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Davis v. Nanny

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 3, 2018

CHRISTOPHER NOVUS DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
LUCAS NANNY, 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 Christopher Novus Davis (Doc. 140) and Defendants Lucas Nanny, Tom Nordman, Josh Rackley and Terry Stewart (Doc. 104). All parties have responded (Docs. 154 and 141).

         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.

         Plaintiff's Motions in Limine:

Plaintiff's Motion in Limine 1 seeks to preclude testimony or argument regarding Plaintiff's criminal charges, convictions, or sentences. Evidence that Plaintiff has been convicted of a felony is probative as to his credibility as a witness and admissible under FRE 609. However, the Court finds that details such 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. However, evidence or argument regarding Plaintiff's criminal history is limited to the fact that Plaintiff has been convicted of a felony.
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine 2 seeks to exclude evidence of unrelated lawsuits against Defendants in correctional institutions, and inmate grievances against the Illinois Department of Corrections and/or its employees. Such evidence is neither material nor relevant to the issues in this case. The motion is therefore GRANTED.
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine 3 seeks to exclude any argument or the presentation of any evidence regarding Plaintiff's history of conduct violations or other disciplinary history during his incarceration. Such evidence is neither material nor relevant to the issues in this case. The motion is therefore GRANTED.
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine 4 seeks to exclude any reference to efforts to settle the present case. This motion is GRANTED without objection.
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine 5 asks that Plaintiff be allowed to appear in “street clothes” rather than a prison uniform at trial. This motion is GRANTED without objection.
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine 6 seeks to exclude any argument or the presentation of any evidence regarding Defendants' wealth or ability to pay a damage award. This motion ...

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