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United States Securities and Exchange Commission v. Berrettini

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 14, 2015

UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
MORANDO BERRETTINI and RALPH J. PIRTLE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

The SEC brings an insider trading action against Defendants. Before the Court are the SEC's six motions in limine [173], which the Court grants in part, denies in part, and reserves ruling in part.

I. Background

The background of this insider trading case, knowledge of which is assumed, is set forth in the Court's Opinion and Order [135] denying Defendants' motions for summary judgment.

II. Legal Standard

A motion in limine is a motion "at the outset" or one made "preliminarily." BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 803 (10th ed. 2014). The power to rule on motions in limine inheres in the Court's role in managing trials. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4 (1984). Motions in limine may be used to eliminate evidence "that clearly ought not be presented to the jury because [it] clearly would be inadmissible for any purpose." Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Svcs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997) (observing that, when used properly, the motions may sharpen the issues for trial). The party seeking to exclude evidence has the burden of demonstrating that the evidence would be inadmissible for any purpose. Robenhorst v. Dematic Corp., 2008 WL 1766525, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 14, 2008).

Because motions in limine are filed before the Court has seen or heard the evidence or observed the trial unfold, rulings in limine may be subject to alteration or reconsideration during the course of trial. United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989); see also Luce, 469 U.S. at 41-42 ("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."). In addition, if the in limine procedural environment makes it too difficult to evaluate an evidentiary issue, it is appropriate to defer ruling until trial. Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440 (delaying until trial may afford the judge a better opportunity to estimate the evidence's impact on the jury).

III. Analysis

The SEC moves in limine to exclude (1) statements about unrelated SEC cases and matters, (2) statements about the SEC's investigation and charging decisions, (3) statements suggesting that a pre-suit investigation increases the burden of proof, (4) statements about any putative adverse impact, (5) statements about any purported ink analysis, and (6) statements about Defendants' health conditions. The Court examines each motion in turn.

A. Motion In Limine No. 1 to Exclude Statements About Unrelated SEC Cases and Matters

The SEC moves to exclude any statements or suggestions to the jury (1) about the SEC's handling of any other case, duty, or responsibility and (2) that the SEC's evidence is entitled to less weight because of any perceived failures by the SEC in other areas. Defendants do not object to either point. Accordingly, the Court grants the SEC's motion with respect to these two issues.

In their response, however, Defendants raise a new concern - that they should be able to introduce evidence of changes in the SEC's pleadings and discovery responses to undermine its credibility. Based on the briefing, it remains unclear to the Court what exact evidence Defendants intend to use and in furtherance of what argument. Accordingly, the Court reserves ruling on this issue and will address it first at the upcoming pre-trial conference and later at trial if necessary. Absent further guidance from the Court, Defendants are directed to flag in advance or at sidebar any use that they seek to make of the SEC's pleadings and/or discovery responses so that the Court may consider the issue outside the presence (or at least earshot) of the jurors.

B. Motion In Limine No. 2 to Exclude Statements About the SEC's Investigation and Charging Decisions

The SEC moves, in part, to bar (1) statements about the SEC's charging decisions or (2) arguments that the SEC engaged in a bad faith decision to bring the case. Because Defendants do not contest either point, the Court grants the SEC's motion with respect to these two issues. A related issue raised in the briefs pertains to the SEC's motion to bar statements about the length and depth of the SEC's investigation and the Defendants' suggestion that they may wish to present evidence to rehabilitate a witness whom the SEC has impeached with prior inconsistent statements. Since the briefing was completed, the parties have filed a "Supplemental Statement Regarding Conduct of Trial" [186] that reflects their agreement on the general subject matter of this motion in limine. In light of that ...


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