Williams v. City of Tupelo, Mississippi
ORDER deferring ruling on 86 Motion in Limine; granting in part and deferring in part 87 Motion in Limine. Signed by District Judge Sharion Aycock on 1/12/2012. (kmc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO.:1:09CV102-SA-DAS
CITY OF TUPELO, MISSISSIPPI
Presently before the Court are Motions In Limine [86, 87] filed by Defendant City of
Tupelo. Through these motions, Defendant seeks to exclude evidence concerning the City of
Tupelo’s hiring practices as well as evidence regarding events involving previous lawsuits,
specifically a lawsuit filed by Bryant Stubbs, filed against Defendant.
a. Hiring Practices
Plaintiff, Latana Williams, was conditionally hired as an office with the Tupelo police
force pending her successful completion of the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training
Center. The decision to hire Plaintiff was made by then police chief, Harold Chaffin. Defendant
contends that Chaffin also made the decision to terminate Plaintiff. According to Defendant, the
“same actor inference” should apply and exclude Plaintiff from presenting evidence of the City’s
hiring practices. Under the so-called “same actor” doctrine, when the same decision maker both
hires and terminates an employee, the defendant employer is entitled to an inference that the
termination decision was not motivated by a discriminatory reason. See Faruki v. Parsons S.I.P.,
Inc., 123 F.3d 315, 321 n.3 (5th Cir. 1997) ("Where, as here, the same actor hires and fires an
employee, an inference that discrimination was not the employer's motive in terminating the
employee is created."); Sreeram v. Louisiana State Univ. Med. Ctr.-Shreveport, 188 F.3d 314,
321 (5th Cir. 1999) (same); Nieto v. L&H Packing Co., 108 F.3d 621, 624 (5th Cir. 1997) (same1
actor inference). However, this “same actor inference” is inapposite to Defendant’s motion in
limine, as the doctrine is (of course) not a rule of evidence. Further, as has been consistently
argued, Plaintiff’s theory here is that, while Chaffin may not himself have a racial bias, he was
allegedly influenced by other officers who displayed such animus.
Defendant additionally asserts that the hiring practices of Tupelo are irrelevant to
Plaintiff’s claim, as Plaintiff was indeed conditionally hired by the City. In response to this,
Plaintiff asserts that the Fifth Circuit, when ruling on this case, relied upon evidence of
Defendant’s hiring practices.1 Plaintiff also avers that Defendant’s motion in limine essentially
forces Plaintiff to make an election of theories, which is contrary to the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Because the Court needs more information on the specifics of how Plaintiff would
intend on using any given hiring practice of the City, if such evidence was deemed admissible,
the Court defers ruling on this motion until trial.
b. Prior Lawsuits
Defendant next seeks to limit Plaintiff or her counsel from eliciting testimony or
presenting evidence regarding any events involving Bryant Stubbs or any other previous lawsuits
filed against the City of Tupelo. As background, the Court notes that—in a separate action—
Bryant Stubbs, an African-American male, filed suit against the City of Tupelo alleging race
discrimination in regards to his treatment at the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training
Specifically, the Fifth Circuit stated as follows,
In addition to Williams, the cadet class consisted of sixteen men: three
black and thirteen white. Since 2004, TPD has hired seven black males,
including the three in Williams's class, but no black females. Only one
black woman has graduated from the Academy since 2004, and she was
not a TPD hire. From Williams's class, nine cadets—all white males—
Williams v. City of Tupelo, 414 F. App’x 689, 691 (5th Cir. 2011).
Center in October of 2008. Stubbs’ complaints concerned his treatment during the physical
exercise portion at the training center, and such allegations did not relate to his gender. The
lawsuit was eventually settled. Defendant asserts that any evidence concerning the Bryant
Stubbs lawsuit is not only irrelevant, but also prejudicial.
Plaintiff responds by conceding that “evidence concerning Stubbs’ filing suit or the
settlement of that suit is not relevant.” Given this, Defendant’s motion is granted insofar as it
relates to the filing of the lawsuit or the settlement of the same. Yet, Plaintiff goes on to assert
that she should not be prohibited from presenting evidence related to the treatment of Stubbs or
any other African American. According to Plaintiff, such evidence is admissible under Federal
Rule of Evidence 404(b), which permits evidence of other acts as proof of motive and intent.
Before such evidence concerning Bryant Stubbs will be deemed admissible, or inadmissible, the
Court will first hear from the parties on this issue. Parties should be prepared for a hearing on
this issue at trial. Accordingly, Defendant’s motion is granted in part and deferred in part.
So ordered on this, the _12th__ day of __January__, 2012.
/s/ Sharion Aycock
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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