Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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During child-custody proceedings, Nixon accused her ex-husband G.G. of physically and sexually assaulting their daughter, S. An Illinois judge limited G.G.’s parental rights to visitation in the presence of another adult while the allegations were being investigated. Nixon concluded that the judge would terminate her parental rights and give G.G. full custody of S. so she left for Canada with S. and remained there even after learning that the judge had given G.G. sole custody. Nixon was convicted of international parental kidnapping, 18 U.S.C.1204, and sentenced to 26 months in prison. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. It is an affirmative defense that “the defendant was fleeing an incidence or pattern of domestic violence.” Nixon presented evidence that G.G. physically and sexually abused S but S professed love for her father and fear of being alone with her mother. She expressed regret at allowing her mother to persuade her to accuse her father falsely. Nixon did not carry her burden on this defense. The court rejected claims of emotional abuse; the statute speaks of “domestic violence” and requires the defendant to show real domestic violence, not just a belief that violence occurred. Selling a beloved house, demeaning language, failing to provide adequate financial support do not constitute “violence.” View "United States v. Nixon" on Justia Law

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Henricks owned a towing business, an auto body shop, and a vehicle dealership, which he used to defraud insurance companies by filing fraudulent claims. Henricks’s wife, Catherine, worked at the companies sporadically and was an officer of two of them and a member of the other. She opened bank accounts and signed loan documents on behalf of the companies. Henricks pleaded guilty to mail fraud and immediately began to hide assets. He was sentenced to imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution of $1,306,608.72. Catherine filed for divorce and for bankruptcy. Catherine entered an appearance as an interested person in Henricks’s criminal case. The district court found that Henricks had defaulted on his restitution payments and that the divorce was a sham, then determined the parties’ interests in properties so that Henricks’s property could be directed toward restitution. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The court had jurisdiction under the Fair Debt Collection Procedures Act to decide the parties’ property interests in Henricks’s criminal case and did not violate Catherine’s due process rights. The court, however, improperly relied upon post‐judgment conduct instead of determining the parties’ property interests as of the date of the judgment lien. Whether the divorce was a sham was relevant to whether Henricks’s defaulted on restitution, but is irrelevant to the parties’ ownership interests on the judgment date. View "Henricks v. United States" on Justia Law

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Timothy and Belva Thorpe bought an Illinois house as joint tenants in 1987. They lived in that home until after Belva filed for divorce in October 2012. Timothy filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2013. A month later, an Illinois divorce court awarded Belva the marital home. At the moment Belva filed for divorce, section 503(e) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act granted Timothy and Belva contingent rights in the entire house. The bankruptcy estate acquired Timothy’s half-interest in the marital home at the moment he declared bankruptcy. The district court held that Timothy’s estate took his half-interest subject to Belva’s contingency so that the divorce court’s award divested the estate of any right to the house. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the trustee’s argument based on the second sentence of section 503(e), which provides that contingent interests in marital property “shall not encumber that property so as to restrict its transfer, assignment or conveyance.” The plain statutory text demonstrates that the bankruptcy estate took Timothy’s half-interest in the marital home subject to Belva’s contingent interest. View "Reinbold v. Thorpe" on Justia Law

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The Milchteins have 15 children. The two eldest refused to return home in 2011-2012 and were placed in foster care by Wisconsin state court orders. In federal court, the Milchteins argued that state officials violated the federal Constitution by either discriminating against or failing to accommodate their views of family management in the Chabad understanding of Orthodox Judaism. Those children now are adults. State proceedings with respect to them are closed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Milchteins’ suit as moot, rejecting arguments the district court could have entered a declaratory judgment because the Milchteins still have 12 minor children, who might precipitate the same sort of controversy. The Milchteins did not seek alteration of the state court judgment, so the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not block this suit but it is blocked by the requirement of justiciability. The Milchteins want a federal judge to say where a state judge erred but not act on that error: “a naked request for an advisory opinion.” If Wisconsin again starts judicial proceedings concerning the Milchteins’ children, the "Younger" doctrine would require the federal tribunal to abstain. Younger abstention may be inappropriate if the very existence of state proceedings violated the First Amendment but the Milchteins do not contend that it is never permissible for a state to inquire into the welfare of a religious leader’s children. View "Milchtein v. Chisholm" on Justia Law

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The Milchteins have 15 children. The two eldest refused to return home in 2011-2012 and were placed in foster care by Wisconsin state court orders. In federal court, the Milchteins argued that state officials violated the federal Constitution by either discriminating against or failing to accommodate their views of family management in the Chabad understanding of Orthodox Judaism. Those children now are adults. State proceedings with respect to them are closed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Milchteins’ suit as moot, rejecting arguments the district court could have entered a declaratory judgment because the Milchteins still have 12 minor children, who might precipitate the same sort of controversy. The Milchteins did not seek alteration of the state court judgment, so the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not block this suit but it is blocked by the requirement of justiciability. The Milchteins want a federal judge to say where a state judge erred but not act on that error: “a naked request for an advisory opinion.” If Wisconsin again starts judicial proceedings concerning the Milchteins’ children, the "Younger" doctrine would require the federal tribunal to abstain. Younger abstention may be inappropriate if the very existence of state proceedings violated the First Amendment but the Milchteins do not contend that it is never permissible for a state to inquire into the welfare of a religious leader’s children. View "Milchtein v. Chisholm" on Justia Law