Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Indiana law previously provided that, when school districts needed to reduce their teaching staffs, tenured teachers that were qualified for an available position had a right to be retained over non-tenured teachers. A 2012 amendment eliminated that right and orders school districts to base layoff choices on performance reviews without regard for tenure status. Madison Consolidated Schools relied on the new law to lay off Elliott, a teacher who earned tenure 14 years before the new law took effect, while it retained non-tenured teachers in positions for which Elliott was qualified. Elliott, who had been elected as president of his union, sued, claiming that the amendment violated the Contract Clause when applied to him. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in Elliott’s favor. The statute, not the annual contracts, granted Elliott his contractual tenure rights, which became enforceable the year Elliott earned tenure. A decrease in job security necessarily impairs his rights under that contract. The change substantially disrupted teachers’ important and reasonable reliance interests. Improving teacher quality and public-education outcomes are important public interests of the highest order but even important goals and good intentions do not justify this substantial impairment of the tenure contract for already-tenured teachers. View "Elliott v. Board of School Trustees of Madison Consolidated Schools" on Justia Law

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From 2002-2012, Frakes was a Peoria special education teacher. All of Frakes’s students were eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400. Nunn, like all of Frakes’s former supervisors, observed deficiencies in Frakes’s performance. In 2012, Nunn gave Frakes an overall performance rating of “unsatisfactory,” citing multiple specific examples Frakes was placed on a remediation plan. Before her remediation period began, Frakes was placed on medical leave status. In April 2012, Frakes was honorably dismissed as part of a reduction in teaching force. Because of her “unsatisfactory” rating, Frakes, and nine other full‐time tenured teachers, was placed in “Group 2” on the “sequence of honorable dismissal list” in accordance with Illinois law. Frakes filed an unsuccessful state court suit, asserting wrongful termination under the Illinois School Code. Frakes filed a federal suit, claimed that her “unsatisfactory” evaluation and dismissal interfered with her ability to aid students in exercising their rights under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Peoria. Frakes failed to show that she engaged in any protected activity under the Act. While Frakes provided some evidence that her “unsatisfactory” rating may have been unfair and her preferred teaching method may be better suited for disabled students, this does not render Frakes’s teaching style a protected activity. Frakes never complained about or discouraged discrimination based on disability or engaged in any other protected activity. View "Frakes v. Peoria School District No. 150" on Justia Law

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The University of Indiana South Bend employed Professor Grant, an African-American, in 1999. In 2008, several students complained to University administration that Grant inappropriately canceled classes, used obscene language in class, dismissed two students from his course without following proper procedure, and had permitted a nonemployee to grade student work and access academic records. During an investigation, Grant filed affirmative action complaints against the investigators. Students went to the South Bend Tribune with their concerns. The investigation uncovered discrepancies in Grant’s work history. The University dismissed then-tenured Professor Grant in 2011 for “serious misconduct” based on misrepresentations in his curriculum vitae. The district court rejected all of Grant’s 26 claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Grant’s claims that the University: discriminated against him on the basis of race; retaliated against him for his complaints against two University officials; denied him due process of law; defamed him in the South Bend Tribune; and breached a contract created by the University’s handbook. View "Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University" on Justia Law

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Bible Colleges and a student sued the Illinois Board of Higher Education, alleging that the Private College Act, 110 ILCS 1005/0.01, the Academic Degree Act, 110 ILCS 1010/0.01, and the Private Business and Vocational Schools Act of 2012, 105 ILCS 426/1, violated the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Illinois constitution and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. The plaintiffs have not sought certification of approval from the state under the applicable statutes, so there is no basis to believe that the regulations would infringe on their religious beliefs or practices or would unnecessarily entangle the government in religion. The statutes are neutral laws of general application and apply equally to secular and religious institutions. While the state statutes exempt older educational institutions from the governing mandates, the law is clear that, when no improper discrimination is involved, the government may include a grandfather clause in legislation without violating the guarantee of Equal Protection. The regulations do not impact the student’s choice of career. Rather, they merely determine whether he may obtain a degree from specific post-secondary institutions. View "Illinois Bible Colleges Association v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Regency operated for‐profit cosmetology schools in 20 states. Each offered classroom instruction and practical instruction in a salon, where members of the public could receive cosmetology services at low prices. Hollins, formerly a Regency student, asserts that the work she performed was compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, and that Regency violated state wage laws. She wanted to bring suit as an FLSA collective action and a state class action but the district court denied her motion to conditionally certify the FLSA action and never certified a class action under FRCP 23. The court addressed the individual merits of her case and granted summary judgment in Regency’s favor. Regency has since closed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first rejecting a claim that it lacked jurisdiction. There was a final judgment despite the unaccepted opt‐in notices that the court received. On the merits, the court noted that time on the Professional Floor was a state‐mandated requirement for professional licensure; Hollins was actually paying for supervised practical experience; Regency was in the educational business, not in the beauty salon business; and Hollins did not need to go out and find a place where she could serve her supervised practice. View "Hollins v. Regency Corp." on Justia Law

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Ferrill was hired as Edgewood Elementary School's principal for an initial two-year term with an automatic third-year rollover unless the Board of Education opted out. Ferrill is black; the district serves predominantly white suburbs on the southern edge of Milwaukee County. While she was principal, Edgewood's staff had exceedingly low morale. Ferrill had multiple performance complaints. Staff described her as confrontational, inconsistent, and quick to claim racism. The superintendent hired a consultant to improve Ferrill’s performance. The consultant recommended termination. The Board opted out of the rollover, at the superintendent's recommendation. Ferrill found a new job, which the Board treated as a functional resignation. She sued, alleging racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981, and retaliation under Title VII and the First Amendment. The district judge granted the Board summary judgment on some claims. A jury rejected others after less than 30 minutes of deliberation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Ferrill’s shortcomings were well documented and confirmed by an independent consultant, so she did not establish that she was meeting legitimate performance expectations and thus did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The retaliation claim failed for lack of evidence connecting the Board’s decision to activity protected by Title VII. View "Ferrill v. Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District" on Justia Law

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Officers executed a search warrant at Minney’s apartment. The warrant listed items to be seized: a Panasonic television, a Sony television, a Nintendo Wii, an Xbox 360, and 10 Xbox games. While searching Minney’s bedroom, Detective Vasquez found ammunition in the bedside table. Minney admitted that he was on parole for dealing cocaine. Officers arrested Minney as a felon in possession of ammunition. The search resumed. Vazquez found multiple guns in Minney’s bedroom. Officers recovered most of the electronics, but never found the second television. The court denied a motion to suppress the guns. Minney pled guilty to one count of being a felon in possession. The government dismissed two counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the suppression ruling. When executing a search warrant that specifically lists items to be seized, officers are entitled to search anywhere those items are likely to be discovered. Officers may seize the items named in the warrant and any evidence that falls under the plain‐view doctrine. Vazquez was lawfully searching under the warrant; the electronic devices could have reasonably been found in any of the places where Vazquez found Minney’s guns; the guns were in plain view in those places and were immediately incriminating because Minney was on parole for a felony. View "United States v. Minney" on Justia Law