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Lachoya Norton, Kim Norton, Kim Norton, As Best Friend of Laquita Norton v. Officers Schmitz

May 27, 2011

LACHOYA NORTON, KIM NORTON, KIM NORTON, AS BEST FRIEND OF LAQUITA NORTON,
A MINOR AND FRED NORTON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
OFFICERS SCHMITZ, STAR #17885, HAIDARI, STAR #18379, SGT. B. WILLIAMS, STAR #900, AND THE CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LaChoya Norton, Fred Norton, and Kim Norton, individually and on behalf of LaQuita Norton*fn1 , a minor, brought this excessive force suit under 42 U.S.C § 1983 against City of Chicago Police Officers Schmitz, Haidari, and Williams and the City of Chicago. The Nortons' complaint also includes claims for false arrest, conspiracy, and malicious prosecution. Before the court are the defendants' motions in limine.

LEGAL STANDARD

As this court previously explained: "Although the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4, 105 S. Ct. 460, 83 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1984). The court has broad discretion to rule on evidentiary questions raised in motions in limine. Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). Nevertheless, a court should grant a motion in limine excluding evidence only when the movant shows that the evidence "is inadmissible on all potential grounds." CDX Liquidating Trust ex rel. CDX Liquidating Trustee v. Venrock Assocs., 411 B.R. 591, 597 (N.D. Ill. 2009) (citing Townsend v. Benya, 287 F. Supp. 2d 868, 872 (N.D. Ill. 2003), and Robenhorst v. Dematic Corp., No. 05 C 3192, 2008 WL 1821519, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 22, 2008)). "'[E]videntiary rulings should [ordinarily] be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context.'" Id. (quoting Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Techs., Inc., 831 F. Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993)). Rulings on motions in limine are preliminary; "the district court may adjust a motion in limine during the course of a trial." Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Trust of Chi., 433 F.3d 558, 565 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Luce, 469 U.S. at 41-42); Luce, 469 U.S. at 41-42 ("[A] ruling [in limine] is subject to change when the case unfolds, particularly if the actual testimony differs from what was contained in the defendant's proffer. 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.") Accordingly, the parties may renew their objections at trial as appropriate.

Betts v. City of Chi., No. 09 C 4095, --- F. Supp. 2d ----, 2011 WL 1837805, at *1 (N.D. Ill. May 13, 2011).

ANALYSIS

A. Defendants' Motion In Limine No. 1

For their first motion in limine, the defendants move to bar evidence of the investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority ("IPRA") of the Complaint Register relating to this case. The plaintiffs do not oppose this motion except insofar as they would like to be able to use statements that the defendants made to the IPRA for impeachment purposes. Thus, the defendants' motion in limine No. 1 is granted except insofar as the plaintiffs may impeach the defendants with statements they made to the IPRA (when impeaching a witness using an IPRA statement, the attorney shall refer to the statement as a one made "in another proceeding"; the attorney shall not mention "IPRA" or "investigation"). The plaintiffs are barred from referring to the IPRA investigation, including via references to an "internal investigation."

B. Defendants' Motion In Limine No. 2

For their second motion in limine, the defendants move to bar evidence or testimony that police officers generally lie, conspire, participate in cover-ups, or otherwise maintain a "code of silence" to protect fellow officers accused of wrongdoing. Indeed, "generalized allegations- separate and apart from what may be true of the officers named as defendants here-are not helpful and are akin to impermissible propensity evidence." Betts, 2011 WL 1837805, at *5. The plaintiffs do not anticipate making generalized allegations of a "code of silence," but, to prove their conspiracy claim, do plan to present evidence that the defendants conspired to cover up the incident that gave rise to this lawsuit. Thus, the defendants' motion in limine No. 2 is granted insofar as the plaintiffs are barred from making generalized allegations of a police "code of silence," but otherwise denied.

C. Defendants' Motions In Limine Nos. 3-12

The defendants' motions in limine Nos. 3-5, 7-10, and 12 are granted as unopposed. Therefore, the plaintiffs are barred from referring to: (a) incidents of police misconduct not involving the parties to this lawsuit, (b) any of the Chicago Police Department's General Orders, (c) any alleged misconduct on the part of or any injury allegedly caused by any non-defendant City of Chicago employees, (d) settlement negotiations, (e) how the City of Chicago trains, disciplines, monitors, or controls its police officers, (f) the prior disciplinary records (e.g. prior lawsuits, citizen's complaints) of City of Chicago officers or personnel, and (g) the titles and employer of the defendants' attorneys (e.g., references to "Corporation Counsel," "Assistant Corporation Counsel," "The City lawyers," or "the City"). In addition, all non-party witnesses shall be barred from the courtroom during opening statements and the testimony of other witnesses (the court will rely on counsel to police this exclusion order).

Motions in limine Nos. 6 and 11, although unopposed, are granted in part and denied in part. Motion in limine No. 6 is denied insofar as the defendants seek to exclude argument that the jury should send a message to the City with its verdict. As in Saunders v. City of Chicago, 320 F. Supp. 2d 735 (N.D. Ill. 2004), the defendants "fail to show why a jury could not 'send a message' to the city by requiring it to pay actual damages." Id. at 738; see Betts, 2011 WL 1837805, at *10. Motion in limine No. 6 is granted as unopposed insofar as the plaintiffs are barred from referring to the City of Chicago. Motions in limine Nos. 6 and 11 are granted insofar as the plaintiffs are barred from referring to indemnification, but denied insofar as the plaintiffs will be allowed to offer "evidence and testimony regarding indemnification if the defendants open the door to the same by suggesting that they will be personally ...


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