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Scheidler v. State

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 30, 2017

BRENDA LEAR SCHEIDLER, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF INDIANA, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         This cause is before the Court on the Defendant's motions in limine (Dkt. No. 72). The motions are fully briefed and the Court, being duly advised, resolves them as set forth below.

         The Court notes that the granting of a motion in limine is not a final ruling regarding the admissibility of the evidence at issue. Rather, it simply prohibits any party from eliciting testimony regarding or otherwise mentioning a particular issue during trial without first seeking leave of Court outside of the presence of the jury. Therefore, a party who wishes to elicit testimony or introduce evidence regarding a topic covered by a motion in limine that has been granted should request a sidebar conference during the appropriate point in the trial, at which time the Court will determine how best to proceed. Parties should always err on the side of caution and interpret rulings on motions in limine broadly, requesting sidebars before eliciting testimony or offering evidence that is even arguably covered by a ruling in limine and avoiding mention of such topics during voir dire, opening statements, and closing argument. Counsel shall also carefully instruct each witness regarding subjects that should not be mentioned or alluded to during testimony unless and until a finding of admissibility is made by the Court.

         The Defendant combines several motions into one filing. Each of them is addressed, in turn, below.

         Reference to the following articles: “Exposed in Emails” from the Indianapolis Star on October 20, 2013, “Walkup Resigns Over Emails” from the Indianapolis Star on October 22, 2013, andIt's Who You Know” from the Indiana Lawyer's November 2 -15, 2016 edition.

         The Plaintiff has included in its exhibit list the above-referenced newspaper articles. The Defendant objects to the articles, arguing that they contain inadmissible hearsay and are otherwise irrelevant to this case because they refer to people and departments not involved in this lawsuit. The Plaintiff responded that “[t]he articles summarize events that the Defendant tolerated that were worse than the events alleged against the Plaintiff.” Dkt. No. 79 at 1. The Plaintiff also argues that “[t]he third article on networking shows that it is acceptable for anyone to make statements like ‘It's Who You Know' and the statement the Defendant claims Plaintiff said, something to the effect that [‘]it's who you know and who you blow, ['] is a variation of that statement.” Id.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 801 defines hearsay as “a statement that: (1) the declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing; and (2) a party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.” The Plaintiff's suggested use of the information in the articles meets the definition of hearsay. Under Federal Rule of Evidence 802, such hearsay is not admissible.

         The Plaintiff further argues that “[t]he articles are admissible to show Plaintiff's state of mind as to what actions were permitted by the Defendant and not subject to termination.” Dkt. No. 79 at 1. Although Federal Rule of Evidence 803(4) allows an exception to the exclusion of hearsay statements of the declarant's “then-existing mental, emotional, or physical condition, ” the newspaper articles are not statements made by the Plaintiff. Thus, they cannot be evidence of her state of mind. Furthermore, the articles were written and published months after the Plaintiff's employment was terminated. They could not possibly show the Plaintiff's state of mind at any time prior to their publication.

         Having reviewed the information provided by the parties, the Court GRANTS the Defendant's motion as to this issue. Neither party shall mention any of the above-listed newspaper articles without first, during an appropriate point in the trial, requesting a sidebar conference to discuss the matter outside the jury's presence, at which time the Court will determine how best to proceed.

         Reference to any transcript, findings, or orders from the SEAC proceeding

         The Defendant seeks to exclude reference to transcripts, findings, and orders from the SEAC proceeding. The Plaintiff does not object to the motion regarding the findings and orders of the SEAC proceeding; accordingly, that motion is GRANTED. The Defendant argues that reference to the contents of the transcripts constitutes hearsay. It noted that the individuals who testified at the SEAC proceeding are available to testify and be cross-examined in front of the jury in this trial. The Defendant acknowledges and does not contest that the transcript testimony could be used for impeachment purposes.

         The Plaintiff argues that the transcript testimony was made under oath, similar to a deposition. When asked at the final pretrial conference by the Court whether he planned to use the transcripts for anything other than impeachment, the Plaintiff's counsel indicated that he did not know of any other use at this point.

         The Court GRANTS the Defendant's motion regarding the SEAC proceeding transcripts. If either party wishes to reference those proceedings or use the transcript testimony for any purpose other than impeachment, during an appropriate point in the trial, counsel may request a sidebar conference to discuss the matter outside the jury's presence, at which time the Court will determine how best to proceed.

         Reference or discussion of allegations of misconductagain ...


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