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Alston v. Pafumi

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 10, 2016

IRA ALSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL PAFUMI, ET AL., Defendants.

RULING ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

The pending trial involves Mr. Alston’s claims that Lt. Saylor assaulted him in his cell, and that Lt. Pafumi retaliated against him for making a complaint by placing him on in-cell restraint status. Mr. Alston filed four motions in limine. Defendants have not opposed them.

The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to rule in advance of trial on the admissibility and relevance of certain forecasted evidence. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1 984); Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1996). “Evidence should be excluded on a motion in limine only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Levinson v. Westport Nat’l Bank, No. 3:09-cv-01955 (VLB), 2013 WL 3280013, at *3 (D. Conn. June 27, 2013) (quoting Highland Capital Mgmt., L.P. v. Schneider, 379 F.Supp.2d 461, 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)). A court considering a motion in limine may reserve judgment until trial, so that the motion is placed in the appropriate factual context. See Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. L.E. Myers Co. Grp., 937 F.Supp. 276, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).

The denial of any motion in limine in this ruling does not preclude any party from objecting to the subject evidence if and when it is offered at trial. The Court merely declines to preclude categorically the subject evidence at this stage.

I. Motion in Limine re: Any Defense Witness (ECF No. 268)

Mr. Alston asks the Court to (1) preclude any defense witness from testifying about Defendants’ “good character” or “conduct”; (2) require Defendants and any defense witness to wear civilian clothing at trial; and (3) require Defendants and any defense witnesses to testify from personal knowledge. The motion is denied.

Mr. Alston’s first request is vague. Defense witnesses may testify about Defendants’ conduct - that is what this case is about. Mr. Alston asks the Court to preclude evidence of Defendants’ “good character.” Presumably, he is concerned with impermissible character evidence. Of course, exceptions exist, see Fed. R. Evid. 404(a)(3), and the Court will address those issues if and when they arise at trial.

Mr. Alston’s second request is denied. Defendants may dress in uniform or civilian clothing at trial. Cf. United States v. Blackwood, 456 F.2d 526, 529 (2d Cir. 1972) (“[A] trial judge must be afforded wide latitude in management of the courtroom.”); Sin v. Fischer, No. 01 Civ. 9376 (GEL), 2002 WL 1751351, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 26, 2002) (“[A] trial judge has broad discretion to manage courtroom logistics”).

Mr. Alston’s third request is unnecessary. The Court will apply Fed.R.Evid. 602 where appropriate.

II. Motion in Limine to Preclude Evidence Regarding Plaintiff’s Prior Lawsuits (ECF No. 269)

Mr. Alston asks the Court to preclude Defendants from offering evidence that he has filed other lawsuits against the Department of Correction (“DOC”), DOC personnel, and the State of Connecticut. The motion is denied.

The protected activity involved in Mr. Alston’s retaliation claim is intra-prison complaints. The probative value of evidence that Mr. Alston has filed other lawsuits likely is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, and misleading the jury. See Fed. R. Evid. 403; Raysor v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 768 F.2d 34, 40 (2d Cir. 1985) (“[pro se plaintiff’s] litigiousness may have some slight probative value, but that value is outweighed by the substantial danger of jury bias against the chronic litigant.”). The Court, however, cannot conclude at this time that such evidence will never be properly admissible in this case and, therefore, will reserve judgment until trial.

III. Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiff’s Medical Records (ECF No. 273)

Mr. Alston asks the Court to preclude Defendants from offering documentary evidence from his health ...


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