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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case, and one FOIA case, today

In Gross v. Knight (SD Ind., Judge Young), an 11-page opinion, Judge Kanne writes:

On August 26, 1998, Jeremy Gross shot and killed Christopher Beers while robbing a conve- nience store in Indianapolis. Gross was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole, in accordance with a jury’s recommendation. Gross claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney never advised him of his right to testify at the sentencing phase of his trial. The Indiana courts denied Gross post-conviction relief from his sentence, holding that he had suffered no prejudice from his counsel’s conduct. Gross filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court, which denied his claim because the state courts reasonably applied federal law. We now affirm. * * *

The decision of the Indiana Court of Appeals that Gross did not suffer prejudice as required by Strickland was not unreasonable in light of federal law or the facts in the record. Gross has not demonstrated that he would have testified at trial, nor has he convinced us that his testi- mony could have altered his sentence. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

In The Cornucopia Institute v. U.S. Dept. Agriculture (WD Wis.), an 8-page opinion, Judge Kanne writes:
Between August 2005 and Febru- ary 2006, the Cornucopia Institute submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture three separate under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552. FOIA requires that a public agency respond to such requests within twenty days, id. § 552(a)(6)(A), but an agency may extend the period by ten days upon written notice to the party making the request, id. § 552(a)(6)(B). In response to each of these requests, the USDA informed Cornucopia that it was utilizing the permissible ten-day extension, but it then failed to respond within the required time period.

On April 6, 2006, Cornucopia filed suit in the Western District of Wisconsin, seeking injunctive relief, a writ of mandamus, and attorneys’ fees and costs. On June 1, 2006, while the suit was pending, the USDA produced numerous documents in response to Cornucopia’s requests. The district court dismissed the case, holding that the USDA’s production of the requested documents had rendered Cornucopia’s claim moot. It also denied Cornucopia’s request for attorneys’ fees and costs, finding that it had not “substantially prevailed” under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(E), as defined by Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001). requests for production of various public documents. * * *

In conclusion, we hold that Cornucopia’s claims under FOIA are moot and the district court did not err in dismissing the case. Cornucopia requested attorneys’ fees in its prayer for relief, and the district court was free to deny that request after ruling that Cornucopia was not a prevailing party. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 26, 2009 11:05 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions