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Ratliff v. City of Chicago

November 19, 2012

RATLIFF
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO



Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr. than Assigned Judge

CASE TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT

For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motions in limine [94] and grants in part and denies in part Plaintiff's motions in limine [96]. The Court also grants Defendants' motion for leave to file an additional motion in limine 20 [111]. In light of the response and reply briefs filed on November 18, 2012 the Court reserves ruling on related motions in limine 5 and 20. The Court will discuss the recent filings with counsel at today's status hearing.

O[ For further details see text below.] Docketing to mail notices.

STATEMENT

A. Motions Granted Without Objection

The Court grants without objection Defendants' motions in limine 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12 and Plaintiff's motions in limine 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 12. Plaintiff did not submit a motion in limine 4.

B. Defendants' Contested Motions in Limine [94]

1. Defendants' 1 and 10

In their motion in limine 1, Defendants move to bar Plaintiff from arguing or eliciting testimony to the effect that deficiencies in the hiring, training, or supervision of Defendant Officers contributed to Plaintiff's claims. Defendants point out that Plaintiff does not have a pending Monell claim or a claim of respondeat superior liability. Plaintiff does not object to the exclusion of evidence and argument related to any causal connection between hiring, training, and supervision and Plaintiff's injuries, but maintains that the Court should not bar all evidence related to training and supervision.

In their motion in limine 10, Defendants seek to bar Plaintiff from eliciting any testimony, evidence, or argument regarding the existence of or standards set by any General Orders, or other rules and regulations, including any allegation that the Defendant Officers violated a general order by agreeing to park Ratliff's car on Lorel Avenue.

As to both motions in limine 1 and 10, the Court agrees with Plaintiff that Defendants' motions are overly broad, yet (as noted at the final pre-trial conference) there are well-established limitations on the relevance of testimony relating to training, supervision, general orders, and police department policies. In regard to the issues raised in motion in limine 1, Plaintiff properly notes that the manner and method of documenting citizen complaints, performing stops, performing arrests, and inventorying property may touch on issues related to the training and supervision of Defendants. Therefore, to the extent Defendants' training and supervision are relevant to the incident in question, either side may inquire on these issues. Defendants' motion in limine 1 is denied to that extent. However, as explained more fully in the discussion below, the failure of Defendants to comply with any general or special orders or department policies concerning hiring, training, or supervision may not be used as either a sword or a shield in regard to whether a constitutional violation has occurred.

Turning to Defendants' motion in limine 10, the seminal case in this circuit on the admissibility of testimony, evidence, and argument pertaining to rules, regulations, standards, and General Orders of police or sheriff's departments is Thompson v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444 (7th Cir. 2006). Thompson involved a § 1983 claim (for excessive force) and a state law claim (for wrongful death) arising out of the arrest of the plaintiff. The district court granted a motion in limine seeking to "exclude any reference in testimony, evidence, or argument to the CPD's General Orders, policies, and procedures." Id. at 449 & n.12 (explaining the slight discrepancy between the motion that the court granted and the text of the docket entry reflecting the granting of the motion). The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling, both with respect to the use of General Orders as evidence of the federal constitutional violation and as evidence in support of the state law claim.

As to the constitutional violation, the Seventh Circuit categorically stated that "the violation of police regulations or even a state law is completely immaterial as to the question of whether a violation of the federal constitution has been established." Thompson, 472 F.3d at 455 (emphasis added); see also Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 815 (1996) (holding that internal police department rules are an unreliable guide to measuring the reasonableness of police conduct); Scott v. Edinburg, 346 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2003) (holding that § 1983 "protects plaintiffs from constitutional violations, not violations of state laws or, in this case, departmental regulations and police practices"). In elaborating on its ruling, the Seventh Circuit explained that while evidence, testimony, or argument concerning possible violations of General Orders, rules, or regulations may be relevant to "discipline, promotion, or salary decisions" made by the Defendants' superiors, that kind of information is "immaterial" in proceedings before a district court on claims of constitutional violations and therefore "properly excluded" in rulings on motions in limine. Thompson, 472

F.3d at 455. For all of these reasons, Defendants' motion in limine 10 is granted in part, as the existence of the General Orders cannot be used in this case to show that the Plaintiff's constitutional rights were (or were not) violated.

Defendants also contend that testimony, evidence, and argument pertaining to rules, regulations, standards, and General Orders would be improper as to Plaintiff's state law claims. In Thompson, the Seventh Circuit "assume[d], without deciding, that the CPD's General Orders were relevant to [Plaintiffs'] wrongful death claim," but nevertheless "conclude[d] that they were properly excluded under Rule 403." 472 F.3d at 456. Although the statutory wrongful death claim at issue in Thompson appears to impose liability under a negligence standard (see id. at 457; see also 740 ILCS 180/1; Leavitt v. Farwell Tower Ltd. P'ship, 252 Ill. App. 3d 260, 264 (1993)), the Seventh Circuit relied on Illinois case law holding that "violation of self-imposed rules or internal guidelines * * * does not normally impose a general duty, let alone constitute evidence of negligence, or beyond that, willful and wanton conduct." Thompson, 472 F.3d at 457 (emphasis added) (quoting Morton v. City of Chicago, 286 Ill. App. 3d 444 (1997)). Moreover, in completing its Rule 403 analysis, the Seventh Circuit expressly addressed -- and rejected -- the notion that a limiting instruction could render evidence of a failure to adhere to General Orders admissible. Id. As the court explained, "[a]ny limiting instruction explaining to the jury that, although General Orders do not create a duty on the part of an officer and can only be used as evidence of a breach of protocol in a disciplinary proceeding -- and that they could not be considered in conjunction with the plaintiffs' § 1983 claims -- would have led to unnecessary and detrimental jury confusion." Id.

Thus, on the basis of the Seventh Circuit's decision in Thompson, any attempt to use General Orders, rules, or policies of the CPD as evidence of a federal constitutional violation appears to be forbidden under Rule 401. Thompson, 472 F.3d at 454. In addition, under Thompson, any effort to use such General Orders, rules, or policies in support of a state law cause of action that applies a negligence or willful and wanton standard appears to face, at a minimum, a very high hurdle under Rule 403. Id. at 457. Among other things, in conducting the Rule 403 analysis, the Court must consider whether the potential for a complex "trial within a trial" focused on ...


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