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Cunninghamm v. Lewis

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 5, 2017

BENNIE CUNNINGHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
BENJAMIN LEWIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are the motions in limine filed by Plaintiff Bennie Cunningham (Doc. 68) and Defendants Benjamin Lewis and Jason Zollars (Doc. 67). The Court heard argument from the parties and made the rulings below on the record during the final pretrial conference on November 15, 2017.

         The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to rule on the relevance and admissibility of evidence before it is offered at trial. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41, n.4 (1984)(“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”). It serves to “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.” Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 566 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2nd Cir. 1996).

         Motions in limine also may save the parties time, effort, and cost in preparing and presenting their cases. Pivot Point Intern., Inc. v. Charlene Products, Inc., 932 F.Supp. 220, 222 (N.D. Ill. 1996). Often, however, the better practice is to wait until trial to rule on objections, particularly when admissibility substantially depends upon facts which may be developed there. Jonasson v. Lutheran Child and Family Services, 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997).

         The movant has the burden of demonstrating that the evidence is inadmissible on any relevant ground, “for any purpose.” 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 with respect to the evidence to be excluded.” Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh v. L.E. Myers Co. Group, 937 F.Supp. 276, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). Moreover, the court may alter an in limine ruling based on developments at trial or sound judicial discretion. Luce, 469 U.S. at 41. “Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial.” Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Tech., Inc., 831 F.Supp.1398, 1401 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Denial only means that the court cannot decide admissibility outside the context of trial. Plair, 864 F.Supp. at 69.

         A court may reserve judgment until trial, so that the motion in limine is placed “in an appropriate factual context.” Nat'l Union, 937 F.Supp. at 287. Stated another way, motion in limine rulings are “subject to change when the case unfolds” at trial. 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. The Court should exclude evidence on a motion in limine “only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440.

         With these principles in mind, the Court rules as follows.

         Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine:

• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 1- Plaintiff seeks to exclude evidence of his prior convictions. Evidence of the fact that Plaintiff has been convicted of a felony is probative as to his credibility as a witness under FRE 609 and is therefore admissible for that purpose. However, the Court finds that details as to the crime(s) for which Plaintiff was convicted and the length of his sentence are more prejudicial than probative and are thus excludable under FRE 403. The motion is therefore DENIED only as to evidence of the fact that Plaintiff has been convicted of a felony.
• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 2- Plaintiff moves to bar any evidence as to prior convictions of any witnesses he may call. Again, evidence of the fact that a witness has been convicted of a felony is probative as to his or her credibility as a witness under FRE 609 and is therefore admissible for that purpose. However, the Court finds that details as to the crime(s) for which witnesses were convicted and the length of their sentence(s) are more prejudicial than probative and are thus excludable under FRE 403. The motion is therefore DENIED only as to evidence or reference to the fact that any witness has been convicted of a felony.
• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 3- Plaintiff moves to bar introduction of any medical records not relevant to the claim. As drafted, the motion is too vague for the Court to grant-any irrelevant medical records are already inadmissible under FRE 402. As such, the motion is DENIED subject to appropriate objection during the course of trial.
• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 4- Plaintiff moves to bar any evidence regarding Plaintiff's disciplinary record for incidents other than those related to the July 10, 2014 incident at issue in this case. Any disciplinary records unrelated to the underlying incident in this case are immaterial and irrelevant. As such, the motion is GRANTED as to any disciplinary records other than those associated with the July 10, 2014, incident.
• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 6[1]- Plaintiff moves to bar evidence of any unrelated grievances filed by Plaintiff. Any grievances unrelated to the underlying incident in this case are immaterial and irrelevant. As such, the motion is GRANTED as to any disciplinary ...

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