Garcia v. Mills et al

Filing 174

ORDER RE MOTIONS IN LIMINE.This order terminates docket nos. 121 , 123 , 124 , 125 , 129 , and 130 . Signed by Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. on 11/18/2022. (ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/18/2022)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 CENIOUS BREWSTER, Plaintiff, 8 v. United States District Court Northern District of California 9 Case No. 20-cv-03254-HSG ORDER RE MOTIONS IN LIMINE Re: Dkt. Nos. 121–25, 127–31 10 DANIEL T MILLS, et al., 11 Defendants. 12 Before the Court are the parties’ motions in limine, filed October 18, 2022. See Dkt. Nos. 13 14 121–25, 127–31. The parties filed oppositions on October 25, 2022. See Dkt. Nos. 135–39, 15 146–49. The Court held a hearing on November 8, 2022. See Dkt. No. 158. At the hearing, the 16 Court ruled on several motions on the record and directed the parties to file offers of proof 17 regarding the remaining motions. The parties have filed offers of proof and responses. See Dkt. 18 Nos. 163–64, 170–71. The following constitutes the Court’s rulings on the remaining motions. 19 I. PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS IN LIMINE 20 A. Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine No. 2: Criminal and Disciplinary History 21 The Court GRANTS in part, DENIES in part, and DEFERS in part Plaintiff’s Motion in 22 Limine No. 2 per the categories below. Dkt. No. 128. The Court emphasizes that any of the 23 preliminary rulings in this order are subject to reconsideration at trial depending on how the 24 parties present their evidence. With respect to this motion, for example, if Plaintiff opens the door 25 by testifying in a manner contradicted by the excluded records, that may be a basis for admitting 26 them. 27 28 i. Criminal History Record To the extent Plaintiff moves to exclude his prior felony convictions, the motion is 1 DENIED for the reasons stated on the record. The convictions fit squarely within the purpose 2 authorized by Federal Rules of Evidence 608 and 609, and Plaintiff sustained each conviction less 3 than ten years ago. See Fed. R. Evid. 608(b), 609(a)–(b). Given the centrality of witness 4 credibility in this case, the probative value of impeachment with these convictions is not 5 substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice or any other Rule 403 consideration. Defendants 6 may thus impeach Plaintiff with these convictions as provided in Rule 609 if he testifies, subject to 7 the standard limiting instruction cabining the purpose for which the jury can consider them. See 8 Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instruction 2.9. Plaintiff submits that if the Court admits this evidence, he would prefer that the United States District Court Northern District of California 9 10 information come in via stipulation rather than admission of certified copies of conviction records. 11 See Dkt. No. 171 at 3. That makes sense, and Plaintiff has proposed language the Court finds 12 appropriate. See id.1 The Court DIRECTS the parties to meet and confer and file by November 13 21, 2022 a trial stipulation tracking Plaintiff’s proposal to be read to the jury. The parties should 14 also prepare a corresponding modified Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instruction 2.9 reflecting 15 this concept, which the Court will read to the jury immediately after the trial stipulation. The 16 limiting instruction should not re-list all of the offenses, and should simply read “The evidence 17 that a witness has been convicted of a felony may be considered . . . .” 18 ii. Booking Cards 19 Defendants state they do not intend to introduce the 2019 booking card unless necessary 20 for impeachment or if Plaintiff opens the door. See Dkt. No. 163 at 3. The Court thus does not 21 need to address the admissibility of the 2019 booking card unless and until it becomes necessary. 22 As to the 2020 booking card, the motion is DENIED, assuming Defendants can properly 23 lay the foundation they proffer in their filings. The 2020 booking card is not hearsay because 24 Defendants do not intend to offer it to prove the truth of the matters asserted. See Fed. R. Evid. 25 801(c). As Defendants explain, the booking card is being introduced as evidence of what 26 Defendants reviewed and relied on to determine Plaintiff’s housing placement, and to explain how 27 28 1 Defendant proposes very similar language, Dkt. No. 163 at 2, but the Court finds that specifying whether the conviction was based on state or federal law is not necessary. 2 1 that information informed their later actions. See Dkt. No. 163 at 2–3. This evidence will again 2 be subject to a limiting instruction explaining that the jury is not to consider the card as evidence 3 of the truth of the events described in it, but rather only for the permissible nonhearsay purposes 4 described above. Plaintiff’s arguments about whether Defendants actually relied on the booking 5 card, Dkt. No. 171 at 3-5, go to foundation and may be a basis for cross-examination of defense 6 witnesses, but do not warrant exclusion of the document if an adequate foundation can be laid. United States District Court Northern District of California 7 iii. Jail Disciplinary History 8 The Court DEFERS ruling to the extent the motion seeks to exclude Plaintiff’s jail 9 disciplinary history. Except for Exhibit 102, it is unclear to the Court whether Defendants intend 10 to offer the records for the truth of the matter asserted. See Dkt. No. 163 at 3–5. The parties also 11 have only sparsely cited any case law on the question of whether the contents of jail disciplinary 12 records are subject to any hearsay exception, or conversely are treated like police reports (which in 13 the Court’s experience are generally treated as hearsay, whether or not they are formally business 14 records at the first level of hearsay analysis). The Court DIRECTS the parties to file 15 simultaneous supplemental briefs of no more than two pages addressing this issue by November 16 21, 2022. The parties should cite specific authority, preferably from the Supreme Court or the 17 Ninth Circuit, and secondarily from any other court of appeals. The Court will then address this 18 issue with the parties at the further pretrial conference on November 23, 2022. See Dkt. No. 158. 19 20 iv. Rules Violations Before April 15, 2020 For Exhibits 136 and 137, the Court GRANTS the motion to the extent Defendants offer 21 them as substantive evidence. The violations constitute prohibited propensity evidence under Rule 22 404(b)(1), and Defendants have not persuasively articulated any permitted purpose under Rule 23 404(b)(2). Defendants generically recite the 404(b) categories (such as motive, intent, and 24 knowledge), but do not explain how any of them apply, or are relevant. To the extent these 25 documents purportedly show that Plaintiff’s actions “were not inadvertent or a mistake,” Dkt. No. 26 163 at 6, mistake or inadvertence is not Plaintiff’s theory of the case, and Defendants’ description 27 is essentially no more than an assertion of propensity. Defendants also do not explain how 28 whatever marginal probative value the exhibits might have for those purposes is not substantially 3 1 outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, and waste of time that would result 2 from introducing evidence about these other incidents unrelated to the sole retaliation issue 3 remaining in the case. As to the March 24, 2020 incident report, Defendants’ offer of proof suggests that they do 4 5 not seek to introduce this evidence for its truth, but rather for the nonhearsay purpose of 6 explaining the deputies’ state of mind as it informed their actions. The Court DEFERS ruling on 7 the admissibility of this exhibit under that theory, and needs to discuss the issue in more detail at 8 the further pretrial conference. v. 9 The Court GRANTS the motion as to all violations after April 17, 2020. The violations 10 United States District Court Northern District of California Rules Violations After April 17, 2020 11 again constitute prohibited propensity evidence. See Fed. R. Evid. 404(b)(1). Defendants’ 12 argument that the violations tend to show Plaintiff’s behavior from April 15–17 was “not the result 13 of mistake or accident” under Rule 404(b)(2) is unpersuasive, as again there is currently no reason 14 to believe Plaintiff will argue his actions were the result of mistake or accident. 15 B. Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine No. 5: Antigay Harassment, Homophobia, Racism 16 The Court DEFERS ruling on Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine No. 5. Dkt. No. 131. The 17 Court directed Defendants to file an offer of proof regarding this motion. Defendants have not yet 18 done so. The Court will discuss this issue with the parties at the further pretrial conference, and 19 the parties need to be prepared to conclusively and clearly explain whether there is actually any 20 live issue with respect to this motion. The parties are directed to meet and confer on this point 21 before the further pretrial conference and make diligent and good faith efforts to clarify whether 22 any dispute remains as to this issue and resolve the motion by agreement if at all possible. 23 24 25 26 27 28 II. DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS IN LIMINE A. Defendant’s Motion in Limine No. 2: Other Claims, Complaints, Allegations, or Internal Affairs Lawsuits Related to Defendants The Court GRANTS in part and DEFERS in part Defendant’s Motion in Limine No. 2. Dkt. No. 122. Overall, the Court agrees with Plaintiff that the jury requires some understanding of the 4 1 harassment claim, which is necessary for them to assess the strength of Plaintiff’s claim that 2 Defendant Mills had a motive to retaliate. But Plaintiff will be limited to his own testimony about 3 what occurred as well as the video of Mills’s conduct. Plaintiff will not be limited to simply 4 testifying that he attempted to submit a grievance about his interaction, as Defendants request— 5 Plaintiff will be permitted to testify regarding his own experience of Mills’s conduct, to the 6 targeted extent proffered. To start, Defendants state they do not object to Exhibit 26, the Internal Affairs Policy, if United States District Court Northern District of California 7 8 Plaintiff establishes relevance. See Dkt. No. 170 at 3. The Court will address the admissibility of 9 the Policy if and when it becomes necessary. 10 For Exhibit 39, the Internal Affairs interview with Plaintiff, the Court agrees with 11 Defendants that it is hearsay, since a party is not permitted to introduce his own (as opposed to a 12 party opponent’s) out of court statement. See Fed. R. Evid. 801(c), 801(d)(2)(A); Forbes v. Cnty. 13 of Orange, No. SACV111330JGBANX, 2013 WL 12165672, at *8 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 4, 2013). And 14 Plaintiff’s out of court statement also does not qualify as a prior consistent statement, because it 15 was made after Plaintiff already had a motive to fabricate (i.e., when he was being questioned in 16 the context of an investigation of the incident). See Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(1)(B); Tome v. United 17 States, 513 U.S. 150, 167 (1995)). The Court thus GRANTS the motion as to Exhibit 39. The Court GRANTS the motion as to the following exhibits related to the Internal Affairs 18 19 investigation of Deputy Mills, Exhibits 38, 40–41, 45, 47, 49–50.2 Plaintiff argues that the 20 documents are offered to “establish timeline and investigation” and cites Federal Rule of Evidence 21 404(b)(2) without explanation or proffer. See Dkt. No. 164 at 3.3 Defendants correctly point out 22 that in Maddox v. City of Los Angeles, 792 F.2d 1408, 1417 (9th Cir. 1986), the Ninth Circuit 23 found that “[t]he Internal Affairs investigation and measures taken by the defendant City were 24 25 26 27 28 2 It is unclear to the Court which listed exhibit is the video of Deputy Mills. It appears to be Exhibit 53. The Court’s intention is to allow the video of Deputy Mills, but to the extent Exhibit 53 is a video of another deputy, the video will be excluded. 3 As Defendants correctly note, these documents are hearsay: they are being offered for the truth of the matter asserted and do not fall under any exception. See Fed. R. Evid. 801. Plaintiff does not proffer any appropriate non-hearsay purpose for offering these documents to “establish timeline and investigation.” 5 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 remedial measures taken after the incident,” such that “evidence of these proceedings was 2 therefore properly excluded with respect to the City’s liability” under Rule 403. While Plaintiff 3 suggests that Maddox only applies to municipal liability claims, or to instances in which there has 4 been actual discipline imposed as a result of the investigation, courts in this Circuit have not read 5 it so narrowly. See, e.g., Hernandez v. City of Los Angeles, No. 219CV00441CASGJSX, 2022 6 WL 16551705, at *4 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 1, 2022) (citing Maddox in finding that “insofar as the 7 plaintiff would offer evidence of the FID internal investigation to prove the officers’ liability, it is 8 appropriate to exclude such evidence as unduly prejudicial”). The Court agrees that admission of 9 these IA records would pose the exact risk of Rule 403 prejudice and confusion of issues 10 identified in Maddox and Hernandez, by necessitating what would amount to a mini-trial about the 11 investigation itself, and finds that they are properly excluded on that basis.4 For Exhibit 45, the interview with Deputy Mills, the Court DEFERS ruling for now. The 12 13 Court still does not understand Plaintiff’s theory for introducing the interview and will discuss this 14 exhibit with the parties at the further pretrial conference. Defendant should be prepared to address 15 why this exhibit is not admissible as an admission of an adverse party, and Plaintiff should be 16 prepared to address why the Court’s ruling excluding the other IA records does not equally apply 17 to this exhibit. For exhibits related to the Internal Affairs investigation of Deputy Prado and betting, 18 19 Exhibits 48, 54–60, 66, the Court GRANTS the motion. These documents are either hearsay, 20 irrelevant, or excludable for prejudice, confusion, or waste of time. See Fed. R. Evid. 401, 403, 21 801. Again, Plaintiff does not proffer any applicable exception or non-hearsay purpose. And any 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Plaintiff argues in his offer of proof that many of these documents will be used to “refresh memory if needed.” See, e.g., Dkt. No. 164 at 3. Any document (and indeed any object) can be used to refresh a witness’s recollection under Federal Rule of Evidence 612, but that is irrelevant to whether the document is admissible. The Court will strictly enforce appropriate procedure regarding any documents purportedly being used to refresh. For example, use of a document to refresh requires a showing of failure to recall. Then the witness reads the document silently (not aloud), puts it away, and then is asked if it refreshes his or her recollection. The Court will not permit inadmissible documents to be read into the record, by counsel or witnesses, under the guise of “refreshing recollection.” 4 6 1 theory of retaliation arising from Prado’s alleged behavior is not reasonably part of this case at this 2 late stage. Evidence related to these incidents is bound to confuse the issues and waste time at 3 trial. 4 B. Defendants’ Motion in Limine No. 3: Undisclosed Irrelevant Witnesses 5 Plaintiff withdrew Meredith Osborn as a witness at the hearing on November 8, 2022. The 6 remaining witnesses subject to this motion are Khalid Barrow and Agustin Garcia. The Court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion in Limine No. 3. Dkt. No. 123. Without United States District Court Northern District of California 7 8 dispute, Plaintiff did not disclose these witnesses as required under Federal Rule of Civil 9 Procedure 26(a). Plaintiff has not provided a persuasive argument that failure to disclose these 10 witnesses was “substantially justified” or “harmless.” Discovery in this case closed long ago, the 11 trial date is just over a week away, and it would be unfair and prejudicial for Plaintiff to call 12 witnesses that Defendant never had the opportunity to depose regarding the testimony Plaintiff 13 now seeks to elicit at trial. Plaintiff accordingly may not call these witnesses at trial. See Fed. R. 14 Civ. P. 37(c); Lanard Toys Ltd. v. Novelty, Inc., 375 F. App’x 705, 713 (9th Cir. 2010).5 15 C. Defendants’ Motion in Limine No. 4: Evidence Regarding Dismissed Claims 16 Defendants’ Motion in Limine No. 4 is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Dkt. 17 No. 124. The Court reiterates that Deputy Mills’s conduct is relevant, but that evidence should be 18 limited to the video of Deputy Mills and Plaintiff’s own testimony as described above. The parties 19 generally agree on this point. See Dkt. Nos. 164 at 7, 170 at 7–8. The Court will give the jury a 20 limiting instruction that they are not charged with deciding whether harassment did or did not 21 occur, but instead must consider this evidence only as it bears on whether Plaintiff has met his 22 burden of proving retaliation. 23 The remaining purportedly retaliatory acts Plaintiff identifies in his offer of proof, Dkt. No. 24 164 at 7–10, are excluded. The alleged retaliatory act at issue in this case is, and always has been, 25 solely the placement of Plaintiff in a safety cell for complaining about harassment. At bottom, 26 Plaintiff is, without basis, seeking to expand his claim to encompass several new theories of 27 28 5 As an unpublished Ninth Circuit decision, Lanard Toys is not precedent, but may be considered for its persuasive value. See Fed. R. App. P. 32.1; CTA9 Rule 36-3. 7 1 retaliation at an extraordinarily late stage of the case.6 2 D. Defendants’ Request to Dismiss Lt. Shannon 3 Defendants have asked the Court to dismiss Defendant Lt. Shannon. See Dkt. No. 170 at 4 10. This issue must be raised in a motion for judgment as a matter of law at the close of Plaintiff’s 5 case. The Court will not rule on what amounts to a very untimely motion for summary judgment 6 on the eve of trial. 7 III. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS in part, DENIES in part, and DEFERS in part the 8 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 CONCLUSION parties’ motions in limine. This order terminates Docket Nos. 121, 123, 124, 125, 129, and 130. 10 The Court DIRECTS the parties to meet and confer and file a trial stipulation to be read to the 11 jury by November 21, 2022. The parties should also prepare a corresponding modified Ninth 12 Circuit Model Civil Jury Instruction 2.9 as directed above. The Court DIRECTS the parties to 13 file the above-described simultaneous supplemental briefing of no more than two pages with 14 applicable case law on the admissibility of jail disciplinary records by November 21, 2022. The 15 parties should be prepared to discuss the issues noted above at the further pretrial conference on 16 November 23, 2022. IT IS SO ORDERED. 17 18 Dated: 11/18/2022 ______________________________________ HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 Further, the Court has serious doubts as to whether the identified acts even rise to the level of adverse actions sufficient to support a retaliation claim. See Dkt. No. 164 at 8–10 (identifying delay in investigation, giving Plaintiff “the finger,” and spreading rumors as additional retaliatory acts). 8

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