A Defendant Can Get Summary Judgment Without Producing Evidence


The Supreme Court explained in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), that a party can obtain for summary judgment when its opponent has no evidence to support an element of the opponent’s case. Justice Brennan’s dissent warned then that the opinion would “create confusion” among district courts. Fast forward nearly thirty years, and that “confusion” appears to be playing out. The Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in Spierer v. Rossman, No. 14-3171 (7th Cir. Aug. 14, 2015), written by Judge Manion, is the latest example.

The tragic events underlying the case began four years ago when, after a night of partying at Indiana University, Lauren Spierer went missing without a trace. Years later, Lauren’s fate and whereabouts still unknown, her parents sued the three classmates who were with her on the night of her disappearance. Lauren’s parents alleged that the classmates were negligent in supplying her with alcohol when she was already intoxicated and that their conduct violated Indiana’s Dram Shop Act.

Continue reading this entry

Dr. Posner Will See You Now: 7th Circuit Judges Reignite a Spirited Debate over Judicial Internet Research


The fat was really thrown into the fire in the Seventh Circuit yesterday on the long-mooted subject of the propriety of internet factual research by appellate courts.

Judge Richard Posner, who often chafes (both in opinions and extra-judicially) at what he sees as the “inadequacy” of the facts presented to the court by counsel and the propriety of appellate courts’ “supplementing” those facts with internet research, wrote the court’s opinion in Rowe v. Gibson, No. 14-3316 (7th Cir. Aug. 19, 2015).

Continue reading this entry

After Further Review: 7th Circuit Strikes Down Anti-Panhandling Law; Concurrence Muses on First Amendment’s Effect on Laws Restricting Speech on Religion, Abortion


What do panhandlers and pro-life demonstrators have in common? According to Circuit Judge Daniel Manion of the Seventh Circuit, the First Amendment now makes it tougher to silence the voice of either in the public square.

Last Friday, in Norton v. City of Springfield, No. 13-3581, Judge Frank Easterbrook, writing for the Seventh Circuit, found that an ordinance that prohibits panhandling in Springfield’s “downtown historic district” runs afoul of the First Amendment because it embodies content discrimination subject to strict scrutiny under the Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, No. 13-502. (Springfield had not tried to justify the ordinance under that standard.) Specifically, the law restricts speech because of its content, barring oral requests for the immediate payment of money, while allowing signs asking for money and oral proposals for commercial transactions.

Continue reading this entry

Seventh Circuit Channels the Fugitive in Chastising Marshals Service


Ordinarily, a civil plaintiff must make his own arrangements to serve the defendant. But under Rule 4(c)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court “may order that service be made by a United States marshal or deputy marshal or by a person specially appointed by the court.” And where the plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis, the court “must so order.”

But sometimes, the Marshals Service’s initial efforts to track down a defendant fail. So it happened in Williams v. Werlinger, No. 14-1376 (Aug. 5, 2015).

Continue reading this entry

Judge Posner Sets Out to Clean Up Frivolousness


Nate Carter probably wasn’t expecting this.

Mr. Carter had lost his home to a mortgage foreclosure. So seemingly out of blind rage—or at least the sort of anger that when coupled with ignorance leads one to do illogical things—he brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that the responsible financial institutions didn’t hold his note or the associated mortgage and thus had violated his rights under the federal Constitution. The merits of what he complained about weren’t exactly clear to the legal, critically thinking mind, and, in any event, nothing about his suit even remotely suggested that it belonged in federal court. The district court dismissed it as frivolous.

Ordinarily decisions on appeal from this sort of case don’t make their way into the venerable pages of the federal reporter. The Seventh Circuit’s Circuit Rule 32.1(a) flatly states that “[i]t is the policy of the circuit to avoid issuing unnecessary opinions.” On the surface there wasn’t anything noteworthy, much less interesting, about Mr. Carter’s appeal.

But Judge Posner thought differently, and he took the opportunity not only to write Carter v. Homeward Residential, Inc., No. 15-1156 (7th Cir. July 23, 2015), but to call on the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in Hagans v. Levine, 415 U.S. 528 (1974).

Continue reading this entry