United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER CONCERNING DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO
EXCLUDE IMPROPER OPINION EVIDENCE [DOC. #98]
Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge.
INTRODUCTION and BACKGROUND
Government alleges Defendant James Warner schemed to defraud
the Wayne County Airport Authority. It alleges he: (1)
provided, in his capacity as field inspector and supervisor
for maintenance and repair projects at Detroit Metropolitan
Airport, confidential and proprietary information to
companies which allowed them to secure facilities and
maintenance contracts; (2) drafted and submitted inflated
invoices; and (3) concealed mistakes, in exchange for
Count Nine of the Indictment, the Government alleges Warner,
in his capacity as an agent and officer of West Bloomfield
Township, corruptly solicited, demanded, and agreed to accept
a thing of value from a co-defendant, intending to be
influenced and rewarded in connection with transactions of
the West Bloomfield Water and Sewer Department.
asks this Court to preclude Government lay witnesses from
expressing opinions or legal conclusions pursuant to
Fed.R.Evid. 701. The Government concurs. Accordingly, the
Court GRANTS Warner's motion in
in the Government's response, it says it intends to ask
current and former Wayne County Airport Authority and West
Bloomfield Township employees hypothetical questions related
to Warner's alleged conduct. Warner objects.
Court declines to broadly preclude hypothetical questioning.
However, it reserves its ruling on specific questions until
STANDARD OF REVIEW
courts have broad discretion over matters regarding the
admissibility of evidence at trial. United States v.
Seago, 930 F.2d 482, 494 (6th Cir. 1991).
“Although the Federal Rules of Evidence do not
explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice
has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent
authority to manage the course of trials.” Luce v.
United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4 (1984). “A
ruling on a motion in limine is no more than a
preliminary, or advisory opinion that falls entirely within
the discretion of the district court.” United
States v. Yannott, 42 F.3d 999, 1007 (6th Cir. 1994).
Motions in limine may promote “evenhanded and
expeditious management of trials by excluding evidence that
is clearly inadmissible for any purpose.” Indiana
Ins. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir.
1975). Courts should rarely grant motions in limine
that “exclude broad categories of evidence.”
Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d
708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975). The “better practice is to
deal with questions of admissibility when they arise.”
Government intends to ask witnesses employed by the Wayne
County Airport Authority, (“WCAA”), and West
Bloomfield Township at the same time as Warner, hypothetical
“what would you have done” questions. They
include: (1) whether the WCAA would have approved Warner to
engage in consulting services for, or receive payments from,
outside vendors; and (2) whether West Bloomfield Township
would have awarded vendor contracts and/or authorized vendor
payments had they known Warner was, allegedly, receiving
payments for work performed.
opposes this line of questioning. He says if a current or
former employee hypothetically testifies that he would not
have approved his work, this would “telegraph” to
the jury that the work was illegal or unethical and introduce
legal conclusions into evidence.
Court will not broadly preclude the Government from asking
all “what would you have done” hypothetical
questions. Current and former employees may testify based on
particularized knowledge acquired through employment.
United States v. Kerley, 784 F.3d 327, 340 (6th Cir.
2015); see United States v. Whaley, 860 F.Supp.2d
584. Such testimony fits within the parameters of Fed.R.Evid.
602 and 701 and does not fall within the scope of 702.
See Fed. R. Evid. 701 advisory committee's note
to 2000 amendments. (“Such opinion testimony is
admitted not because of experience, training, or specialized
knowledge within the realm of an expert, but because of the
particularized knowledge that the witness has by virtue of
his or her position in the business.”).
while the Court accepts this principle of law, it reserves
its ruling until ...