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Maldonado v. Stinar

August 5, 2010

MIGUEL MALDONADO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
P.O. VINCENT STINAR, P.O. MICHAEL GLINES, INDIVIDUALLY, AND THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Marvin E. Aspen

Magistrate Judge Nan R. Nolan

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Miguel Maldonado charges Officer Vincent Stinar, Officer Michael Glines, and the City of Chicago with violating his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, on January 24, 2008, Officer Stinar and his partner, Officer Lenny Pierri, stopped Plaintiff's blue minivan after receiving an anonymous tip that there was a gun in it. Plaintiff claims that during that stop, the officers unlawfully seized and arrested him without probable cause when they handcuffed him and placed him in the locked backseat of their unmarked police car (Count I). Plaintiff also claims that the officers unreasonably searched his person, and that Officer Stinar and Officer Glines, who arrived on the scene after Plaintiff was handcuffed, unreasonably searched his van, causing $210 in damages (Count II). Finally, Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants falsely arrested him in violation of Illinois state law (Count III).

On February 1, 2010, the district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Counts I and III, finding that the officers acted with probable cause when they seized and arrested Plaintiff. Maldonado v. Pierri, No. 08 C 1954, 2010 WL 431478, at *4-6 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 2010). With respect to Count II, the court held that the officers' "search of [Plaintiff's] person was a reasonable, lawful search incident to arrest," and that the officers had probable cause to search the relevant areas of Plaintiff's van. Id. at *7-8. The court denied summary judgment as to the remainder of Count II, however, finding that "a reasonable jury could conclude that the officers excessively and unnecessarily destroyed parts of [Plaintiff's] vehicle, and therefore violated his clearly established Constitutional rights during the search." Id. at *8. The parties are now preparing to go to trial on this single, limited issue.

The district court has referred the matter to this court for ruling on the parties' motions in limine and objections to jury instructions. For the reasons stated below, the motions are granted in part and denied in part, and the objections are sustained in part and overruled in part.

DISCUSSION

Before turning to the specific motions and instructions, the court first notes that the parties have reached the following stipulation as to the statement of the case:

The sole issue to be determined by the jury is whether the search of Plaintiff's car was conducted in a reasonable manner.

Two police officers received a tip that a Hispanic male in a blue minivan had a gun. The tip included the license plate number and location of the van.

Beat officers saw a minivan matching the description provided in the tip. They stopped the van and conducted a search. They did not find a gun. Plaintiff claims that the officers unreasonably damaged his car during the search.

With this stipulation in place, the court considers the parties' disputes.

I. Motions in Limine

Motions in limine "aid the trial process 'by enabling the Court to rule in advance of trial on the relevance of certain forecasted evidence, as to issues that are definitely set for trial, without lengthy argument at, or interruption of, the trial.'" Bastilla v. Village of Cahokia, Illinois, No. 06-CV-0150-MJR, 2010 WL 119132, at *1 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 11, 2010) (quoting Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1996)). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating that the evidence is inadmissible on any relevant ground, "for any purpose." Id. (quoting Plair v. E.J. Brach & Sons, Inc., 864 F. Supp. 67, 69 (N.D. Ill. 1994)). The court may deny a motion in limine when it lacks the necessary specificity, but denial "does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial." Id. (quoting Hawthorne Partners v. AT & T Techs., Inc., 831 F. Supp. 1398, 1401 (N.D. Ill. 1993)). In addition, motion in limine rulings are "subject to change when the case unfolds at trial," and "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. (quoting Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984)).

A. Defendants' Motions in Limine

Defendants have filed 18 motions in limine seeking to bar a variety of evidence. The court addresses each motion in turn.

1. Testimony of Jose Rojano and Victor Coopman/Koopman Defendants first move to exclude the testimony of Jose Rojano and Victor Coopman/Koopman.

a. Jose Rojano

Plaintiff initially identified someone named Jose Arroyo as an employee of his father's auto repair shop who witnessed the search of his van. Plaintiff later changed the name to Jose Rojano, but Plaintiff's father, Efrain, testified that there was no one named "Jose" working for him on the day in question. Defendants attempted to locate Mr. Rojano, Mr. Arroyo and even someone named "Mauricio," who Efrain said also may have been a witness, but Defendants were unable to find any of these individuals. To this date, Plaintiff has not provided any contact information for Jose Rojano (or Jose Arroyo), but he continues to list him as a "may call" witness in the case. The court does have some concern that allowing Mr. Rojano to testify under these circumstances may be unfairly prejudicial to Defendants. Nevertheless, a final determination on this issue is best reserved for when, and if, Mr. Rojano is actually called to testify at trial. Bastilla, 2010 WL 119132, at *1 ("[A] court may reserve judgment until trial, so that the motion in limine is placed in an appropriate factual context."); Frazier v. Layne Christensen Co., No. 04-C-315-C, 2006 WL 6041120, at *4 (W.D. Wis. Feb. 21, 2006) ("[T]he court retains the discretion to allow a witness who was not timely disclosed to testify if it will not prejudice the opposing party.") Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 1 is denied as to Jose Rojano.

b. Victor Coopman/Koopman

Plaintiff identified Victor Koopman as a passer-by who witnessed the search of his van, but later amended his name to Coopman. Plaintiff provided Defendants with a home address and telephone number, and Defendants contacted Mr. Coopman on or about May 12, 2009. At that time, Mr. Coopman informed defense counsel that he did not wish to cooperate or be involved with Plaintiff's case. He further advised that he would take the same position if contacted by Plaintiff's counsel. Mr. Coopman appears on Plaintiff's "may call" witness list, which Defendants claim is unduly prejudicial. Given that Defendants' counsel had Mr. Coopman's contact information, spoke with him, and declined to issue him a subpoena, the court finds it best to consider the appropriateness of any potential testimony from this witness when, and if, he is called at trial. Bastilla, 2010 WL 119132, at *1. Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 1 is denied as to Victor Coopman/Koopman.

2. Testimony or Argument of Physical Force Being Used Against Plaintiff

In light of the parties' stipulation, Plaintiff has no objection to barring evidence as set forth in Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 2. The motion is granted.

3. Testimony or Argument that the Stop, Search of Plaintiff's Person and/or Arrest of Plaintiff were Improper or Illegal

In light of the parties' stipulation, Plaintiff has no objection to barring evidence as set forth in Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 3. The motion is granted.

4. Testimony or Argument that the Scope of the Vehicle Search was Unreasonable

In light of the parties' stipulation, Plaintiff has no objection to barring evidence as set forth in Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 4. The motion is granted.

5. Testimony or Argument that Plaintiff Suffered Emotional Distress from Any Other Aspect of the Arrest and/or Search Besides that of the Search of His Vehicle

Plaintiff alleges that he suffered emotional distress and pain and suffering in this case. Defendants seek to preclude any evidence or argument that Plaintiff's emotional distress stems from anything other than the search of his van. In light of the district court's ruling on summary judgment and the parties' stipulation, the court agrees that Plaintiff may not mention the arrest or the search of his person in discussing his emotional distress. Plaintiff may testify, however, regarding any emotional distress he suffered by virtue of the van search. Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 5 is granted in part and denied in part.

6. Evidence of Violations of City of Chicago Police Department General Orders, Rules and Regulations

Plaintiff has no objection to barring evidence as set forth in Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 6. The motion is granted.

7. Any Mention of Indemnity

Defendants seek to exclude any testimony, argument or evidence indicating that the City may indemnify Defendant Officers against a compensatory damages judgment in this action. Plaintiff does not dispute the proposition that "[e]vidence of indemnification is generally irrelevant and inadmissible." Hillard v. City of Chicago, No. 09 C 2017, 2010 WL 1664941, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 23, 2010) (citing Lawson v. Trowbridge, 153 F.3d 368, 379 (7th Cir. 1998)). Instead, Plaintiff seeks assurances that if Defendant Officers submit evidence of their financial situation to address the issue of punitive damages, the jury will receive an instruction that such evidence applies only to punitive damages. (Doc. 127, at 3.) See Kemezy v. Peters, 79 F.3d 33, 37 (7th Cir. 1996) ("The defendant should not be allowed to plead poverty [to avoid paying punitive damages] if his employer or insurance company is going to pick up the tab.")

Plaintiff's argument is not responsive to Defendants' motion and is more appropriately addressed in connection with the parties' jury instructions. Defendants' motion to bar Plaintiff from "arguing, implying or mentioning directly that the City will indemnify the Defendant ...


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