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

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Gary and Deborah divorced in 2003 and agreed to a marital settlement. Gary purchased an annuity, to pay him $200 per month until his death; the settlement required him to pay her “$200 per month…in lieu of her interest in [the annuity].” Two years later, Gary filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and asked the court to discharge financial obligations to his ex-wife under the settlement. Gary attempted to blackmail Deborah into cooperation, using nude photos of her sister as a child. He is now in prison for bankruptcy fraud and possession of child pornography. 18 U.S.C. 152(6), 2252A(a)(5)(B). Deborah and the bankruptcy trustee agreed that she had an unsecured claim for $158,455.63, including $12,400 representing 62 monthly payments that the trustee had received under the annuity. Gary owned the annuity, so these payments were part of the bankruptcy estate and their inclusion in her claim was a mistake. The trustee successfully moved the bankruptcy judge to permit transfer to Deborah of $1000 in annuity payments collected since settling her claim, and to direct the company to make future payments to her directly. The Seventh Circuit reversed, directing the court either to order Deborah to return the $1000 or order the trustee to deduct it from her claim and to instruct the company to resume making payments to the trustee. View "Peel v. Peel" on Justia Law

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Allen suffered a fatal heart attack in 2009, leaving a wife of three years, Arlene, and three adult children from a previous marriage. At the time of Allen’s death, his daughter and her children lived with Allen and Arlene. Allen had a will bequeathing $100,000, but his assets passed outside of probate, leaving his estate with insufficient funds for the bequest. Allen had designated his children as beneficiaries of assets, including a home, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other savings accounts. Allen had one life insurance policy as part of his compensation package as a pharmacist, which provided $74,000 in basic coverage and $341,000 in supplemental coverage. If the policyholder failed to designate a beneficiary by his date of death, the proceeds would pass to the policyholder’s spouse by default. The insurer never received any indication that Allen wished to designate a beneficiary. In the days following Allen’s death, however, the children found a change-of-beneficiary form, allegedly completed by their father more than a year before his death, but never submitted. The district court ruled in Arlene’s favor, finding that even if Allen had filled out a change-of-beneficiary form he had not substantially complied with policy requirements for changing beneficiaries. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Kagan v. Kagan" on Justia Law

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Mary, who has both U.S. and Irish citizenship, attended college in Ireland.She and Derek lived together in Ireland for 11 years, but never married. Their son was born in Illinois. The three returned to Ireland 11 days later. A few months later Mary and the baby moved to Illinois against Derek’s wishes. As an unmarried father, Derek had no standing under Irish law to resort to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which requires return of children to their country of habitual residence if they are “wrongfully removed to or retained in” another country in breach of the custody rights of the left-behind parent. After 3-1/2 years, an Irish court granted Derek guardianship and joint custody. Mary was in Ireland with the baby for the final hearing. The court allowed her to temporarily return to Illinois. Eight months later Derek filed a Hague Convention petition in Illinois. The district court ordered the child returned to Ireland. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court incorrectly treated the parents’ last shared intent as a test for determining habitual residence. Under the Hague Convention, that determination is a practical, flexible, factual inquiry. When Mary moved with the baby to Illinois she was his sole legal custodian and removal was not wrongful under the Convention. By the time of the alleged wrongful “retention,” his life was too firmly rooted in Illinois to consider Ireland his home. View "Redmond v. Redmond" on Justia Law

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Iain and Norene were married in Chicago in 1993. They lived in Seattle until 1998 when they moved to Australia. Their eldest child was born in the U.S. in 1997; two younger children were born in Australia. Although Norene and Iain initially intended to stay in Australia for five years, they stayed 12 years. In 2010, they traveled to the U.S., planning that Norene and the children would remain for six months to one year, but Norene filed for divorce in Illinois. Iain offered Norene primary custody, but wanted to be guaranteed custody of the children for nine weeks of their summer vacation and for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, and asserted that the couple’s residence was Australia. Norene did not accept Iain’s offer of settlement. Iain immediately filed a request for the return of the children with the Australian Central Authority charged with administering the Hague Convention, then filed a petition for return in Illinois (International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 42 U.S.C. 11601), which the district court denied. The Seventh Circuit remanded, stating that further fact-finding was necessary to determine which court should resolve custody. View "Walker v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Racine County Human Services Department caseworker Wagner removed Thor, a 12-year-old, from his parents’ home and placed him into protective custody. Thor suffers from cerebral palsy, global developmental delay, and is confined to a wheelchair. Wagner investigated after receiving a referral from personnel at Thor’s school concerning bruising on his arm and leg. A judge issued a probable cause order for removal, based on evidence of Thor’s injuries and that he had been left unattended. Thor suffered additional injuries as a result of accidents that occurred in foster care and at a rehabilitation facility. Thor’s mother and stepfather and Thor sued Wagner, his supervisor, another caseworker, and her supervisor, alleging violations of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 42 U.S.C. 1985. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on qualified immunity grounds and because plaintiffs failed to establish sufficient evidence of racial animus. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity for any alleged violation of plaintiffs’ right to familial relations; for any alleged breach of Thor’s right to bodily security and integrity based on the decision to continue his placements; and for any alleged breach of Thor’s right to individualized treatment. View "Xiong v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her ex-husband for battery and related torts, claiming that he beat and raped her while they were still married. The district judge dismissed the suit, ruling that it was malicious. She was proceeding in forma pauperis, and 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) requires a district court to dismiss such a suit if the court determines that it is frivolous or malicious. Before the two divorced, plaintiff had complained about the beating and rape to the police, but later withdrew charges, resumed living with the defendant, and emailed him a statement recanting the charges, saying that he was a wonderful husband. The court characterized the suit as “the latest battleground for the parties in their long-running personal feud” and stated that “this action may be merely a fishing expedition. The Plaintiff has expressed her desire to subpoena the Defendant’s telephone records, and has requested that the Court enter an order blocking AT&T from disposing of any telephone records relating to the Defendant.” The Seventh Circuit vacated, concluding that the district court's finding was not supported by the record. View "West v. West" on Justia Law

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Mund, an American, married Liu, a Chinese woman in China. They moved to the U.S. For Liu to be admitted as a permanent resident, her husband had to sign an I-864 affidavit, agreeing to support his wife at 125 percent of the poverty level ($13,500 a year), if they divorced, 8 U.S.C. 1183a. They divorced two years later. Without relying on the affidavit, the divorce court ordered Mund to support Liu for one year at $500 a month, contingent on her proving that despite making at least four job applications a month, she had not found work. Mund refused to provide support specified in the federal affidavit because Liu was not seeking work. The district judge held that Liu was not entitled to support while not seeking work. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding there is no duty of mitigation with respect to obligations under the affidavit. The court noted form language that the obligation continues “until my death or the sponsored immigrant(s) have become U.S. citizens, can be credited with 40 quarters of work, depart the U.S. permanently, or die.” The level of support is meager, so the sponsored immigrant has a strong incentive to seek employment, apart from any legal duty. View "Liu v. Mund" on Justia Law

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The International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 42 U.S.C. 11601, entitles a person whose child has been removed from his custody to the U.S. to petition for return of the child. Father and mother lived with their daughter, three years old, in Canada. The parties are of Indian ethnicity; theirs was an arranged marriage. During a vacation in India, mother alleged domestic abuse, so that father was detained, while mother flew to the U.S. with daughter. Mother gave birth to a second child in the U.S.; that child is not at issue. The district court ordered the child returned to Canada. The child was taken from her mother by U.S. Marshals, based on the father’s assertion that the mother is a flight risk because India is not a signatory of the Hague Convention. The child lived with her father in a hotel in Chicago until she was returned to her mother pending appeal. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded for a hearing on whether being with the father will inflict psychological harm on the child. The court noted the conflicting assertions of the parents and that the district court did not explore the issue, apparently seeing it as a foreign problem.

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Plaintiff and her husband divorced in 2002. He was an executive of defendant, a closely held corporation, a supermarket chain. The divorce decree transferred to wife some of his stock "until such time as [he] is first able to sell" them. He was to pay alimony until 2012 unless he sold the shares sooner and forwarded proceeds to wife. Wife claims that defendant's financial officer told her falsely that husband's shares could be sold only if he died, ceased to be employed by defendant, or ceased being employed in a position that entitled him to buy company stock. She claims she was induced to accept stock in lieu of a cash settlement and to agree that alimony payments would terminate as soon as husband was allowed to sell the stock. Less than two weeks after the earliest day on which husband could stop paying alimony, the company agreed to buy back the shares. The price was $908,000. Wife lost state court litigation and surrendered the shares in exchange $712,000. The district court dismissed, as untimely, wife's suit under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), and SEC Rule 10b-5. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that any violation occurred with the 2002 misrepresentation, more than five years before suit was filed.

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Plaintiff, a law firm marketing director, took leave under the Family Medical Leave Act just before the birth of her child and continuing after the birth. While she was on leave, her supervisors informed her that her position was eliminated as part of an organizational restructuring and terminated her employment. She filed suit, alleging pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; interference with rights under the FMLA; retaliation under the FMLA; and a violation of her right to a bonus under the FMLA. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Seventh Circuit reversed.Statements allegedly made by the human resources director, fell within the scope of the h.r. director's employment and should have been admitted as nonhearsay under Rule 801(d)(2)(D). Those statements provided direct evidence of discriminatory intent and of a connection between taking leave and termination.