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Sheehan v. Moriarity

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

June 24, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Reconsider and Response to Plaintiff's Motion in Limine (ECF No. 180). Defendants ask this Court to reconsider its January 28, 2019, Opinion and Order which preliminarily determined that Defendants should be barred from introducing evidence regarding Plaintiff's past arrests and convictions. The Court finds no basis to change its prior opinion, and therefore denies Defendants' motion.


         In its October 27, 2017, Order for Civil Trial and Final Pretrial Conference, Order Controlling the Case (ECF No. 133), this matter was set for trial to begin on June 26, 2018. In addition, this Court ordered as follows with respect to motions in limine:

In all jury cases, motions in limine are to be e-filed, with supporting briefs, not later than 20 days prior to trial. Any response is to be e-filed 7 days thereafter with replies to be filed 3 days after any response is filed.

(ECF No. 133 at 4). Defendants filed their Motion in Limine (ECF No. 162) and supporting Brief (ECF No. 163) on June 6, 2018. Plaintiff filed his Motion in Limine (ECF No. 165) on June 11, 2018.

         On June 18, 2018, this Court entered an Order (ECF No. 167) continuing the trial management conference and jury trial. Following a telephonic scheduling conference, this Court set the telephonic final pretrial conference for March 4, 2019, and the trial for March 19, 2019. (ECF No. 171). The final pretrial conference and trial have subsequently been reset on three additional occasions, and trial is now set to begin on October 1, 2019. (ECF No. 184).

         There having been no response to either parties' motion in limine, this Court issued its Opinion and Order on those motions on January 28, 2019 (ECF No. 174). In that Opinion and Order, this Court granted Plaintiff's first and third motions in limine, barring Defendants' counsel and witnesses from making any mention regarding any of Plaintiff's prior arrests or convictions. (Id. at 4-5). This Court denied Plaintiff's second motion in limine to bar evidence of the blood alcohol test taken the day of his arrest. (Id. at 4).[1]

         Almost four months later, on May 14, 2019, Defendants filed the instant motion to reconsider. Defendants recognize that they failed to file a response to Plaintiff's Motion in Limine but suggest that this failure was due to their belief that the continuations of the trial also served to continue the briefing schedule on the motions in limine. (ECF No. 180 at 2).


         A. Legal Standard

         District courts has the inherent authority to manage the course of a trial. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (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 Chi., 733 F.3d 248, 252 (7th Cir. 2013). 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).

         As with 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. 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).

         Interlocutory orders, which have not been taken to judgment or determined on appeal, may be reconsidered at any time by a trial court, and the trial court has discretion to make a different determination on any such matters. Cameo Convalescent Ctr. Inc. v. Percy, 800 F.2d 108, 110 (7th Cir. 1986). However, this Court's rulings “are not intended as mere first drafts, subject to revision and reconsideration at a litigant's pleasure, ” and “ill-founded requests for reconsideration of matters previously decided . . . needlessly take the court's attention from current matters and visit inequity upon opponents who, prevailing ...

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