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

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The major political parties in Marion County, Indiana followed a tradition of “slating” candidates that have the financial and organizational backing of party leadership in the primaries. Indiana enacted an “anti-slating” statute, prohibiting distribution of a list endorsing multiple political candidates during a primary election unless all such candidates have given written consent, Ind. Code 3-14-1-2(a). More than 10 years ago, that law was challenged as violating the First Amendment, resulting in a federal injunction against its future enforcement and a consent decree in which all parties stipulated and the court declared that the law was facially unconstitutional. The Marion County Election Board was a defendant, but nonetheless enforced the statute against a candidate running for state representative in the 2012 primary. That candidate sought an injunction. The district court dismissed the case under the “Younger” abstention doctrine, citing a still-ongoing Election Board investigation. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The Election Board’s investigation is too preliminary a proceeding to warrant Younger abstention, at least in light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs. Even if Younger abstention were theoretically available, the previous final federal judgment against the Election Board would amount to an extraordinary circumstance making Younger abstention inappropriate. View "Mulholland v. Marion Cnty. Election Bd." on Justia Law

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Snyder was involved in a fistfight with another town council member. He was convicted of battery. The court imposed a sentence of six months suspended and six months of home detention, but later determined that Snyder had violated probation. Snyder served the remainder of his sentence at the county jail. While Snyder was incarcerated, the County Voter Registration Board informed him that his voter registration had been cancelled under Ind. Code 3-7-46. Snyder knew that Indiana law permits him to reregister to vote at any time following release from jail. Snyder refused to re-register. He was turned away from voting in a special election. He sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of the National Voter Registration Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973gg; the Help America Vote Act, 42 U.S.C. 15301; the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1971; and the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions. On certification, the Indiana Supreme Court held that the Indiana Constitution authorized temporary disenfranchisement of any incarcerated convict. The district court dismissed the state defendants on sovereign immunity grounds; held that a county cannot be held liable under Section 1983 for acts done under state or federal law; and held that claims to enjoin de-registration or require reinstatement were not justiciable. Despite all parties arguing to the contrary, the Seventh Circuit found the case moot. Snyder waived any challenge to dismissal of the state defendants and failed to state a Monell claim against the county defendants. View "Snyder v. King" on Justia Law

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Under Illinois law, a candidate for the state legislature seeking placement on the general election ballot without having participated in a primary (or having replaced a candidate who did) must submit a nominating petition signed by a certain number of eligible voters. In July 2012, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners determined that five Republican candidates for the state legislature had not collected the requisite numbers of signatures and denied their petitions to be listed on the ballot in the 2012 general election. In September the candidates and supporters sought injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging that the statutory scheme violated their constitutional rights to free speech and association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court dismissed, holding that the doctrine of laches barred their claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, after holding that laches does not apply because the delay in filing suit did not impact the Board’’ ability to fashion prospective relief in future elections. The requirement that candidates seeking ballot access submit nominating petitions is reasonable and nondiscriminatory, and serves the important regulatory interests of protecting the integrity of elections from frivolous candidates and preventing voter confusion; it does not unconstitutionally burden the candidates’ and voters’ expressive and associational rights. View "Navarro v. Neal" on Justia Law

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The Center broadcasts advertisements, maintains a website, publishes a weekly e-mail newsletter, produces a bi-weekly radio show, and engages in other forms of mass media communications. Its tax exempt status under section 501(c)(4) is incompatible with partisan political activity, so the Center cannot endorse candidates. During election seasons, the Center runs advertisements that refer to the positions of candidates or to ballot issues and call for actions such as contacting candidates. The Center claims that it feared that Illinois’s new campaign finance laws (10 ILCS 5/9) would require it to register as a “political committee” and to disclose election-related expenditures and significant contributors and that its donors require assurances that their identities will not be disclosed. The Center argued that the law was vague and overbroad. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the Illinois law is modeled on federal law. The Center did not establish that the statute “prohibits a substantial amount of protected speech,” or that its “deterrent effect on legitimate expression is ... real and substantial.” View "Ctr, for Individual Freedom v. Madigan" on Justia Law

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Collins served as a city councilman and vice-mayor of East St. Louis. In 2002 he moved to the suburbs, but continued to use his previous address to vote East St. Louis and to establish residency for election to as precinct committeeman for the Democratic Party. Federal agents checked tax filings to verify his residency and discovered that Collins had not filed federal or state income tax returns for almost two decades. Convicted of multiple counts of tax evasion, willful failure to file tax returns, and voter fraud, he was given a within-guidelines sentence of 50 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court used pattern jury instructions for tax evasion, which properly define the required element of willfulness and need no clarification to distinguish tax evasion from negligent failure to file. It is not “remotely plausible” to attribute tax delinquency of almost two decades to negligence. The court properly stated Illinois law regarding requirements for establishing voting residency. The evidence was “easily sufficient” to support the verdict. Collins did not file tax returns, and to hide his income, commingled personal and business accounts, used a false Employer Identification Number, and misappropriated the Social Security Number of his deceased business partner. View "United States v. Collins" on Justia Law

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Sanchez rose through the ranks of Chicago politics and became Commissioner of Streets and Sanitation. He was a leader of the Hispanic Democratic Organization, and, acting as a city official and a political operative, participated in a scheme to award city jobs to campaign workers in violation of orders and consent decrees, known as the Shakman decrees, enjoining the city from patronage hiring for most positions. Del Valle managed campaigns staffed by Sanchez's branch of the HDO and had significant influence in choosing individuals for positions. On retrial, Sanchez was convicted of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341 and Del Valle of perjury, 18 U.S.C. 1623. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments concerning the court's handling of testimony about driving while intoxicated and arguing with a police officer; denial of severance; and the government's failure to prove economic loss. City jobs are money or property for purposes of mail fraud and the indictment sufficiently alleged deprivation of money or property. View "United States v. Delvalle" on Justia Law

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In anticipation of 2010 elections, the group challenged Wisconsin's "total of $10,000 in any calendar year" limit on individual contributions to state and local candidates, political parties, and political committees. WIS. STAT. 11.26(4). They sought an injunction. The district court held that abstention was appropriate pending resolution a state supreme court case concerning campaign-finance rule GAB 1.28, which expanded the scope of political speech subject to Wisconsin’s regulatory regime. After the November 2010 elections nine state senators faced recall elections. The district court again denied an injunction that would have allowed the group to raise unlimited funds during the recalls. A motions panel held that the First Amendment challenge was likely to succeed and issued an injunction pending appeal. The Seventh Circuit vacated the abstention order, and remanded for entry of a permanent injunction. The constitutionality of section 11.26(4) does not depend on whether GAB 1.28 survives review; it is unconstitutional to the extent that it limits contributions to committees engaged solely in independent spending for political speech. Independent expenditures do not pose a threat of actual or apparent quid pro quo corruption, the only governmental interest strong enough to justify restrictions on political speech. View "WI Right to Life State Political Action Comm. v. Barland" on Justia Law

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In 2004, defendant spent approximately $38,000 on home repairs for a Chicago alderman, a crucial player in defendant's attempt to have industrial property rezoned for commercial and residential development. Defendant also convinced business associates to donate, at his expense, to the alderman's aunt's congressional campaign. During an investigation, defendant fabricated an invoice for the home repairs, purportedly sent from his general contractor to defendant. The Seventh Circuit affirmed convictions for bribing a local official (18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(2)); exceeding federal campaign contribution limits through straw-man donations (Federal Election Campaign Act, 2 U.S.C. 441a(a)(1),441f & 437g(d)(1)(A)(ii)); and endeavoring to obstruct justice (18 U.S.C. 1503(a)). The government was not required to establish a specific quid pro quo of money in exchange for a legislative act. The district court acted within its discretion in holding an adversarial in camera hearing to determine the existence of the crime-fraud exception. Section 441f unambiguously proscribes straw man, as well as false name, contributions. View "United States v. Boender" on Justia Law

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The city requires that potential mayoral candidates obtain 12,500 signatures from registered voters within 90 days in order to be placed on the ballot. The district court denied an injunction to prevent enforcement of the rule. The Seventh Circuit, noting that the election has passed, held that the issue is moot and does not fall within the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception.