Boxum-Debolt et al v. Shawnee County District Attorney's Office et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER overruling 152 Motion for New Trial. Signed by District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil on 06/29/2017. (cv)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
KRYSTAL L. BOXUM-DEBOLT and
LISA ANNE MOORE,
MIKE KAGAY, in his official capacity
as District Attorney for the Third District
of the State of Kansas,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Krystal L. Boxum-Debolt and Lisa Anne Moore bring suit against Mike Kagay in his official
capacity as the District Attorney for the Third Judicial District of Kansas, asserting claims for gender
discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”),
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. From January 9 to 13, 2017, the Court conducted a jury trial which
resulted in a verdict in favor of defendant. See Verdict (Doc. #149) filed January 13, 2017. This
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Motion For New Trial And Supporting Memorandum
(Doc. #152) filed February 14, 2017. For reasons stated below, the Court overrules plaintiffs’
In deciding whether to grant a motion for new trial, the Court exercises broad discretion.1
See Unit Drilling Co. v. Enron Oil & Gas Co., 108 F.3d 1186, 1194 (10th Cir. 1997). The Court
Pursuant to Rule 59, Fed. R. Civ. P., the Court may grant a new trial “for any reason
for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a)(1)(A).
generally regards motions for new trial with disfavor and grants them only with great caution.2 See
Franklin v. Thompson, 981 F.2d 1168, 1171 (10th Cir. 1992); Utility Trailer Sales of Kansas City,
Inc. v. MAC Trailer Mfg., Inc., 734 F. Supp.2d 1210, 1216 (D. Kan. 2010). The party seeking to
set aside a jury verdict must demonstrate prejudicial trial error or that the verdict is not based on
substantial evidence. Anderson v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 861 F.2d 631, 637 (10th Cir. 1988),
overruled on other grounds by Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 604 (1993); White v. Conoco,
Inc., 710 F.2d 1442, 1443 (10th Cir. 1983). Where a party seeks a new trial based on insufficient
evidence, the verdict must stand unless it is clearly, decidedly or overwhelmingly against the weight
of the evidence. See May v. Interstate Moving & Storage Co., 739 F.2d 521, 525 (10th Cir. 1984).
In reviewing a motion for new trial, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the
prevailing party. See Griffin v. Strong, 983 F.3d 1544, 1546 (10th Cir. 1993). The Court ignores
errors that do not affect the essential fairness of the trial. McDonough Power Equip., Inc. v.
Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548, 553 (1984).
Plaintiffs urge the Court to order a new trial. Plaintiffs assert that at trial, the overwhelming
weight of evidence demonstrated that the previous district attorney, Chadwick Taylor, fired them
because of gender and/or in retaliation for opposition to gender and race discrimination. See
Plaintiffs’ Motion For A New Trial And Supporting Memorandum (Doc. #152) at 3-17. Also,
plaintiffs assert that the Court committed prejudicial error by allowing defendant to present evidence
The right to trial by jury is a fundamental principle of our legal system. See Jacob
v. City of N.Y., 315 U.S. 752, 752-53 (1942) (right to jury trial in civil cases basic and fundamental
feature of our legal system; courts should jealously guard right so fundamental and sacred to
regarding the personal staff exemption under Title VII3 and Moore’s sexual orientation.4 See id. at
Upon careful review of plaintiffs’ arguments and the evidence presented at trial, the Court
overrules plaintiffs’ motion for substantially the reasons stated in defendant’s Response To Motion
For New Trial (Doc. #159) filed April 11, 2017. In particular, the Court finds that substantial
evidence supports the jury verdict. See id. at 2-7. Based on evidence presented at trial, the jury
could reasonably conclude that Taylor decided to fire plaintiffs based on their distasteful emails and
Sue Murphy’s statements regarding plaintiffs’ contribution to dysfunction in the victim/witness unit,
and not because of discriminatory and/or retaliatory intent. See id. In addition, the Court finds that
evidence regarding the personal staff exemption and Moore’s sexual orientation was relevant to the
issues at hand and did not unduly prejudice plaintiffs. See id. at 8-12.
Defendant asserted that plaintiffs could not assert claims under Title VII because they
were members of Taylor’s personal staff and therefore did not constitute “employees” under the
statute. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(f) (definition of “employee” excludes any person chosen by elected
officer to serve on personal staff). The Court submitted the issue to the jury, which rejected this
defense and found in favor of plaintiffs on that issue. See Verdict (Doc. #147) at 2-3.
Defendant asserted that Taylor fired plaintiffs because of their negative work
attitudes, including certain emails that they exchanged at work. In the emails, plaintiffs made
derogatory comments about co-workers and discussed their own drunken conduct at local bars,
including Moore’s love interests in other women. Plaintiffs sought to redact statements regarding
Moore’s sexual orientation. The Court found that redacting the emails would change their character
and substance and that knowledge of Moore’s sexual orientation would not unduly prejudice the
IT THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion For New Trial And Supporting
Memorandum (Doc. #152) filed February 14, 2017 is OVERRULED.
Dated this 29th day of June, 2017 at Kansas City, Kansas.
s/ Kathryn H. Vratil
KATHRYN H. VRATIL
United States District Judge
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