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Berardi v. Village of Sauget

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS


February 6, 2006

DAMON BERARDI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF SAUGET, ILLINOIS, AND JEFF DONAHEY, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

Before this Court is Plaintiff's motion in limine (Doc. 22), to which Defendants have filed their response (Doc. 27). This matter being fully briefed, the Court now rules as follows.

The FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE serve as the primary gatekeepers for the admission of appropriate evidence; motions in limine are more case-specific and rely upon the Federal Rules of Evidence as underpinnings. Properly filed motions in limine permit expeditious and evenhanded management of trial proceedings, permitting the Court to serve as a gatekeeper by eliminating from consideration by the jury evidentiary submissions that ought not be presented to the jury because they clearly would be inadmissible for any purpose.

If the Federal Rules of Evidence supply the answer for admissibility or non-admissibility of a particular piece of evidence, then a motion in limine regarding the same piece of evidence is redundant and unnecessary. The Court frequently is confronted with motions in limine which are nothing more than the Federal Rules of Evidence in disguise -- sometimes thinly veiled or not veiled at all. Such is the case with several paragraphs contained in the motion in limine filed by Plaintiff's counsel (Doc. 22). Because the issues are covered by specific rules of evidence, the Court declines to grant them as part of an order in limine because the Court expects compliance with the Rules of Evidence. The following numbered paragraphs in Plaintiff's motion in limine fall within this category and so the Court rules as indicated:

Paragraph # 1. DENIED as redundant and covered by the Federal Rules of Evidence.

See FED.R.EVID. 404,607,608 and 609;

Paragraph # 3. DENIED as redundant and covered by the Federal Rules of Evidence See FED.R.EVID. 408;

The following paragraphs are granted as agreed by Defendant*fn1 Paragraph # 9. GRANTED as agreed by Defendant;

Paragraph # 10. GRANTED as agreed by Defendant; Paragraph # 17. GRANTED as agreed by Defendant.

The following paragraphs fall into the category of discovery-related issues and are DENIED at this time because the Court does not have sufficient information to rule upon them, because they are overbroad, or because they should have been raised in a properly-filed Daubert motion before the dispositive motion deadline:

Paragraphs # 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 14, 16, and 19. DENIED for the reasons set forth above.

The following motions are GRANTED PROVISIONALLY with the understanding they are supported by well-established case law and with the further understanding that Plaintiff may inadvertently "open the door," making the testimony admissible:

Paragraph # 11*fn2 GRANTED PROVISIONALLY Paragraph # 13 GRANTED PROVISIONALLY Paragraph # 15 GRANTED PROVISIONALLY Paragraph # 18 GRANTED PROVISIONALLY

In Paragraph # 2, Plaintiff seeks to preclude the jury from learning that he was found guilty of disorderly conduct based upon the underlying operative facts of his current lawsuit. Defendant objects.

The Court notes initially that Plaintiff's claim, insofar as it is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is not barred by the rule announced in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). The Seventh Circuit has noted that an excessive force claim is not necessarily an attack on a conviction for resisting arrest. See VanGilder v. Baker, 435 F.3d 689 (7th Cir. 2006). When an arrestee is resisting, the use of force by officers is authorized. Nonetheless, resisting arrest does not grant officers license to use unlimited force. Accordingly, the issue becomes the relevancy of a finding of guilt for disorderly conduct vis-a-vis Plaintiff's various claims for excessive force, assault and battery. In this matter, the Court FINDS the finding of guilt irrelevant to Plaintiff's present claims and therefore inadmissible pursuant to FED.R.EVID. 401.

The Court further finds that even if the evidence was relevant, such evidence still is inadmissible under FED R.EVID. 403 because its probative value is substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect. The evidence carries the risk of misleading, confusing and prejudicing the jurors because they may presume, erroneously, that police officers have unbridled license to use whatever force is necessary -- even excessive force -- in effectuating the arrest of a "disorderly" individual. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS Paragraph # 2 of Plaintiff's motion in limine (Doc. 22).

As for the argument presented in Paragraph # 12, the Court cannot rule on this issue without further information. Accordingly, the Court RESERVES RULING on Paragraph # 12 and will hear brief argument on those issues at the final pretrial conference.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

MICHAEL J. REAGAN United States District Judge


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