Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Doe claims that she was sexually assaulted by a security guard at her middle school while she was in eighth grade. She filed suit under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a). To obtain damages, Doe was required to prove that a school official had actual knowledge of the alleged conduct. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in the school district’s favor. A reasonable jury could not have found that Ptak, the principal at Doe’s middle school, had actual knowledge of the security guard’s misconduct. It is undisputed that Ptak was unaware of Doe’s allegations of sexual abuse until after Doe had graduated; during Doe’s eighth‐grade year, no teacher or staff member had reported any incidents or concerns regarding the security guard and Doe to Ptak. Nor does Ptak recall seeing any physical contact between Collins and Doe during that school year. Doe relied on events that occurred during the previous school year to establish that Ptak had actual knowledge of the risk that the security guard would abuse Doe. View "Jane Doe No. 55 v. Madison Metropolitan School District" on Justia Law

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Deppe, a punter, enrolled at Northern Illinois University (NIU), a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I school, in 2014 without an athletic scholarship. Deppe decided to “red shirt” his first year; he practiced with the team but did not compete, so the clock did not run on his four years of NCAA athletic eligibility. In 2015 NIU signed another punter, so he looked for a new program. Coaches at the University of Iowa, another Division I school, told Deppe they wanted him if he would be eligible to compete during the 2016–2017 season. The NCAA indicated that under its year-in-residence rule, Deppe would be ineligible to compete for one year following his transfer. An exception permitting a one-time transfer with immediate athletic eligibility in limited circumstances was unavailable to Deppe. A player who transfers under extenuating circumstances may obtain a waiver of the NCAA’s requirement that a student’s four years of playing time be completed in five calendar years; the school to which he transfers must initiate the process. Iowa's football staff notified Deppe that the team had decided to pursue another punter who had immediate eligibility and would not initiate the process for him. Deppe sued the NCAA on behalf of himself and a proposed class alleging violations of the Sherman Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The year-in-residence requirement is an eligibility rule clearly meant to preserve the amateur character of college athletics, is therefore presumptively procompetitive, and need not be tested for anticompetitive effect under a full rule-of-reason analysis. View "Deppe v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that full-time staff members who also teach part-time (50-75 individuals, “FTST”) were included in the Part-Time Faculty Association at Columbia College Chicago (PFAC) bargaining unit for the purposes of their part-time faculty duties. Under the collective bargaining agreement’s recognition clause FTST are part-time faculty members and arguably fall under the scope of the general inclusion but also qualify as full-time staff members, which are expressly excluded from representation. An arbitrator vacated the ruling. The Seventh Circuit upheld the NLRB decision. Given the primacy of the NLRB’s determination, the countervailing arbitration decision cannot stand. The National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 159, “confers broad discretion on the Board to determine appropriate bargaining units,” because “the bargaining unit determination is a representational question reserved in the first instance to the Board.” View "Part-time Faculty Association v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law

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Manley, a school board member, was not up for reelection but her allies were when she had a verbal altercation with a student who was leaf-letting for Manley’s political opponents outside a high school play. The student accused Manley of bullying; the student and her parents pursued a campaign to embarrass Manley with online petitions, newspaper articles, and comments at public meetings. The superintendent began an investigation. Manley sued to enjoin the investigation. No injunction was issued. A public report found that Manley violated a board policy calling for “mutual respect, civility and orderly conduct” at school events. The board formally admonished Manley. Manley did not seek reelection. Manley’s claim for damages was rejected on summary judgment for failure to offer evidence of a required element of a due process claim: the deprivation of a constitutionally recognized liberty or property interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Manley’s claims that she was deprived of a feeling of fair‐dealing on the part of the government; her mental and emotional well‐being; and processes mandated by the state and the district. The Constitution does not require government officials to avoid upsetting other officials; this “unprecedented theory’s threat to robust public debate is obvious.” Emotional distress alone is insufficient to prove a denial of due process. Manley identified no substantive liberty or property interest attached to the procedural rules the district allegedly violated. View "Manley v. Law" on Justia Law

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Wisconsin law gives state university students rights to organize themselves and to run their governments, which have the power to spend substantial funds. Plaintiffs, the University of Wisconsin Madison (UWM) Student Association and former and current UWM students, alleged a conspiracy to interfere with student governance in violation of various rights protected by 42 U.S.C. 1983. They claim that the UWM administration excluded certain students from student government by unseating the legitimately elected officers and replacing them over several years with a supposedly “puppet” student government with a similar name, the defendant Student Association at UWM. The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the defendants who were not timely served with process and the dismissal of a right-to-organize claim under state law. The court reversed the dismissal with prejudice of the remaining claims for misjoinder, stating that it could understand the district court’s frustration, but the remedy for misjoinder is severance or dismissal without prejudice. View "UWM Student Association v. Lovell" on Justia Law

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College of DuPage hired Breuder as its president. After extensions, his contract ran through 2019. In 2015 newly-elected members of the Board of Trustees, having campaigned on a pledge to remove Breuder, discharged him without notice or a hearing. Board resolutions stated that Breuder had committed misconduct. The Board did not offer him a hearing and refused to comply with clauses in his contract covering severance pay and retirement benefits. Breuder filed suit, citing Illinois contract and defamation law and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Board as an entity moved to dismiss the complaint, contending that Breuder never had a valid contract because, under Illinois law, a governmental body whose members serve limited terms may not enter into contracts that extend beyond those terms. Individual Board members moved to dismiss the 1983 claim on qualified immunity grounds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of both motions. The court noted precedent allowing Illinois Community Colleges to grant their presidents tenure beyond the date of the next board election. Rejecting claims of qualified immunity, the court noted that a hearing is required whenever the officeholder has a “legitimate claim of entitlement.” In discharging Breuder, the Board stated that he had committed misconduct. Even a person who has no property interest in a public job has a constitutional entitlement to a hearing before being defamed during a discharge, or at least a name-clearing hearing after the discharge. View "Breuder v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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The Mayor of Chicago appoints the city’s Board of Education, 105 ILCS 5/34-3. Until 1995, the Mayor needed the consent of the City Council; now the Mayor acts independently. Plaintiffs claimed that the system violated the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301 (section 2). School boards elsewhere in Illinois are elected; plaintiffs say that failure to elect the school board in Chicago has a disproportionate effect on minority voters. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Section 2(a) covers any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard” that results in an abridgment of the right to vote; it does not guarantee that any given public office be filled by election rather than appointment, a civil service system, or some other means. Whether having an appointed board is “good government” or good for pupils is irrelevant to the Act. While more minority citizens live in Chicago than in other Illinois cities and do not vote for school board members, neither does anyone else. Every member of the electorate is treated identically, which is what section 2 requires. View "Quinn v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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For decades, Elkhart, Indiana’s Concord High School has held a “Christmas Spectacular” concert. In 2015, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter expressing concerns about the religious nature of the Spectacular’s second half, which included religious songs interspersed with a narrator reading passages from the New Testament, and a student-performed nativity scene. The superintendent rejected the claim. Plaintiff sued under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. While the suit was pending, Concord volunteered to remove the scriptural reading and add songs representing Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The judge concluded that the proposal was not adequate and granted a preliminary injunction forbidding the school from performing the proposed version. Concord actually performed a second half that spent about four and a half minutes each explaining and performing a song to represent Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Images are projected onto screens with each song. For the remaining 20 minutes, students perform numerous religious Christmas songs and a two-minute nativity scene, with mannequins, not student actors. There are no New Testament readings. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the 2015 show did not violate the Establishment Clause and a declaratory judgment that the 2014 and proposed versions were unconstitutional, with an award of $10 in nominal damages. Plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction was denied. View "Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Concord Community Schools" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Grussgot was hired by a Milwaukee private school that provides non-Orthodox Jewish education. The school employs a rabbi and has a chapel and Torah scrolls but does not require its teachers to be Jewish. Grussgott claimed that she was solely a Hebrew teacher and had no responsibilities that were religious in nature. The school maintained that Grussgott was employed as a Hebrew and Jewish Studies teacher. Grussgott underwent treatment for a brain tumor and ceased working during her recovery. She has suffered memory and other cognitive issues. During a telephone call from a parent, Grussgott was unable to remember an event, and the parent taunted her. Grussgott’s husband (a rabbi) sent an email, from Grussgott’s work email address, criticizing the parent. The school then terminated Grussgott. Grussgott sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school argued that because of Grussgott’s religious role, the ADA's ministerial exception barred her lawsuit. The district court agreed without considering the merits of her ADA claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even taking Grussgott’s version of the facts as true, she falls under the exception as a matter of law. Her integral role in teaching Judaism and the school’s motivation in hiring her demonstrate that her role furthered the school’s religious mission. The school’s nondiscrimination policy did not waive the exception’s protections. View "Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Grussgot was hired by a Milwaukee private school that provides non-Orthodox Jewish education. The school employs a rabbi and has a chapel and Torah scrolls but does not require its teachers to be Jewish. Grussgott claimed that she was solely a Hebrew teacher and had no responsibilities that were religious in nature. The school maintained that Grussgott was employed as a Hebrew and Jewish Studies teacher. Grussgott underwent treatment for a brain tumor and ceased working during her recovery. She has suffered memory and other cognitive issues. During a telephone call from a parent, Grussgott was unable to remember an event, and the parent taunted her. Grussgott’s husband (a rabbi) sent an email, from Grussgott’s work email address, criticizing the parent. The school then terminated Grussgott. Grussgott sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school argued that because of Grussgott’s religious role, the ADA's ministerial exception barred her lawsuit. The district court agreed without considering the merits of her ADA claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even taking Grussgott’s version of the facts as true, she falls under the exception as a matter of law. Her integral role in teaching Judaism and the school’s motivation in hiring her demonstrate that her role furthered the school’s religious mission. The school’s nondiscrimination policy did not waive the exception’s protections. View "Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc." on Justia Law