Vega v. Rell et al
ORDER denying Defendants' 220 Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's 219 Order denying the Defendants' Motion in Limine as to criminal convictions. See the attached order. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 12/3/13. (Ives, D)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
JOE BURGOS VEGA,
M. JODI RELL, et al.,
CASE NO. 3:09-cv-737 (VLB)
December 3, 2013
RULING DENYING [Doc. #220] DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
By motion dated May 7, 2013 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
60(b) and Local Rule 7(c), the defendants move for reconsideration of the court’s
May 1, 2013 order denying their Motion in Limine to Admit Plaintiff’s Criminal
Conviction. [Dkt. 219]. The movant submits that the court’s ruling is contrary to
Federal Rule of Evidence 609 and case law and that they should be permitted to
introduce “essential facts” of the plaintiff’s two prior felony convictions solely for
the purpose of impeaching his credibility.
Reconsideration will be granted only if the moving party can identify
controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked and that would reasonably
be expected to alter the court’s decision. See Schrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70
F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). A motion for reconsideration may not be used to relitigate an issue the court already has decided. See SPGGC, Inc. v. Blumenthal,
408 F. Supp. 2d 87, 91 (D. Conn. 2006), aff’d in part and vacated in part on other
grounds, 505 F.3d 188 (2d Cir. 2007).
Here, the defendants’ motion asserts that the court erred because it did not
rule on a basis of law to which the Defendants did not cite in the first instance.
Specifically, the defendants contend that the court should reconsider the matter
and allow the defendants to offer the evidence based on the previously uncited
Federal Rule of Evidence 609. Defendants seek to re-litigate a matter previously
raised and on which the court has already ruled. Defendants cite to no
intervening law or cited law or facts which the court overlooked. The defendants
are not entitled to reconsideration.
Notwithstanding that the defendants are not entitled to reconsideration, the
court addresses the merits of their argument. Defendants argue for the first time
that any offense is admissible in a civil case if the plaintiff is serving a sentence
for that offense at the time of the trial. While the defendants contend that the
plain language of Rule 609 makes the conviction admissible, the court’s reading
of the Rule does not support that interpretation.
Defendants also argue that the convictions are admissible because this is a
civil case and these offenses are felonies. Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)
establishes two thresholds which must be met before a prior felony conviction
may be admitted in evidence in a civil case:
(a) In General. The following rules apply to attacking a witness’s
character for truthfulness by evidence of a criminal conviction:
(1) for a crime that, in the convicting jurisdiction, was punishable
by death or by imprisonment for more than one year, the evidence:
(A) must be admitted, subject to Rule 403, in a civil case or in a
criminal case in which the witness is not a defendant; and
(B) must be admitted in a criminal case in which the witness is a
defendant, if the probative value of the evidence outweighs its
prejudicial effect to that defendant.
Fed. R. Evid. 609(a)(1)(A). First, the conviction must be for a felony. Second, the
probative value must outweigh the prejudicial effect, subject to the Rule 403
balancing test. Thus the mere fact that the conviction was a felony is not
ineluctably determinate of its admissibility.
Federal Rule of Evidence 403 provides:
The court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the
following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury,
undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative
Fed. R. Evid. 403. Thus, the Court's threshold inquiry is whether the evidence is
relevant. Defendants seek to introduce the Plaintiff's convictions for drug,
assault and sexual assault offenses for impeachment purposes. As the plaintiff
was convicted of drug and assault offenses, rather than fraud, larceny,
embezzlement, obstruction, perjury or other like offenses involving dishonesty or
untruthfulness, and further as defendants have not cited to any facts surrounding
plaintiff’s commission of the offenses thereby enabling the court to determine
whether they were committed under circumstances tending to bear on the
plaintiff’s propensity for dishonesty, the defendants have failed to make a
threshold showing of relevancy.
The Notes of Advisory Committee on Proposed Rules of Evidence provide
that even where the evidence is relevant, which Defendants here have not
established, “‘[u]nfair prejudice’ within its context means an undue tendency to
suggest decision on an improper basis, commonly, though not necessarily, an
emotional one.” Public sentiment toward drug and sex offenders is among the
most vehemently negative. In view of the absence of any showing of relevance,
this evidence can only be expected to create a serious risk that a jury would be
unfairly prejudiced against the plaintiff and reach a decision on an improper
The court finds the cases cited by the defendants distinguishable from the
present matter. In James v. Tilghman, 194 F.R.D. 402, 405 (D. Conn. 1999), the
court determined that the defendant’s convictions were fundamental to the
prisoner’s claim against his housing designation as they were relevant to the
Department of Correction’s housing determination. Reliance upon Morello v.
James, 797 F. Supp. 223, 228 (W.D.N.Y. 1992) is misplaced. In that case, the court
found that a conviction for rape and abuse of the plaintiff’s children relevant to
his credibility. Although that court did not divulge the details of the defendants
underlying conviction, the brief discussion indicates that the defendant’s
conviction was for an ongoing practice of moral depravity and that he had an
incentive to disclose falsehoods.
In sum, defendants have failed twice to establish that either of the
convictions they seek to admit is less prejudicial than probative, nor have they
persuaded the court that their prejudicial effect cannot be minimized. The
Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration [Doc. #220] is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: December 3, 2013.
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