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Friday, September 12, 2008

Ind. Courts - Three Indiana opinions today from the 7th Circuit

In US v. Steven Smith (SD Ind., Judge Barker), a 14-page opinion, Judge Ripple writes:

Steven Smith was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). The district court found that Mr. Smith qualified for an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (“ACCA” or “Act”), and therefore imposed a sentence of 240 months’ imprisonment. Mr. Smith now appeals his sentence, challenging whether, after the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Begay v. United States, 128 S. Ct. 1581 (2008), a felony committed with a mens rea of recklessness may qualify as a prior violent felony conviction under the ACCA. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings. * * *

As likely will be true in many instances of convictions under a statute that contemplates reckless behavior, the juries that convicted Mr. Smith of criminal recklessness were not asked to determine whether he acted knowingly or intentionally; Mr. Smith also did not admit to acting with that intent. Therefore, under the categorical approach, we cannot look to the facts of his particular convictions to determine for ourselves whether his conduct was knowing or intentional, on the one hand, or merely reckless on the other. Accordingly, we conclude that, under the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Begay, Mr. Smith’s criminal recklessness convictions cannot serve as predicate violent felonies under the ACCA.

Without including his two convictions for criminal recklessness, Mr. Smith does not have the three qualifying convictions required for an enhanced sentence under the ACCA. Therefore, we must vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for resentencing in accordance with this opinion.

In Magyar v. St. Joseph Regional Med. Center (ND Ind., Ch. Judge Miller), a 31-page, 2-1 opinion, Judge Wood writes:
Jessica Magyar (to whom we refer in this opinion using her former last name of Houston) lost her job at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center (“the Hospital”) after she complained about perceived sexual harassment. She sued the Hospital on the theory that it had violated the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Reasoning that the evidence Houston submitted in response to the Hospital’s summary judgment motion could not support a finding of causation, or in the alternative could not show that the Hospital’s stated motive for terminating her was pretextual, the district court granted summary judgment to the Hospital. If we were the ultimate trier of fact, we would find this to be a close case. We are not, however, and we conclude that the record viewed in the light most favorable to Houston would permit her to prevail. We therefore reverse and remand for further proceedings. * * *

[Judge Posner's dissent begins at p. 18 of 31. (Note: Howard Bashman of How Appealing points to the "smiley-face" at the top p. 28.) The dissent concludes:] My colleagues are deceived. This is not a case about the sexual harassment of an employee, but about the litigation harassment of an employer. The district judge was right to end it.

In In re Willett (SD Ind., Judge Young), a 12-page opinion, Judge Manion writes:
Michael and Karin Willett filed for relief under Chapter 13 of the bankruptcy code. During the pendency of their case, they successfully moved to avoid a lien on their residence held by a judgment creditor. The creditor appealed to the district court arguing that the bankruptcy court had incorrectly valued the property, resulting in the erroneous conclusion that the lien would impair a $15,000 exemption to which the Willetts were entitled under Indiana law. The district court affirmed the bankruptcy court. The creditor appeals making the same argument, and we reverse the district court. * * *

The fact that the Willetts’ interest in the Evansville property increased during the pendency of their case does not present a situation outside the express scope of the bankruptcy code. * * *

[T]he Willetts’ case remained governed by the provisions covering property held by the debtors at the commencement of their action until December 21, 2005. On that date, their interest in the Evansville property, property belonging to the estate under § 541, changed from a remainder interest valued at $65,000, the fair market value when they filed their petition, to a fee simple interest valued at $95,000, the fair market value as of the date the property became part of the estate. See 11 U.S.C. § 522(a)(2). The bankruptcy code therefore provided all the guidance necessary regarding Congress’s intent in handling situations like the one presented here, and there was no need to look further. * * *

The district court’s conclusion that the Evansville property should be valued based upon the interest held by the Willetts when they filed their petition was erroneous.

III. When the Willetts moved to avoid NCM’s lien, their interest in the Evansville property should have been valued at the fair market value of their fee simple interest at the time it was recorded on December 21, 2005. Accordingly, the district court is REVERSED and the case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 12, 2008 01:54 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions