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Davis v. Harris

December 5, 2006

RICKEY DAVIS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JOHN W. HARRIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants' ten Motions in Limine (d/e 302, 293, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298, 299, 300, 301). For the reasons set forth below, the First and Second Motions are ALLOWED; and the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Motions are ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part. The Tenth Motion is DENIED, but the Defendants have leave to raise this objection at trial to specific evidence. The Court will address the Motions in order.

A. FIRST MOTION

The First Motion asks the Court to exclude evidence of pornographic material found on any City of Springfield (City) Police Department's (Department) computers. In October 2004, pornographic images were found on various Department computers. The Defendants argue, inter alia, that the evidence is not relevant. The Court agrees. The claims at issue are:

1. Plaintiff Rickey Davis' Title VII claims in Count I against the City for: (1) disparate treatment and retaliation based on: (a) the 1996 transfer from Criminal Investigations to Patrol, and (b) the 1997 to 2002 denial of transfers to Criminal Investigations; and (2) retaliation based on:

(a) the February 2001 reprimand, (b) the assignment to the third watch as a Lieutenant, and (c) the discipline in August 2002;

2. Plaintiff Rickey Davis' §§ 1981 and 1983 claims in Count II against Defendant John Harris for disparate treatment racial discrimination based on: (a) the 1996 transfer from Criminal Investigations to Patrol, and (b) the 1997 to 2002 denial of transfers to Criminal Investigations; and 3. Plaintiff Lea Joy's Title VII claims in Count I against the City for: (a) retaliation based on: (1) the 1996 transfer to the third watch, and (2) the transfer from Internal Affairs to Field Operations; and (b) hostile work environment.

Opinion entered November 14, 2006 (d/e 304) (Opinion), at 105-06. The existence of pornography on some computers in the fall of 2004 is not relevant to any of these claims. To the extent that the evidence might have some relevance, the prejudicial effect outweighs any probative value. Fed. R. Evid. 401, 403.

The Plaintiffs argue that the evidence is relevant because some of the Caucasian officers who downloaded the pornography were not disciplined, and that the difference in treatment is relevant to show racial animus. The Plaintiffs must prove that the Defendants intentionally discriminated against Joy from 1984 to January 2003 by subjecting her to a racially hostile work environment, and discriminated or retaliated against both Plaintiffs with respect to specific employment actions between 1996 and 2002. Acts that occurred a year or more after those events are generally not relevant. See Calusinski v. Kruger, 24 F.3d 931, 936 (7th Cir. 1994) (relevant inquiry is the time that the wrongful events occurred). This is particularly true since by 2004, Defendant John Harris was no longer the Department's Chief of Police, and the City had a different Mayor and City Counsel. See Amended Memorandum of Plaintiffs in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 283), Exhibit 3, Deposition of Letitia Dewith-Anderson, at 22-23; and Exhibit 17, Deposition of Donald Kliment taken June 16, 2005, at 12. Given the changes in the make-up of the Department and the City government, the events in the fall of 2004 are not relevant. Even if one could find some marginal relevancy, the prejudicial effect outweighs the minimal probative value in this case.*fn1 Fed. R. Evid. 403. The First Motion is Limine is ALLOWED.

B. SECOND MOTION

The Second Motion in Limine seeks to bar admission of a report written by Lawrence Golden. The Plaintiffs do not oppose this Motion because they do not intend to use the report at issue at trial. The Second Motion is ALLOWED.

C. THIRD MOTION

The Defendants ask the Court to bar evidence of historical events, including race riots, segregation, and former systems of government. The Defendants argue that this evidence is not relevant. The Plaintiffs argue that they should be able to present background information as part of the circumstantial evidence to prove intentional discrimination, and also to prove the nature of the hostile work environment claimed by Joy.

Some background information may be relevant to prove that a particular decision was intentionally discriminatory or that Joy's working environment was racially hostile. See Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266-67 (1977). On the other hand, race riots that occurred more than sixty years earlier are not relevant to any employment decision at issue here or to Joy's working environment. Thus, the Court allows the ...


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