Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`In the
`United States Court of Appeals
`For the Seventh Circuit
`No. 18-3206
`Appeal from the United States District Court
`for the Central District of Illinois.
`No. 16-CV-2273 — Colin S. Bruce, Judge.
`Before SYKES, SCUDDER, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.
`SYKES, Circuit Judge. Edith McCurry worked at an Illinois
`warehouse owned by Mars, Inc., the well-known candy
`maker, and operated by Kenco Logistics Services, a third-
`party management firm. In March 2015 Kenco lost its con-
`tract with Mars and laid off its employees at the warehouse,
`including McCurry. More than a year later, she filed two
`rambling pro se complaints accusing Kenco, Mars, and
`several of her supervisors of discriminating against her


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`based on her race, sex, age, and disability. She also alleged
`that Kenco and Mars conspired to violate her civil rights.
`The district court consolidated the suits and dismissed
`some of the claims. The defendants then moved for sum-
`mary judgment on the rest. McCurry’s response violated the
`local summary-judgment rule, so the judge accepted the
`defendants’ factual submissions as admitted and entered
`judgment in their favor. McCurry retained counsel and
`We affirm. McCurry doesn’t challenge the judge’s deci-
`sion to enforce the local summary-judgment rule. As a result,
`and unsurprisingly, the uncontested record contains no
`evidence to support a viable discrimination or conspiracy
`claim. Indeed, the appeal is utterly frivolous and McCurry’s
`monstrosity of an appellate brief is incoherent, so we also
`order her lawyer, Jordan T. Hoffman, to show cause why he
`should not be sanctioned or otherwise disciplined under
`Rules 28 and 38 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.
`I. Background
`We begin with the judge’s decision to enforce Local
`Rule 7.1(D),1 which governs the summary-judgment process.
`McCurry violated multiple provisions of the rule. We in-
`clude a sampling to provide an understanding of her non-
`• Under Local Rule 7.1(D)(1)(a)–(c), a response to a
`summary-judgment motion must include the follow-
`1 Local Rules of the Central District of Illinois.


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`ing specific sections with appropriate headings: an in-
`troduction, a response to the moving party’s state-
`ment of undisputed material facts, and an argument
`section. McCurry’s response to the defendants’ mo-
`tions contained none of those sections. It was instead
`a disorganized, rambling, hard-to-decipher mess.
`• Local Rule 7.1(D)(2)(b) requires that the response to
`the moving party’s statement of material facts must
`identify, in separate subsections: (1) the undisputed
`material facts; (2) the disputed material facts; (3) the
`disputed immaterial facts; (4) the undisputed imma-
`terial facts; and (5) any additional material facts. Each
`disputed fact conceded to be material must be listed
`by number and supported by evidentiary documenta-
`tion that is referenced by specific page. McCurry’s re-
`sponse was woefully noncompliant with
`requirements. She responded to some facts by num-
`ber but said only that she objected to them. She did
`not state the basis for her objections, nor did she re-
`spond with appropriate and specific citations to evi-
`dentiary documentation.
`• Although McCurry did not include an argument sec-
`tion in her brief, her arguments were scattered ran-
`domly throughout her 62-page response, in probable
`violation of Local Rule 7.1(D)(5), which (by cross-
`reference to Rule 7.1(B)(4)) limits the argument sec-
`tion of a response brief to 15 pages or 7,000 words.
`Under Local Rule 7.1(D)(2)(b)(6), the failure to properly
`respond to a numbered fact in an opponent’s statement of
`facts “will be deemed an admission of the fact.” In light of


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`McCurry’s widespread noncompliance, the judge deemed
`the defendants’ factual submissions admitted.
`As we’ve noted, McCurry doesn’t challenge the judge’s
`decision to enforce Rule 7.1(D). Even if she had, we have
`repeatedly held that district judges may strictly enforce local
`summary-judgment rules, Ammons v. Aramark Uniform
`Services, Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004), and the judge
`reasonably did so here.2 Accordingly, our account of the facts
`is drawn from the defendants’ uncontested factual submis-
`We begin in 2013 when Mars contracted with Kenco, a
`third-party logistics firm, to manage its warehouse in
`Manteno, Illinois. Under the parties’ agreement, Kenco was
`responsible for day-to-day operations and exercised full
`control over its own employment policies. Kenco retained
`several employees from the previous warehouse manager.
`One holdover was Edith McCurry, who worked in human
`resources. McCurry, a black woman born in 1962, performed
`clerical and administrative duties, such as handling ware-
`house payroll, generating reports, and assisting with em-
`ployee relations. She had no managerial responsibilities.
`2 We give substantial deference to a judge’s decision to strictly enforce
`local summary-judgment rules, reversing only for abuse of discretion.
`Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004).
`The judge showed remarkable patience with McCurry. Even pro se
`litigants are obliged to follow procedural rules. Members v. Paige, 140 F.3d
`699, 702 (7th Cir. 1998). McCurry’s violations of Local Rule 7.1(D) are
`thoroughly documented in the judge’s order denying her motion for
`reconsideration, and we find no abuse of discretion.


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`In October 2014 Kenco hired Lori Varvel, a white woman
`17 years younger than McCurry, as the human-resources
`manager. Varvel assumed some of McCurry’s duties, though
`McCurry’s pay remained the same.
`On December 9 McCurry worked an hour and a half of
`unauthorized overtime in violation of Kenco’s timekeeping
`policy. Ten days later Varvel gave her a written warning for
`working overtime without authorization, misrepresenting
`her hours, and failing to report the correct hours. On
`January 29, 2015, Kenco announced that it had lost the Mars
`contract and that all employees at the warehouse would be
`let go at the end of March.
`In August 2016 McCurry filed a 77-page, 386-paragraph
`pro se complaint against Kenco, Mars, and several supervi-
`sors alleging discrimination based on her race, gender, age,
`and disability. She also alleged a claim for conspiracy to
`violate her civil rights and several state-law claims. None of
`her claims alleged that she was fired for a discriminatory
`reason. Rather, she complained about conduct during the
`course of her employment at the Mars warehouse.
`Not two weeks later, McCurry filed a second lawsuit
`against largely the same group of defendants. This one, like
`first, was sprawling.
`Indeed, at 89 pages and
`423 paragraphs, the second complaint was even more ram-
`bling than the first, but it more or less repeated the allega-
`tions in the earlier suit. The district court consolidated the
`The judge dismissed some claims but allowed the follow-
`ing to proceed: (1) claims against Kenco for discrimination
`on the basis of race and sex in violation of Title VII of the


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`Civil Rights Act of 1964; (2) a claim against Kenco, Mars, and
`the supervisors for discrimination on the basis of race in
`violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (3) a claim against Kenco for
`violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
`(“ADEA”); (4) a claim against Kenco for violation of the
`Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); and (5) a conspira-
`cy claim against Kenco, Mars, and the supervisors under
`42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).
`The defendants moved for summary judgment on these
`surviving claims. As we’ve explained, McCurry’s response
`did not comply with the local summary-judgment rule, so
`the judge accepted the defendants’ statement of facts as
`admitted pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(D)(2)(b)(6). Charitably
`working his way through each claim, the judge concluded
`that the evidence was insufficient to support liability for any
`form of employment discrimination or conspiracy.
`McCurry moved for reconsideration. The judge denied
`the motion, noting that McCurry did not identify any newly
`discovered evidence and merely rehashed old arguments.
`The judge also elaborated on his decision to enforce Local
`Rule 7.1(D), providing an exhaustive account of McCurry’s
`II. Discussion
`We review a summary judgment de novo. Kopplin v. Wis.
`Cent. Ltd., 914 F.3d 1099, 1102 (7th Cir. 2019). Summary
`judgment is warranted if the moving party shows that there
`is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and he is enti-
`tled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). As
`this case comes to us, the record is limited to the defendants’


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`evidentiary submissions. Apex Dig., Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck &
`Co., 735 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 2013).
`A. Title VII and § 1981 Claims Against the Kenco
`The legal analysis for discrimination claims under
`Title VII and § 1981 is identical, Ferrill v. Oak Creek–Franklin
`Joint Sch. Dist., 860 F.3d 494, 499 (7th Cir. 2017), so we merge
`our discussion of these claims. As in any employment-
`discrimination case, we ask whether the evidence would
`permit a reasonable fact-finder to conclude that McCurry
`was subjected to an adverse employment action based on a
`statutorily prohibited factor—here, race or sex. Ortiz v.
`Werner Enters., Inc., 834 F.3d 760, 765 (7th Cir. 2016).
`McCurry maintains that Kenco discriminated against her
`by paying her less than her white, male coworker Leonard
`Szplett. But Szplett earned more than McCurry because he
`had extensive managerial responsibilities and she had none.
`McCurry’s unequal-pay claim is therefore baseless. See
`Poullard v. McDonald, 829 F.3d 844, 855 (7th Cir. 2016) (affirm-
`ing a grant of summary judgment after finding that an
`employee’s claim that he was paid less than his supervisor
`did not show discrimination).
`Next, McCurry argues that Kenco discriminated against
`her by hiring Varvel as the human-resources manager. This
`is essentially a failure-to-promote claim, so McCurry must
`show: (1) she was a member of a protected class; (2) she was
`qualified for the position she sought; (3) she was rejected for
`the position; and (4) the employer promoted someone
`outside of the protected class who wasn’t better qualified.
`Riley v. Elkhart Cmty. Sch., 829 F.3d 886, 892 (7th Cir. 2016).


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`McCurry did not apply for the position of human-resources
`manager, so her failure-to-promote claim does not meet
`requirements (2) and (3). This claim too is baseless.
`Relatedly, McCurry contends that the reduction of her job
`duties after Varvel was hired was discriminatory. This is yet
`another baseless claim. Inconveniences and modest altera-
`tions of job responsibilities are not adverse employment
`actions. Porter v. City of Chicago, 700 F.3d 944, 954 (7th Cir.
`2012). And the decision to have Varvel handle employee-
`relations matters had nothing to do with McCurry’s race or
`gender. Varvel, who had prior management experience at a
`large corporation, assumed these responsibilities because
`she was far more qualified than McCurry.
`McCurry also argues that the December 2014 warning for
`unauthorized overtime was discriminatory. But the warning
`had no impact on her pay or on any terms or conditions of
`her employment, so it likewise was not an adverse employ-
`ment action. See Lloyd v. Swifty Transp., Inc., 552 F.3d 594, 602
`(7th Cir. 2009) (holding that written reprimands without
`changes in the terms or conditions of employment are not
`adverse employment actions). Finally, any claim for retalia-
`tion is baseless because McCurry did not engage in any
`statutorily protected activity for which she could be retaliat-
`ed against in violation of Title VII. See King v. Ford Motor Co.,
`872 F.3d 833, 841 (7th Cir. 2017) (explaining that a plaintiff
`must show that he engaged in a statutorily protected activity
`in order to prevail on a Title VII retaliation claim).
`B. ADEA and ADA Claims Against Kenco
`The ADEA prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a
`person who is 40 or older because of his age. 29 U.S.C.


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`§ 623(a)(1). McCurry’s age-discrimination claim is based on
`Kenco’s decision to hire Varvel as the human-resources
`manager. McCurry was 52 when Kenco hired Varvel, who
`was 17 years younger than she. We have already explained
`that McCurry did not apply for this job and that Varvel was
`hired because she was far more qualified. There is no evi-
`dence to support an age-discrimination claim.
`The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating
`against a qualified person on the basis of disability. 42 U.S.C.
`§ 12112(a). McCurry argued below that Kenco violated the
`ADA when her COBRA health-insurance costs changed after
`the layoff and she did not receive COBRA open-enrollment
`paperwork.3 It’s not clear how problems with COBRA health
`insurance can be an ADA violation. Regardless, the judge
`granted summary judgment for Kenco because a third-party
`administrator was responsible for the laid-off employees’
`COBRA-related benefits. McCurry did not challenge this
`ruling—or even mention the ADA claim—in her opening
`brief on appeal, raising it only in her reply brief. That’s a
`waiver. Estate of Moreland v. Dieter, 395 F.3d 747, 759 (7th Cir.
`C. Section 1981 Claim Against Mars
`Section 1981 provides a federal remedy against racial dis-
`crimination in private employment. Johnson v. Ry. Express
`Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454, 459–60 (1975). Kenco, not Mars,
`3 Referring to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of
`1985, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1161–1168.


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`was McCurry’s employer, but an entity other than the actual
`employer may be considered a “joint employer” for purpos-
`es of § 1981 if it exercised significant control over the em-
`ployee. Whitaker v. Milwaukee County, 772 F.3d 802, 810 (7th
`Cir. 2014).
`McCurry contends that Mars was her joint employer be-
`cause Mars contracted with Kenco and Mars’s regional
`distribution manager attended some meetings at the
`Manteno warehouse. That’s clearly not enough to establish
`significant control. See Love v. JP Cullen & Sons, Inc., 779 F.3d
`697, 702–03 (7th Cir. 2015) (holding that where a general
`contractor provided instructions to a supervisor employed
`by a subcontractor, “[t]his minimal supervision” did not
`constitute significant control). Nothing in the agreement
`between Kenco and Mars establishes joint control over the
`warehouse employees. Kenco issued McCurry’s paychecks
`and provided her benefits. Kenco conducted her perfor-
`mance reviews and issued the disciplinary warning she
`complains of here. As applied to Mars, the § 1981 claim is
`baseless for the additional reason that there is no evidence
`that it was a joint employer.
`D. Conspiracy Claim Against the Kenco Defendants and
`In order to prove a conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C.
`§ 1985(3), a plaintiff must establish:
`(1) the existence of a conspiracy; (2) a purpose
`of depriving a person or class of persons of
`[the] equal protection of the laws; (3) an act in
`furtherance of a conspiracy; and (4) an injury
`to person or property or a deprivation of a
`right or privilege granted to U.S. citizens.


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`Hernandez v. Joliet Police Dep’t, 197 F.3d 256, 263 (7th Cir.
`1999). The predicate injury at issue here is employment
`discrimination. Because summary judgment for the defend-
`ants was entirely proper on all of McCurry’s employment-
`discrimination claims, the conspiracy claim necessarily fails.
`E. Sanctions
`This appeal represents a shameful waste of judicial re-
`sources. We take this opportunity to reiterate that district
`judges may require strict compliance with local summary-
`judgment rules. Ammons, 368 F.3d at 817. The rules exist to
`ensure the fair and expeditious resolution of legal controver-
`sies and are well tailored to bring order and intelligibility to
`the summary-judgment process. Litigants and attorneys may
`chafe under the rules from time to time, “but the kind of
`organization the rules require must occur sooner or later,
`and the system as a whole is better served if it happens
`sooner.” Markham v. White, 172 F.3d 486, 490 (7th Cir. 1999).
`Moreover, “[t]he purpose of an appeal is to evaluate the
`reasoning and result reached by the district court.” Jaworski
`v. Master Hand Contractors, Inc., 882 F.3d 686, 690 (7th Cir.
`2018). The rules of appellate procedure are designed “to
`make appellate briefs as valuable an aid to the decisional
`process as they can be.” Id. (quotation marks omitted).
`Noncompliance with appellate rules wastes time and re-
`sources and frustrates the review process. Sanctions are
`appropriate when the rules are violated—especially when
`the violations are multiple and flagrant, as they are here.
`Rule 38 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure per-
`mits us to impose sanctions if an appeal is frivolous: “If a
`court of appeals determines that an appeal is frivolous, it


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`may, after a separately filed motion or notice from the court
`and reasonable opportunity to respond, award just damages
`and single or double costs to the appellee.” An appeal is
`frivolous if the appellant’s claims are cursory, totally unde-
`veloped, or reassert a previously rejected version of the facts.
`See Jaworski, 882 F.3d at 691. An appeal is also frivolous if it
`presents arguments that are so insubstantial that they are
`guaranteed to lose. Berwick Grain Co. v. Ill. Dep't of Agric.,
`217 F.3d 502, 505 (7th Cir. 2000).
`McCurry’s appeal rests on factual assertions that were
`excluded from consideration below because McCurry disre-
`garded several provisions in the local summary-judgment
`rule. As we’ve explained, there is no basis to disturb that
`ruling even if McCurry had challenged it, which she did not.
`Her appellate arguments are insubstantial to the point of
`incoherence and had no chance of prevailing in this court.
`“The result has been the harassment of opposing parties,
`insult to judicial officers, and waste of limited and valuable
`judicial resources.” McCready v. eBay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882, 892
`(7th Cir. 2006).
`The patently frivolous nature of this appeal isn’t the only
`thing that troubles us. The hopelessness of McCurry’s cause
`didn’t deter her lawyer, Jordan Hoffman, from signing and
`submitting a bizarre appellate brief laden with assertions
`that have no basis in the record and arguments that have no


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`basis in the law.4 In so doing, Hoffman violated Rule 28 of
`the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.
`Rule 28 requires “a concise statement of the case” that
`sets out “the facts relevant to the issues submitted for re-
`view” and a summary of the argument containing “a suc-
`cinct, clear and accurate statement of the arguments made in
`the body of the brief.” FED R. APP. P. 28(a)(6)–(7). McCurry’s
`brief, which spans 86 interminable pages, is neither concise
`nor clear.5 It is chock-full of impenetrable arguments and
`unsupported assertions, and it is organized in ways that
`escape our understanding. Here is a representative sample:
`• McCurry’s brief seeks review of a variety of interlocu-
`tory orders without specifying why the orders were
`deficient. These “orders” include the “Amended
`Complaint,” “multiple waivers of service,” and a rou-
`tine protective order allowing the parties to mark dis-
`covery documents “confidential.”
`• The brief accuses the defendants of criminal obstruc-
`tion of
`justice and
`in a footnote asserts that
`4 He signed the brief on behalf of “plaintiff-appellant Mary Madison,”
`who is not a party in this case. This is yet another way in which the brief
`is “out of the ordinary.” Pecher v. Owens-Ill., Inc., 859 F.3d 396, 403 (7th
`Cir. 2017).
`5 The term “brief”—derived from the Latin brevis, meaning short—seems
`TO THE LANGUAGE OF THE LAW 16 (Jay M. Feinman & James E. Clapp eds.,
`2003). The brief is also a typographical nightmare. It uses five different
`fonts and various font sizes, including three different fonts in one
`sentence, and capitalizes words seemingly at random.


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`“[d]efendants’ schemes were furthered by the US
`• The brief invokes res judicata, collateral estoppel, and
`judicial estoppel, none of which apply, none of which
`were asserted below, and all of which are therefore
`waived. Shlahtichman v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc., 615 F.3d
`794, 803 (7th Cir. 2010).
`• The
`“GAMESMANSHIP,” which contains the following
`assertion: “Defendants have been ‘gaming’ the sys-
`tem.” There is nothing else in the “gamesmanship”
`• The brief contains many sentences like this one (all
`errors in original):
`McCurry experiences a change in fringe
`benefits; harsher scrutiny; failure to be
`promoted; lack of opportunities; lack of
`professional standing; economic sanctions;
`hostile work environment that led to an
`employee being shot on the premise, vari-
`ous verbal and physical assaults of African-
`Americans by Caucasian employees of use
`of gun violence, vehicular assault, amongst
`other forms of violence, the ever looming
`6 When we questioned Hoffman about this outrageous accusation at oral
`argument, he apologized. He then opined that “civil obstruction, if
`anything,” took place. There is no civil cause of action for obstruction of


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`threat that a racially motivated altercation
`or riot may ensue and physical damage to
`McCurry’s auto amongst actions/activities/
`There is more, but the point is made. Bad writing does
`not normally warrant sanctions, but we draw the line at
`gibberish. See Stanard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 801–02 (7th Cir.
`2011) (ordering a lawyer to show cause why he should not
`be disciplined in part because, among other reasons, his
`appellate brief was not “reasonably coherent”).
`We sometimes invoke Rule 28 when the briefing is too
`abbreviated and sketchy to facilitate review. See, e.g., John v.
`Barron, 897 F.2d 1387, 1393 (7th Cir. 1990); Zelazny v. Lyng,
`853 F.2d 540, 542 n.1 (7th Cir. 1988); Sanchez v. Miller, 792 F.2d
`694, 703 (7th Cir. 1986). But there is no functional difference
`between a scanty brief and an overly long, borderline-
`unintelligible brief. Both require us to supply the legal
`research and organization to make sense of the party’s
`arguments. Smith v. Town of Eaton, 910 F.2d 1469, 1471 (7th
`Cir. 1990). In both cases we are frustrated in performing our
`review function and in evaluating the judgment below. Id.
`Although we disregarded McCurry’s factual assertions
`because they are unsupported (given the judge’s enforce-
`ment of Rule 7.1(D)), we conclude with an observation about
`their substance. McCurry’s brief asserts (among other things)
`that Kenco and Mars fostered a workplace environment
`where racist acts, including the attempted murder (by
`forklift) of an African-American employee, went unpun-
`ished. It asserts that consumers of Mars products “could
`have been affected by food products contaminated by ver-
`min or their feces.” And it asserts that Kenco’s management


`Case: 18-3206 Document: 39 Filed: 11/07/2019 Pages: 16
`No. 18-3206
`“engaged in various forms of psychological warfare” by
`“contriving scenarios in which African Americans were
`publicly reprimanded and falsely accused of ‘smelling like
`weed.’” These baseless assertions are shockingly irresponsi-
`Because we have a duty to “maintain public confidence
`in the legal profession” and “protect[] the integrity of the
`judicial proceeding,” Doe v. Nielsen, 883 F.3d 716, 718 (7th
`Cir. 2018)
`(quotation marks omitted), we confronted
`Hoffman about his brief at oral argument. He replied that he
`is a “solo practitioner” who tries “to get the help of … clients
`and whoever can provide help to [him]” and then “merge[s]
`that information.” Whatever that means, it in no way excus-
`es this unprofessional conduct.
`Hoffman’s filings fall far below the reasonable standards
`of practice. We therefore order him to show cause within
`14 days why he should not be sanctioned or otherwise
`disciplined under Rules 28 and 38 of the Federal Rules of
`Appellate Procedure. We also direct the clerk of this court to
`send a copy of this opinion to the Illinois Attorney Registra-
`tion and Disciplinary Commission for any action it deems

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