United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HERNDON, United States District Judge.
before the Court are several motions in limine filed by the
parties: (1) plaintiff's motion in limine (Doc. 44);
defendant's motion in limine No. 1 to exclude evidence of
future pension losses (Doc. 45) and defendant's motion in
limine No. 2 to exclude evidence of other bad acts (Doc. 46).
As the motions are ripe, the Court rules as follows.
district court has the inherent authority to manage the
course of a trial. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S.
38, 41 n. 4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984). The court
may exercise this power by issuing an evidentiary ruling in
advance of trial. Id. A party may seek such a ruling
by filing a motion in limine, which requests the
court's guidance on what evidence will (or will not) be
admitted at trial. Perry v. City of Chicago, 733
F.3d 248, 252 (7th Cir. 2013). Prudent motions in
limine serve a gatekeeping function by allowing the
judge “to eliminate from further consideration
evidentiary submissions that clearly ought not be presented
to the jury.” Jonasson v. Lutheran Child &
Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997). By
defining the evidentiary boundaries, motions in
limine both permit “the parties to focus their
preparation on those matters that will be considered by the
jury, ” id. and help ensure “that trials
are not interrupted mid-course for the consideration of
lengthy and complex evidentiary issues, ” United
States v. Tokash, 282 F.3d 962, 968 (7th Cir . 2002).
all evidentiary matters, the court has broad discretion when
ruling on motions in limine. United States v.
Ajayi, 808 F.3d 1113, 1121 (7th Cir. 2015); Jenkins
v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir.
2002). Moreover, the Court can change its ruling at trial,
“even if nothing unexpected happens[.]”
Luce, 469 U.S. at 41, 105 S.Ct. 460. Rulings in
limine are speculative in effect; essentially, they are
advisory opinions. Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562,
570 (7th Cir. 1999) (Coffey, J., concurring in part and
dissenting in part).
Gauen moves to exclude evidence of a statement of an EEOC
investigator in an email to her counsel which suggests she
does not have a valid claim of pay discrimination with regard
to the position of Principal. She contends this evidence is
inadmissible because it is hearsay, it has no probative value
and is unfairly prejudicial and it will not assist the jury
in deciding this case. The Court agrees with Gauen that this
evidence is hearsay. Thus, the Court grants this portion of
plaintiff's motion in limine.
Gauen moves to exclude evidence that two school
administrators in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, Barry Thomas
and Pat Schwarm, were paid higher salaries than two other
school administrators with the same positions who had less
administrative experience, Steve Lanxon and Marvin Warner.
Gauen argues that this evidence should be excluded because it
is irrelevant. Defendant counters that this evidence is
highly probative of its defense to plaintiff's claims.
The Court disagrees with plaintiff and finds that this
evidence is relevant. The defendant notes that ultimately the
school board is the decision maker on salaries. Thus, the
Court denies this portion of plaintiff's motion in
Gauen moves to exclude evidence that Superintendent Sutton
made a decision to pay [recommend] a lower salary to one of
the male Assistant Principals, Caleb Houchins, than was paid
to her when she was an Assistant Principal. Gauen maintains
that this evidence lacks sufficient probative value to be
admissible. The Court finds this evidence relevant and
admissible. Moreover, Houchins was hired as Assistant
Principal in March 2015 five months prior to Gauen filing her
EEOC charge on August 18, 2015. Thus, the Court finds no
reason to exclude this evidence. Thus, the Court denies this
portion of plaintiff's motion in limine.
Gauen moves to exclude evidence regarding the actual rate of
her base pay because it is a matter of law for the Court to
determine in advance of trial. The Court disagrees. This is
not a question of law and the jury should be allowed to hear
evidence on this clearly relevant issue. Thus, the Court
denies this portion of plaintiff's motion in limine.
plaintiff moves to exclude evidence at trial that defendant
has limited financial resources and that any award to Gauen
would harm innocent students. Gauen contends that this
evidence is highly improper. Defendant concedes that it will
not argue or mention to the jury an award would harm innocent
students. Thus, the Court denies as moot that portion of
plaintiff's motion in limine. However, the Court notes
that defendant is not precluded from introducing budgetary
evidence insofar as salary decisions are concerned.
defendant moves in limine to exclude evidence of future
pension losses. Defendant argues that in this case future
pension losses are not recoverable as a matter of law because
Gauen will be made whole by Teachers Retirement System
(“TRS”) for any required credit or adjustment to
future pension earnings based upon a judgment awarding back
pay. Gauen counters that the motion should be denied as this
evidence is crucial to her right to be made whole. The Court
agrees with defendant. It appears that pursuant to Section
1650.360 of Title 80 of the Illinois Administrative Gauen
will be made whole by the TRS if she obtains a judgment
awarding back pay. If necessary, the Court will enter an
order requiring defendant to make the contributions should
the evidence support it. Thus, the Court grants this motion
defendant moves in limine to exclude evidence of other bad
acts. Specifically, defendant moves to exclude evidence of
other female employees in the district, Hilary Wagenblast,
Susie Kronk, and Deanna Dobbs, who were allegedly paid less
or treated differently on the basis of her their sex.
Defendant maintains that any evidence as to these women
should be excluded as irrelevant, are of no consequence in
determining this action and bear no plausible relation to the
issues of the case. Further, defendant maintains that this
type of evidence is highly prejudicial. Plaintiff opposes the
motion as to Ms. Wagenblast arguing evidence that Michael
Sutton discriminated against Ms. Wagenblast is probative of
whether Mr. Sutton also discriminated against
plaintiff. The Court agrees with plaintiff and denies
the motion in limine as to Ms. Wagenblast. This evidence
regarding Ms. Wagenblast's application process for the
Assistant Principal in 2015 is relevant to the issues at bar
and will allow the jury to make a permissible inference
regarding discriminatory animus by Mr. Sutton if it so
chooses. See Hasan v. Foley & Lardner, 552 F.3d
520, 529 (7th Cir. 2008)(“‘behavior toward or
comments directed at other employees in the protected
group' is one type of circumstantial evidence that can
support an inference of discrimination” (citation
omitted)); Hitchcock v. Angel Corps Inc., 718 F.3d
733, 740 (7th Cir. 2013). Thus, the Court denies in part the
motion in limine as to Ms. Wagenblast and denies as moot in
part the motion in limine as Ms. Kronk and Ms. Dobbs.
the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part plaintiff's
motion in limine (Doc. 44); GRANTS defendant's motion in
limine No 1, motion to exclude evidence of future pension
loss (Doc. 45) and DENIES in part and DENIES as moot in part
defendant's motion in limine No. 2, to exclude evidence
of other bad acts (Doc. 46).