7th Circuit Rebufs Lawsuit of Wrongfully Imprisoned Man

Mr. Wallace was 15 years old when he was charged with murder. He served eight years in prison before an appellate court determined that he was arrested without probably cause and that his confession was tainted by the illegal arrest.

He sued, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held (a) the suit was untimely because it had to be filed at the time of the arrest, not after the conviction was voided and (b) any damages would be limited to the period between the arrest and the arraignment, not for the eight years spent in prison. The case is Wallace v. City of Chicago, No. 04-3949; read it here.

The result is not only at odds with the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 9th Circuits but also with a decision of the 7th Circuit just a couple years earlier in Gauger v. Hendle, 349 F.3d 354 (2003).

I guess that stare decisis thing can be inconvenient.

Judge Posner authored Gauger and dissented from a denial of a petition for an en banc hearing. His concluding paragraph:

“I count 12 cases to 0 against the panel’s approach, with the other three cases (Montgomery, Simmons, and Datz) noncommittal but consistent with the 12. So one-sided a score should give us pause. If there is a compelling practical reason for flouting conventional statute of limitations principles, forging a lonely path, and creating more work for the Supreme Court, which now faces an intercircuit conflict on a recurrent issue, the panel has not explained what it might be.”

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