a social group; thus, requiring applicants to demonstrate the plus characteristics are immutable as well requires them to prove at least twice as much as applicants who use the other protected grounds. Gender alone should be the immutable characteristic defining the social group, and the issue should be whether the plus characteristics narrow the group sufficiently so that group members can establish the nexus between group membership and persecution.[Condense Abstract]
Abstract: In Seitz v. City of Elgin, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Federal Wire Tapping Act (FWA) does not authorize a civil lawsuit against a municipality for intentionally disclosing or using electronic communications. While amendments to the FWA have expanded the potential scope of liability to reach municipalities, the court said in an opinion by Judge Joel M. Flaum that they did so only as a means of vindicating rights stated elsewhere in the Act. The decision created a circuit split, because the Sixth Circuit previously found that the FWA amendments brought municipalities within the potential ambit of liability.[Read more...]
The Seventh Circuit agreed with the Sixth Circuit up to a certain point: the word "entity" in the statute includes government units. However, unless the specific remedy being pursued by a claimant under the FWA provided a cause of action against an "entity," no action against a municipality exists. For example, if the specific remedy pursued by a claimant under the FWA only provided a cause of action against a "person," the claimant would not have a cause of action against a municipality under that provision, because the definition of "person" does not include municipalities.
By considering whether the amendments to the FWA created any substantive rights itself, the Seventh Circuit provided a sound analysis of the FWA that holds the legislature to the words it used. This Note will discuss how the Seventh Circuit reached its decision and the implications the decision has on municipalities' ability to disclose or use a private individual's electronic communications.[Condense Abstract]
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