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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit posts five today; including an important Blakely/Booker ruling on retroactivity

Russell, Tracy v. Harms, Bryan (SD Ill.)

Before FLAUM, Chief Judge, and EASTERBROOK and SYKES, Circuit Judges.
FLAUM, Chief Judge. Tracy Russell and Jennifer Davis filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Illinois State Police Officers Bryan Harms and J. Dustin King, and White County Sheriff’s Department Officer Doug Maier violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, and Russell and Davis appealed. Because we conclude that plaintiffs have failed to establish a Fourth Amendment violation as a matter of law, we affirm.
Hanson, Craig v. Educational Credit (WD Wis.)
Before BAUER, MANION, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.
BAUER, Circuit Judge. Debtor-appellant Craig Hanson filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief in November 1992, listing only his unsecured student loan debt of approximately $31,500 on his Chapter 13 schedules. After Hanson’s Chapter 13 plan was confirmed without objection, Hanson made monthly payments of $135 over 60 months on his student loan, and the bankruptcy court entered an order discharging his debt in September 1997. The discharge order was erroneous because the Bankruptcy Code makes student loan debt nondischargeable absent a showing of undue hardship by the debtor, and Hanson had made no such showing. Despite the error, the order went unchallenged until May 2003, when creditor Educational Credit Management Corporation (“ECMC”) filed a motion for relief from the discharge order in the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy court granted ECMC’s motion, and the district court affirmed. We affirm.
McReynolds, Marlon v. USA (SD Ind., Larry J. McKinney, Chief Judge)
Before EASTERBROOK, WOOD, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.
EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge. * * * We conclude, then, that Booker does not apply retroactively to criminal cases that became final before its release on January 12, 2005. That date, rather than June 24, 2004, on which Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004), came down, is the appropriate dividing line; Blakely reserved decision about the status of the federal Sentencing Guidelines, see id. at 2538 n.9, so Booker itself represents the establishment of a new rule about the federal system. Petitioners’ convictions and sentences became final well before Booker was issued, and its approach therefore does not govern these collateral proceedings.

Because this decision affects a substantial volume of post- Booker litigation, it was circulated before release to all active judges. See Circuit Rule 40(e). No judge favored a hearing en banc. * * * Affirmed.

[Here is a link to the Sentencing Law Blog's take on McReynolds.]

Horn Farms, Inc. v. Johanns, Michael (ND Ind., Allen Sharp, Judge)

Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.
EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge. Farmers who convert wetlands to agricultural use lose eligibility for federal agricultural subsidies. The initial version of this statute, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3821-24, enacted in 1985 and dubbed “Swampbuster,” made the loss proportional to the amount of wetland converted. An amendment in 1990 provided that converting any wetland would cause the farmer to lose all agricultural payments. A further amendment in 1996 added an exception for wetlands that had been drained and farmed, had reverted to wetland status, and then were restored to agricultural use. We must interpret and apply the 1996 exception. * * *

[Opinion includes a number of criticisms of district court.]

So the Secretary’s interpretation not only is reasonable but also is the most sensible understanding of the legislation. Moreover, because the interpretation is expressed in regulations adopted after notice and opportunity for comment, see 7 C.F.R. §§ 12.2(7), 12.2(8), and concerns the Secretary’s administration of a federal program, it receives all of the deference contemplated by Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). Yet the district court concluded that a solitary statement by one of the legislation’s sponsors overrode all of this. * * *

The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded with instructions to enter judgment against Horn Farms.

Fast, Peggy A. v. Barnhart, Jo Anne B. (SD Ind., John Daniel Tinder, Judge)
Before POSNER, ROVNER, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.
WOOD, Circuit Judge. Peggy Fast seeks disability insurance benefits, alleging that nonexertional mental impairments, including delusional disorder, depressive disorder, and paranoid personality disorder, render her unable to work. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied her request on the ground that she is still able to perform a significant number of jobs within the regional economy. The district court affirmed, and Fast appeals, arguing that the ALJ erred because he relied exclusively on testimony from a Vocational Expert (VE) rather than using the Medical Vocational Guidelines (commonly known as the grids) as some kind of binding “framework” for his decision. Fast’s argument that the grids must structure the outcome to this degree is not supported by Social Security regulations, the agency’s internal management directives, or relevant judicial decisions. We therefore affirm.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 2, 2005 02:31 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions