Justia Aerospace/Defense Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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From 1906 -1970, the companies manufactured industrial materials at an East Chicago, Indiana Superfund Site. In the 1970s, the East Chicago Housing Authority constructed “West Calumet,” a low-income residential building, on that site. In 2017, former West Calumet tenants sued the companies based on the tenants’ exposure to hazardous substances. Defendant Atlantic Richfield removed the case to federal court, asserting a government contractor defense because its predecessor, ISR, operated during World War II. ISR sold lead and zinc to entities who were under contract with the government to produce the goods for the military. ISR itself held five Army contracts. The materials made by ISR were critical wartime commodities that had to be manufactured according to detailed federal specifications. Other regulations effectively prevented ISR from selling to distributors for civilian applications. Defendant DuPont asserted that the government directed it to build a facility for the government and then lease it from the government to produce Freon-12 and hydrochloric acid solely for the government. The district court remanded, finding that most of the Companies’ government business occurred outside the relevant time frame.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Atlantic Richfield worked "hand-in-hand with the federal government to achieve a task that furthers an end of the federal government.” The Companies’ wartime production was a small but significant portion of their relevant conduct; the federal interest in the matter supports removal. Atlantic Richfield set forth sufficient facts regarding its government contractor defense. View "Baker v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law

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United Airlines pilot instructors sued their union, ALPA, alleging that ALPA had breached its duty of fair representation in its allocation of a retroactive pay settlement among different groups of pilots. The district court dismissed the case. The Seventh Circuit reversed. A claim of discrimination or bad faith must rest on more than a showing that a union’s actions treat different groups of employees differently and must be based on more than the discriminatory impact of the union’s otherwise rational decision to compromise. The Instructors sufficiently and plausibly pleaded that ALPA acted in bad faith in its allocation of retroactive pay between the line pilots and pilot instructors. A union may not make decisions “solely for the benefit of a stronger, more politically favored group over a minority group.” The plaintiffs have alleged that pilot instructors make up a minority of ALPA’s membership and that ALPA acted with the intent to appease its majority membership, the line pilots, after a lengthy and contentious CBA negotiation. View "Bishop v. Air Line Pilots Association, International" on Justia Law

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Van Haften, a Wisconsin native, was caught traveling to Turkey to join ISIS. Van Haften holds several bizarre beliefs and has a vendetta against the government, having been convicted of statutory rape and designated a sex offender. Van Haften pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, 18 U.S.C. 2339B(a)(1). The district court applied the terrorism enhancement (U.S.S.G. 3A1.4) because his crime was “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” After hearing testimony about Van Haften’s delusional beliefs and his willingness to reform, the court gave him a below-guidelines sentence of 10 years. Without the terrorism enhancement, Van Haften’s range would have been 57–71 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting overwhelming evidence that Van Haften sought revenge against the government. While Van Haften’s motivations fluctuated over time and were sometimes incoherent, his actions were not irrational even if his factual predicates were false or absurd. It is unimportant why Van Haften wanted to retaliate against the government; he committed a crime calculated to retaliate against the government. A desire for safety and Islamic fellowship may have contributed his decision, but this was not Van Haften’s sole, or even primary, motivation. View "United States v. Van Haften" on Justia Law