Harmon et al v. Department of Justice et al

Filing 23

ORDER RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION IN LIMINE signed by Chief Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill on November 1, 2017. (ECF NO. 21) (Munoz, I)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 10 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 11 12 JOSHUA HARMON and JENEA HARMON, 1:16-cv-00246-LJO-BAM 13 ORDER RE DEFENDANTS’ MOTION IN LIMINE 14 PlaintiffS, v. (ECF NO. 21) 15 Agent MICHAEL HAROLDSEN, individually, and Agent TERESA HANNON, individually, 16 17 Defendants. 18 19 This action arises out of the February 3, 2015 search of a residence owned by Plaintiffs Joshua 20 and Jenea Harmon by Defendants California Department of Justice Agents Michael Haroldsen and 21 Teresa Hannon. See generally ECF No. 6 (First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). Plaintiffs bring claims 22 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”) alleging Defendants used excessive and unreasonable coercion to 23 elicit Jenea Harmon’s consent to search the home (id. at ¶ 24), and wrongfully detained Jenea Harmon 24 against her will. Id. at ¶¶ 29-31. Plaintiffs also bring related state law claims. Id. at ¶¶ 32-41. Trial is set 25 for November 14, 2017. Before the Court for decision is Defendants’ sole motion in limine. ECF No. 21. 1 1 The Court finds the motion suitable for decision on the papers without oral argument pursuant to Local 2 Rule 230(g). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED 3 It is undisputed that, prior to the search, Joshua Harmon applied for a firearms permit after his 4 father gifted him a firearm. During the course of a routine background check in connection with that 5 application, California Department of Justice records erroneously indicated that Joshua Harmon was a 6 felon and thus was prohibited from owning a firearm. Upon learning of the error, Joshua Harmon 7 pursued appropriate channels to correct the erroneous record. However, it is undisputed that at the time 8 of the search, Defendants reasonably believed that Joshua Harmon unlawfully kept a weapon inside his 9 home. It is also undisputed that after the search, Joshua Harmon was arrested for being a felon in 10 possession of a firearm. Thereafter, Defendant Hannon requested prosecution on that charge, but the 11 Fresno County District Attorney did not pursue the case. 12 Defendant moves in limine to preclude Plaintiff from introducing evidence that the criminal 13 prosecution request made by Defendant Hannon came to a conclusion without any criminal proceeding. 14 Defendant argues that any such evidence is irrelevant to resolution of Plaintiffs’ claims concerning the 15 search of Plaintiffs’ home and the alleged detention of Jenea Harmon. ECF No. 21 at 2. Defendant also 16 argues that any such evidence is confusing, misleading and unfairly prejudicial to the Defendants 17 because “[t]he jury may be misled that a lack of a criminal prosecution means that Defendants did not 18 have a reasonable belief that Plaintiff Joshua Harmon was violating the law by possessing a firearm.” Id. 19 As to relevance, as Plaintiffs explain in their opposition, ECF No. 22, any evidence pertaining to 20 charges sought against Joshua Harmon and/or the resolution of those charges goes to damages, not 21 liability. At this stage, based upon the proffer offered by Plaintiffs indicating that the arrest and threat of 22 prosecution caused them direct and cognizable harm, the Court cannot conclude that such evidence is 23 irrelevant to damages. Defendants’ motion is DENIED on that ground. 24 As to the potential for prejudice to Defendants, Borunda v. Richmond, 885 F.2d 1384 (9th Cir. 25 1988), indicates that such evidence may be permitted if accompanied by an appropriate limiting 2 1 instruction. Therefore, to the extent Defendants’ motion is based on prejudice, it is DENIED. 2 Defendants may include a limiting instruction in their proposed instructions, however both sides should 3 first meet and attempt to reach an agreement as to its wording. CONCLUSION 4 5 For the reason set forth above, Defendants’ motion in limine is DENIED. 6 7 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: /s/ Lawrence J. O’Neill _____ November 1, 2017 UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 3

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?