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Friday, January 13, 2006

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit posts more opinions this afternoon

In addition to the establishment clause case blogged here earlier today, the 7th Circuit has now posted two criminal law cases, one of them Indiana-based, and a civil suit against the City of Lafayette.

In VanGilder v. City of Lafayette (ND Ind., Judge Sharp), Judge Evans begins his opinion:

One summer night in 2001, Bill VanGilder was among the revelers at the Linwood Tavern, a watering hole in Lafayette (Tippecanoe County), Indiana. After police responded to a reported brawl at the tavern, VanGilder was arrested for public intoxication by officer Brian Baker. VanGilder did not consent to a breath test. Since the Tippecanoe County Jail had a policy of refusing to accept inmates suspected of intoxication until they are seen by a doctor, Baker transported VanGilder to the emergency room of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
VanGilder alleges unnecessary force was used by officer Brian Baker in obtaining a blood sample.
In his suit against Baker, VanGilder alleges excessive use of force, an infringement of his civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court granted Baker’s summary judgment motion because it believed that VanGilder’s claim was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). * * * Because the district court erred in its application of Heck, as we will explain, we reverse and remand.
The two criminal law cases are USA v. Robinson (ND Ind., Judge Sharp) and USA v Jordan. Sentencing Law & Policy has already picked these two cases today as notable, so I set out below Prof. Doug Berman's comments from his entry, available here:
* In Robinson, the Seventh Circuit emphasizes its views of a district court's sentencing obligations after Booker, and finds the district court "erred as a matter of law by failing to resolve a disputed sentencing fact essential to a properly calculated guidelines range."

* In Jordan, the Seventh Circuit affirms a "significant upward variance from the advisory guidelines range," after finding that the district court's reasons were "quite compelling to satisfy reasonableness review." Among the important aspects of Jordan is the court's clarification that "there is no presumption of unreasonableness that attaches to a sentence that varies from the range."

A little more from the 7th Circuit's remand "for resentencing consistent with this opinion" to Judge Sharp in Robinson:
Here, the district judge was concerned that because the firing of the gun was not charged, admitted, or found by a jury, he would run afoul of the Sixth Amendment by finding facts. True, Booker holds that judges may not find facts that increase the maximum punishment and that a mandatory sentencing guidelines scheme violates that rule. But Booker resolved the problem by making the guidelines advisory; judicial fact-finding in sentencing is acceptable because the guidelines are now nonbinding. Dean, 414 F.3d at 730; McReynolds v. United States, 397 F.3d 479, 481 (7th Cir. 2005).

In an overabundance of Sixth Amendment caution, the district judge declined to determine whether Robinson fired his gun. By sidestepping this determination, the district judge erred as a matter of law by failing to resolve a disputed sentencing fact essential to a properly calculated guidelines range.

Accordingly, we VACATE Robinson’s sentence and REMAND the case to the district judge for resentencing consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 13, 2006 04:36 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions