United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
R. Grand United States Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION IN
D. Borman United States District Judge.
First Amendment retaliation action, Defendants City of Flint
(the “City”) and Alvern Lock
have filed one Motion in Limine, seeking to exclude
from trial any argument or evidence that falls within certain
specified categories. Plaintiff William Surface only contests
Defendants' Motion as to one of those categories:
evidence regarding Defendant Lock's purported statement
in March 2011 that Chad Baldwin, formerly a plaintiff in this
action, was transferred out of a particular position because
Defendants “needed a black female” in the job.
Plaintiff's concurrence with the other aspects of the
instant Motion in Limine, and because this Court
concludes that evidence within the single challenged category
would be more prejudicial than probative under Federal Rule
of Evidence 403, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion
in Limine in full.
lawsuit, originally captioned as Garceau v. City of
Flint, et al., was filed on December 17, 2012 by ten
City of Flint police officers against the City, former Flint
police chief Alvern Lock, and former Flint police captain
Darryl Patterson. (ECF No. 1, Compl.) Initially, the
plaintiffs asserted three causes of action: reverse race
discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983,
Fourteenth Amendment harassment and/or retaliation under the
same two statutes, and First Amendment retaliation under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. The discrimination claim was premised on
allegations that Defendants unconstitutionally favored black
officers over white officers in terms of promotions and
appointments, and the harassment and retaliation claims were
based on allegations that Defendants retaliated against a
subset of the Plaintiffs in various ways for opposing
Defendants' allegedly discriminatory conduct (including
by filing this lawsuit). (See Id. at 4-11, Pg ID 4-
Surface (hereinafter “Plaintiff) was
added as a party to this action via the First Amended
Complaint on December 12, 2012. (ECF No. 5.) The parties and
claims in this lawsuit have changed several times since then.
The most recent development in that regard occurred on August
31, 2016, when this Court entered an Opinion and Order
granting in part and denying in part two Motions for Summary
Judgment that had been filed by Defendants. (ECF No. 65.) The
ultimate effect of that Opinion and Order was the dismissal
of all parties and claims in the action except for Plaintiffs
First Amendment retaliation claim against two of the original
three Defendants (the City and Lock). That claim is grounded
in allegations that as an act of retaliation for the
constitutionally protected activity of participating in this
lawsuit, Plaintiff was subjected to an unjustified 29-day
disciplinary suspension in October 2013. The City's
justification for the suspension, which Plaintiff claims is
bogus, is that Plaintiff used unreasonable force when he
participated in the arrest of a man suspected of assault
during the City's Back to Bricks festival on August 13,
2013. (ECF No. 47, 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 88-103.) The
suspension was subsequently overturned in a grievance
arbitration on January 26, 2015. (ECF No. 59, Ex. 25.)
trial in this action is currently scheduled for October 16,
2017. On May 8, 2017, Defendants filed the instant Motion
in Limine, which the parties have fully briefed.
(ECF No. 70, Defs.' Mot.; ECF No. 72, Pl.'s Resp.;
ECF No. 73, Defs.' Repl.) This Court conducted a hearing
on the instant Motion in Limine in conjunction with
the final pretrial conference in this matter on July 25,
2017, and is now prepared to rule on the Motion.
federal procedural and evidentiary rules that govern
proceedings before this Court, as well as the cases
interpreting those rules, “all encourage, and in some
cases require, parties and the court to utilize extensive
pretrial procedures -including motions in limine -
in order to narrow the issues remaining for trial and to
minimize disruptions at trial.” United States v.
Brawner, 173 F.3d 966, 970 (6th Cir. 1999); see also
Louzon v. Ford Motor Co., 718 F.3d 556, 560 (6th Cir.
2013) (“A motion in limine is any motion, whether made
before or during trial, to exclude anticipated prejudicial
evidence before the evidence is actually offered.”
(internal quotation marks omitted)).
in limine typically involve matters which ought to
be excluded from the jury's consideration due to some
possibility of prejudice or as a result of previous rulings
by the Court.” Provident Life & Acc. Ins. Co.
v. Adie, 176 F.R.D. 246, 250 (E.D. Mich. 1997). District
courts have broad discretion over matters involving the
admissibility of evidence at trial. See United States v.
Seago, 930 F.2d 482, 494 (6th Cir. 1991).
“[I]n limine rulings are not binding on the
trial judge, and the judge may always change his mind during
the course of a trial.” Ohler v. United
States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3 (2000) (citing Luce v.
United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41-42 (1984)).
The Court will exclude evidence within the categories
specified in the uncontested items 1-5 and 7-9 of
Defendants' Motion in Limine.
categories of evidence that Defendants seek to exclude,
Plaintiff represents that all but one are uncontested, though
he does “reserve the right to seek this Court's
permission to introduce any of those matters should
Defendants or Defense Counsel ‘open the door' to
its relevance.” (Pl.'s Resp. at 6, Pg ID 4925.) The
uncontested categories, as described by Defendants in the
instant Motion in Limine, are as follows:
Citizens Service Bureau & Middleton v. City of Flint
Comments regarding the Nigger Beating Crew ("NBC")
and Defendant Lock saying that he is going to "kick
[former plaintiff ...