Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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The Millers, from Lafayette, Indiana, shot and killed two police officers and one civilian in Las Vegas. They died in an ensuing shootout. Days later, Bradbury, a Lafayette resident, placed a message on Facebook, referring to “the town’s cop killing group run by ... myself,” to having sent the Millers to Las Vegas, and to a “larger plot … to kill cops … specifically to take out [named officers]…. We have gathered enough thermite and explosives … to destroy no less than 6 police cars, as well as the Tippecanoe County Courthouse.” A friend asked whether he was serious; Bradbury stated, “complete satire … a big mind game … [I]t’s made to get you to think.” (To think about committing mayhem!).” Bradbury deleted his post, but screenshots were sent to the police. A search, pursuant to warrants, of his bedroom in his parents’ home, revealed thermite. Bradbury was acquitted of “willfully mak[ing] any threat,” but convicted of “maliciously convey[ing] false information,” 18 U.S.C. 844(e), and sentenced to 41 months of imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding a jury instruction that “maliciously” means “to act intentionally or with deliberate disregard of the likelihood that damage or injury will result.” The court rejected an argument that the post was a joke, so there was nothing malicious. Bradbury conducted an elaborate and malicious hoax, intending disruptive effects by diverting law enforcement resources. View "United States v. Bradbury" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Amazon, claiming that it permitted third parties to advertise counterfeit copies of books, Vagabond Natural and Vagabond Spiritual, that the plaintiff wrote and self‐published, detailing his experiences as a vagabond homeless man. He says Amazon refused repeated requests to remove the advertisements, although Amazon did eventually remove them. He insists that legitimate sales would have generated “millions of dollars for Amazon” and allowed him “to end homelessness,” but that Amazon “forcefully exploited” his books by counterfeiting them. He claims to have examined copies of each book purchased through Amazon by his cousin and determined that all were unauthorized reproductions because genuine copies would bear his fingernail indentations on the covers. The district judge dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the books at issue are hard copies, rather than online copies, and are almost certainly Hart’s self‐published books because they are identical to those books. Only six copies were sold by Amazon. There is no plausible allegation that, even if the books sold by Amazon are counterfeits, Amazon was aware of the fact. Counterfeiting cannot be presumed; Hart’s claims did not meet even a minimum standard of plausibility. View "Hart v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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During their acrimonious divorce, Paula accused Barry of serial infidelity. In discovery Barry asked her for all documents related to that accusation. Paula complied and produced copies of incriminating emails between Barry and several other women. In a separate lawsuit, Barry alleged that Paula violated the federal Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, 18 U.S.C. 2520, by surreptitiously placing an auto-forwarding “rule” on his email accounts that automatically forwarded the messages on his email client to her and that Paula’s lawyer violated the Act by “disclosing” the intercepted emails in response to his discovery request. The district judge dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that Paula’s lawyer cannot be liable for disclosing Barry’s own emails to him in response to his own discovery request. The allegations against Paula, however, technically fall within the language of the Act, “though Congress probably didn’t anticipate its use as a tactical weapon in a divorce proceeding.” The emails attached to the complaint did not conclusively defeat Barry’s allegation that Paula intercepted his emails contemporaneously with their transmission, as required by the Act. View "Epstein v. Epstein" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Huon was charged with criminal sexual assault of Jane Doe. He claimed that the encounter was consensual and was acquitted. The website Above the Law (ATL) published an article entitled, “Rape Potpourri” which discussed two “rape stories,” one of which concerned Jane Doe’s allegations and Huon’s opening statement at his trial; the post was later updated to note that Huon was acquitted. Huon sued ATL, alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false light invasion of privacy. Days later, a Gawker website published an article entitled, “Acquitted Rapist Sues Blog for Calling Him Serial Rapist” with Huon’s 2008 mugshot and the ATL article. The title was later changed to, “Man Acquitted of Sexual Assault Sues Blog for Calling Him Serial Rapist.” The Gawker article generated 80 comments from anonymous third-party users. Huon added Gawker as a defendant. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the defamation claim. The title can be construed innocently when viewed with the rest of the article, which fairly reported on Huon’s trial and his initial complaint. The court reversed dismissal of the defamation claim concerning the third-party user comments. Huon adequately alleged that the publisher helped create at least some of the comments; one of the comments constitutes defamation under Illinois law. Because that claim was reinstated, the court also reinstated the false-light and intentional-infliction claims, which were dismissed against Gawker based solely on the rejection of his defamation claims. View "Huon v. Denton" on Justia Law

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Someone used the email address gslabs@hotmail.com to contact a Vietnamese website in an attempt to buy sassafras oil, a chemical that can be used to make the illegal drug known as ecstasy. The website was being monitored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which began an investigation that culminated in Caira being convicted on drug charges. A key step in the investigation was learning that Caira was the person behind the gslabs@hotmail.com address. The DEA made that discovery by issuing administrative subpoenas to technology companies, without getting a warrant. The district court denied a motion to suppress and the Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the DEA conducted an “unreasonable search” in violation of the Fourth Amendment, Because Caira voluntarily shared the relevant information with technology companies, he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information, so his Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. The court characterized as “harmless” the district court’s errors imposing conditions of supervised release without justifying them on the record. Caira is serving a life sentence for another conviction. He is not expected to be released from prison so the conditions are not expected to be imposed. View "United States v. Caira" on Justia Law

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Sgouros purchased a “credit score” package from TransUnion. Armed with the number TransUnion gave him, he went to a car dealership and tried to use it to negotiate a favorable loan. The score he had bought, however, was useless: it was 100 points higher than the score pulled by the dealership. Sgouros filed suit, asserting that TransUnion violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681g(f)(7)(A); the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/1; and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. 407.010, by misleading consumers by failing to inform them that the formula used to calculate their purchased credit scores was materially different from the formula used by lenders. TransUnion moved to compel arbitration, asserting that the website through which Sgouros purchased his product included an agreement to arbitrate. The district court concluded that no such contract had been formed and denied TransUnion’s motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed after evaluating the website and concluding that TransUnion had not put consumers on notice of the terms of agreement, as required by Illinois law, but actually distracted them from noticing those terms. View "Sgouros v. TransUnion Corp." on Justia Law

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Sgouros purchased a “credit score” package from TransUnion. Armed with the number TransUnion gave him, he went to a car dealership and tried to use it to negotiate a favorable loan. The score he had bought, however, was useless: it was 100 points higher than the score pulled by the dealership. Sgouros filed suit, asserting that TransUnion violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681g(f)(7)(A); the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/1; and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. 407.010, by misleading consumers by failing to inform them that the formula used to calculate their purchased credit scores was materially different from the formula used by lenders. TransUnion moved to compel arbitration, asserting that the website through which Sgouros purchased his product included an agreement to arbitrate. The district court concluded that no such contract had been formed and denied TransUnion’s motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed after evaluating the website and concluding that TransUnion had not put consumers on notice of the terms of agreement, as required by Illinois law, but actually distracted them from noticing those terms. View "Sgouros v. TransUnion Corp." on Justia Law

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Fidlar develops software to manage public land records and licenses its software to the counties. Counties contract with users who want access to the records. In 2010, LPS contracted with 82 of Fidlar’s county customers to gain access to their land records. LPS designed a “web-harvester,” and downloaded county records en masse; it sent the records to India, where select records were entered, into LPS’s database. LPS’s web-harvester did not disrupt Fidlar’s services to other users or alter any content in the middle tier or county databases. The counties allegedly lost print fees as a result of the bulk download. Fidlar concluded that LPS was using a web-harvester instead of its software to obtain records and sued, alleging violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Illinois Computer Crime Prevention Law, and trespass to chattels. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for LPS, holding that Fidlar failed to show that LPS acted with intent to defraud or caused damage under the CFAA. The court rejected Fidlar’s argument that LPS knew or had reason to know that it might cause loss as required by the CCPL. View "Fidlar Techs v. LPS Real Estate Data Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two mothers and their sons alleged that Internet gambling websites owe them the money that the men lost in gambling. An Illinois statute imposes criminal penalties on anyone who “knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any [such] game,” 720 ILCS 5/28-1(a)(12) and “any person who knowingly permits any premises or property owned or occupied by him or under his control to be used as a gambling place.” It provides that “any person who by gambling shall lose to any other person, any sum of money or thing of value, amounting to the sum of $50 or more ... may sue for and recover ... in a civil action against the winner thereof.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The sons, who used the websites, failed to sue within six months of their losses. The government shut down the sites in 2011. The mothers, who never gambled on the sites, have timely claims, but the defendants are not the winners of any game that their sons played, but are the sites that hosted the gambling. View "Fahrner v. Tiltware, LLC" on Justia Law