Williams v. Williams

Filing 198

ORDER by Judge Claudia Wilken RESOLVING ( 173 , 176 ) MOTIONS IN LIMINE. (ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/8/2013)

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1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 ISAIAH N. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, 5 8 DEBRA WILLIAMS, Defendant. ________________________________/ 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 14 15 ORDER RESOLVING MOTIONS IN LIMINE v. 6 7 No. C 07-4464 CW Plaintiff Isaiah Williams, an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP), brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Defendant Debra Williams. The Court held a pretrial conference and heard arguments regarding the parties’ motions in limine on June 26, 2013. After considering the parties’ oral argument and submissions, the Court now issues the following rulings: I. Plaintiff’s Motions in Limine 16 17 18 A. MIL No. 1: Motion to Exclude References to Plaintiff’s Past Criminal Convictions and Rule Violations This motion is GRANTED. Defendant may not present evidence 19 or argument that identifies the specific nature or circumstances 20 of Plaintiff’s conviction or any evidence relating to Plaintiff’s 21 past rule violations. 22 and argument that (1) Plaintiff was convicted of a violent felony 23 and (2) the unit where Plaintiff currently resides is used to 24 house violent prisoners. 25 argument pertaining to the rules violation report arising from the 26 August 16, 2006 incident which is the subject of this action. 27 28 Defendant may, however, present evidence Defendant may also present evidence or 1 2 B. MIL No. 2: Motion to Exclude References to Plaintiff’s Alleged Gang Affiliation This motion is DENIED. Plaintiff’s membership in a white 3 supremacist gang is a key issue in this case, as Plaintiff’s own 4 expert asserts in his report. 5 at ¶ 30 (“In the present case, the risk of harm was heightened due 6 to the specific types of inmates, Nazi Low Rider (white supremacy) 7 and Black Guerilla Family (Black).”). 8 the jury would deny them access to relevant information while 9 creating administrative difficulties for both parties. See Pl.’s Ex. 20, R. Subia Report, Concealing this fact from Cf. United United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 States v. Price, 13 F.3d 711, 720 (3d Cir. 1994) (upholding a 11 district court’s decision to admit conversations in which a party 12 used racial epithets because “it would have been virtually 13 impossible to redact this or the other conversations without 14 altering their substance”). 15 C. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 MIL No. 3: Motion to Exclude References to Plaintiff’s Alleged Nickname, “Sinner” This motion is GRANTED. Plaintiff’s nickname is prejudicial and serves no probative value here. All references to Plaintiff’s nickname should be redacted from any otherwise admissible exhibits. D. MIL No. 4: Motion to Exclude References to and Evidence of Plaintiff’s Tattoos This motion is DENIED. The two photographs Plaintiff seeks 23 to exclude do not reveal the tattoo of his nickname and include 24 mostly blurry images of his other tattoos. 25 his tattoos are visible in these photographs, they are no less 26 relevant and no more prejudicial than any other evidence of 27 Plaintiff’s alleged membership in a white supremacist gang. 28 2 To the extent any of 1 E. MIL No. 5: Procedure for Exchange of Evidence Relating to MILs No. 1-4 2 This motion is DENIED as unnecessary. 3 F. 4 MIL No. 6: Motion to Exclude Evidence or Argument Relating to Prior Decisions by Other Tribunals or Agencies 5 This motion is GRANTED. 6 G. 7 MIL No. 7: Motion to Exclude Statements About State Finances and the Use of Taxpayer Funds to Satisfy Any Judgments in this Case 8 This motion is GRANTED as unopposed. 9 H. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 MIL No. 8: Motion to Exclude Undisclosed or Improper Expert Testimony This motion is GRANTED in part. any undisclosed expert testimony. refer to herself as an “expert.” Defendant may not present Furthermore, Defendant may not Allowing Defendant to offer “expert” testimony at trial would be unduly prejudicial because her judgment is directly at issue in this case. While Defendant may testify about her experience as a correctional officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) or her subjective belief that she used appropriate force, she may not characterize her views as expert opinion. I. MIL No. 9: Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Curtis Cope This motion is GRANTED in part. A “trial court has ‘broad 22 discretion’ in assessing the relevance and reliability of expert 23 testimony.” 24 Cir. 2002) (quoting United States v. Murillo, 255 F.3d 1169, 1178 25 (9th Cir. 2001)). 26 sufficient level of “scientific, technical, or other specialized 27 knowledge” to “help the trier of fact to understand the evidence 28 or to determine a fact in issue.” United States v. Finley, 301 F.3d 1000, 1007 (9th To qualify as an expert, a witness must have a Fed. R. Evid. 702(a). 3 1 Here, Defendant has not established that her expert, Curtis 2 Cope, satisfies this requirement. 3 experience as a correctional officer nor any specialized knowledge 4 of CDCR facilities and procedures. 5 officer for several decades, this experience does not make him an 6 expert in correctional policy. 7 experience is unlikely to aid the jury in determining whether 8 Defendant used appropriate force because Defendant made her use- 9 of-force decision while stationed at a control booth in a maximum Cope has no training or Although he served as a police Here, especially, Cope’s police United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 security prison that Cope has never visited. 11 training therefore does not qualify him to offer expert testimony 12 about the propriety of Defendant’s conduct in this situation, 13 which is unique to the correctional context.1 14 Cope’s police Cope’s police experience does, however, qualify him to offer 15 expert testimony about the specific weapon Defendant used to 16 subdue Plaintiff. 17 and force of the “40mm less lethal weapon,” about the range and 18 effectiveness of pepper spray, and about whether Defendant’s 19 decision to use the 40mm less lethal weapon on August 16, 2006 was 20 appropriate. 21 J. 22 23 Specifically, Cope may testify about the range MIL No. 10: Motion Regarding Plaintiff’s Shackles and Garments During Trial This motion is DENIED. 24 25 None of Defendant’s cited cases suggests otherwise. Each of the cases she cites features police officers testifying as experts on “police procedures and policies” -- not prison procedures and policies. See, e.g., Larez v. City of Los Angeles, 946 F.2d 630, 635 (9th Cir. 1991) (“Fyfe was formerly a New York City police officer, and was qualified as an expert on proper police procedures and policies.”). 1 26 27 28 4 K. 1 2 3 This motion is resolved as set forth in the Court’s July 2, 2013 order regarding telephone access. 4 L. 5 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 MIL No. 12: Motion Regarding Evidence Preservation and Alleged Discovery Abuses regarding Defendant’s alleged discovery abuses. However, he fails to offer any new argument or evidence in support of the motion. Magistrate Judge Beeler denied his previous motion on June 20, 2013, Docket No. 179, and this Court denied Plaintiff’s subsequent request for relief from Judge Beeler’s decision. Accordingly, this motion is DENIED. As stated in the Court’s order denying Plaintiff’s request 13 14 See Docket No. 192. Plaintiff incorporates by reference his previous motion 6 7 MIL No. 11: Motion to Permit Telephone Communications Between Plaintiff and His Counsel During Trial for relief from Judge Beeler’s order, if Plaintiff has admissible evidence showing that any witness, including Defendant, misrepresented the availability of certain CDCR photographs or training records, he may use that evidence to impeach that specific witness. II. Defendant’s Motions in Limine A. MIL No. 1: Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Richard Subia on Liability This motion is DENIED. Plaintiff’s expert, Richard Subia, 22 may testify that Defendant’s actions were negligent, grossly 23 negligent, or undertaken with reckless disregard for Plaintiff’s 24 safety. 25 descriptions of Defendant’s conduct represents the proper legal 26 standard to be applied in this case. Subia may not, however, testify that any of these 27 28 5 1 2 B. MIL No. 2: Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony on Witness Credibility This motion is GRANTED in part. Subia may testify about any 3 specific record-keeping policies or procedures that cast doubt on 4 any of Defendant’s representations that certain CDCR records are 5 unavailable or do not exist. 6 Defendant’s failure to check for Inmate Powell in the corridor 7 before opening Plaintiff’s cell was wrongful and led to of 8 Plaintiff’s injuries. 9 person’s conclusion that Defendant could have seen Powell from the Subia may also opine that He may base that testimony on his lay United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 control booth, based on the photographs. 11 offer expert opinion regarding the view from the control booth of 12 the corridor. 13 such, any testimony he offers on this particular subject would be 14 based on photographs of the control booth that the jurors may view 15 for themselves. Subia may not, however, Subia has never visited the control booth and, as 16 Subia is also barred from testifying that Defendant’s 17 “inability to recall the search of the cell and subsequent 18 conversation” with Plaintiff is somehow “disingenuous” or an 19 “attempt to mislead this court about what actually occurred.” 20 Subia Report ¶ 23. 21 C. 22 23 24 25 26 27 R. MIL No. 3: Motion to Exclude Reference to Alleged Failures of CDCR to Produce Evidence This motion is GRANTED in part. As noted above, Plaintiff may present evidence of CDCR’s alleged failure to produce evidence only if it is relevant for impeachment purposes. D. MIL No. 4: Motion for an Order That Plaintiff Be Shackled for Trial This motion is GRANTED as unopposed. 28 6 E. 1 2 MIL No. 5: Motion to Exclude Undisclosed Expert Testimony This motion is GRANTED in part. Subia may testify that 3 Defendant “acted with disregard for Post Orders and her own 4 personal practice, and was highly trained to avoid this very 5 circumstance.” 6 opinion was plainly disclosed in Subia’s expert report. 7 Subia Rep. ¶¶ 25-30. 8 9 Docket No. 162, Pl.’s Witness List, at 1. This See R. Subia may not testify, however, that CDCR “staff members have at times taken retaliatory action against inmates for filing United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 formal complaints and that the facts and circumstances of this 11 case suggest that is what happened here.” 12 1. 13 its probative value is substantially outweighed by its prejudicial 14 effect. Pl.’s Witness List, at Although this opinion was disclosed in Subia’s expert report, This testimony is therefore inadmissible under Rule 403. 15 CONCLUSION 16 The parties’ motions in limine (Docket Nos. 173, 176) are 17 resolved as set forth above. 18 IT IS SO ORDERED. 19 20 21 Dated: July 8, 2013 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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