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Mason v. City of Chicago

July 1, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow


This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff's first motion in limine filed by Plaintiff Curtis Mason ("Plaintiff" or "Mason") against Defendant City of Chicago ("Defendant" or "City"). This Court held oral argument on June 11, 2009, at which time the Court granted this motion in limine, thereby barring bar all reference to Plaintiff's use of marijuana on the day of the incident, and barring Defendant's expert witness, Dr. Joel Silberberg ("Dr. Silberberg"), from testifying about the possible effects of marijuana on Plaintiff on the day of the incident. This memorandum opinion and order provides a more complete explanation for the Court's oral ruling.


For purposes of this motion, the Court relies upon the facts as set forth in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint; Defendant City of Chicago's Answer to Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint; and the parties' briefs.*fn1

A. Events Surrounding Plaintiff's Arrest

On January 13, 2007, Chicago Police pulled over the car in which Plaintiff was a passenger for a traffic violation. Plaintiff alleges that during the stop, Chicago Police officers ("Officers") arrested and beat him without justification. Plaintiff claims he was kneed in the eye while lying handcuffed on the ground. Plaintiff claims he suffered severe physical injuries and emotional distress as a result of the Officers' conduct. The sole remaining Defendant, the City of Chicago, denies all charges. Defendant contends that the Officers used force on Plaintiff to take him down to the ground when Plaintiff reached in his shirt while being searched. The Officers feared that Plaintiff was reaching for a weapon. Neither the traffic stop nor the arrest involved the issue of drugs. There was never any mention of drugs in any of the police reports.

B. Background Regarding Plaintiff's Use of Marijuana on the Date of the Incident

During discovery, Plaintiff testified that he took "three to four puffs" of a marijuana cigarette three hours before his encounter with the police. See Dkt. 123, at 3 (citing Pl. Ex. A (Mason Dep.) at 77-79). Plaintiff claims he was not under the influence of marijuana at the time of the incident. All of the Officers' contemporaneous reports state Plaintiff was not intoxicated. Specifically, Plaintiff contends there is "absolutely no evidence in the record" that he was impaired by, or feeling any effects of, marijuana, at the time of the incident. Dkt. 123, at 3. Plaintiff relies upon the following: (1) the five sworn police reports the arresting officers (Officers Michael Garza ("Garza") and Elizabeth Briggs Ayala ("Briggs")) prepared, none of which indicate Plaintiff was under the influence of drugs (Pl. Ex. B); (2) the testimony of Garza and Briggs at Plaintiff's criminal trial, as well as during their depositions in connection with this case, during which they "said nothing" about Plaintiff having been under the influence of drugs; (3) evidence that the officers who admitted Plaintiff to the lockup the night of his arrest did not report that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Pl. Ex. B, arrest report at p. 6); and (4) evidence that none of nine Officers who were on the scene of Plaintiff's arrest, including Garza and Briggs, stated Plaintiff or his girlfriend were under the influence of drugs or were suspected of being under the influence. Pl. Ex. C (Interrogatory 12). There is no evidence of whether or how much marijuana was in Plaintiff's system at the time of the incident.

C. Background Regarding Defendant's Expert Dr. Joel Silberberg

Defendant sought to call an expert witness, Dr. Joel Silberberg, a psychiatrist with the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation in Chicago. Defendant sought to use Dr. Silberberg to render his opinion about the effects of marijuana on Plaintiff at the time of his encounter with the Chicago Police. Specifically, in his Rule 26(a)(2) report, Dr. Silberberg states cannabis alone, as well as combined with Plaintiff's schizotypal personality features, can cause problems with memory and concentration, time distortion, paranoia and impaired judgment leading to a contested arrest. Def. Ex. B, at p. 15, 19.


This Court will discuss the applicable motion in limine legal standard, and will then apply it and the specific legal standards in turn below.

A. Motions in Limine

A motion in limine is a request for the court's guidance concerning an evidentiary question. Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 570 (7th Cir. 1999); Kiswani v. Phoenix Security Agency, Inc., 247 F.R.D. 554, 557 (N.D. Ill. 2008). The Court may give such guidance by issuing a preliminary ruling regarding admissibility. Wilson, 182 F.3d at 570-71. Trial judges are authorized to rule on motions in limine pursuant to their authority to manage trials, even though such rulings are not explicitly authorized by the Federal Rules of Evidence. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4 (1984). Judges have broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). However, evidence may be excluded on a motion in limine only when it is inadmissible on all potential grounds. Townsend v. Benya, 287 F. Supp. 2d 868, 872 (N.D. Ill. 2003). "Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context." Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Techs., Inc., 831 F. Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Thus, the party moving to exclude evidence in limine has the burden of establishing the evidence is not admissible for any purpose. Robenhorst v. Dematic Corp., 2008 WL 1821519, at *3 (N.D. Ill. April 22, 2008).

Denial of a motion in limine does not mean all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Hawthorne, 831 F. Supp. at 1401. Rather, denial means the court cannot determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded outside of the trial context. United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989). A ruling on a motion in limine is not necessarily final. Townsend, 287 F. Supp. 2d at 872. "The ruling is subject to change when the case unfolds," particularly if the actual testimony differs from what was proffered. Luce, 469 U.S. at 41. "Indeed even if nothing unexpected happens at trial, the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling." Id. at 41-42.

B. Admissibility of Expert Testimony

The legal standard for the admission of expert testimony is well-established. In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Supreme Court stated a district court has a "gatekeeping role" of ensuring an expert's testimony is both reliable and relevant. 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993). In the Seventh Circuit, the principles set forth in Daubert and Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence ("Rule 702") govern the admission of expert testimony. Ervin v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 492 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2007). Rule 702 requires expert testimony must satisfy the following standard:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles ...

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