Judge Lefkow's Motion In Limine Rulings In Cornelius Ware v. City of Chicago

A February 12, 2007 post on this blog reports on the City's $5 million plus settlement with the family of Cornelius Ware. Below is a summary of Judge Lefkow's motion in limine rulings in the case: (1) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bifurcate liability and damages at trial - GRANTED. (2) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar certain references to facts not known at the time of the shooting - GRANTED. (3) Plaintiff's motion in limine to exclude certain expert opinions of Vincent DiMaio - GRANTED. (4) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar any reference to the fact that Cornelius Ware was previously the victim of gun violence - GRANTED. (5) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar the medical examiner from providing undisclosed opinion testimony - GRANTED. (6)(7) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar any references to tatoos on Cornelius Ware's body and Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to any allegations that plaintiff or any other witness was ever in a gang - GRANTED. (8) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to certain irrelevant subjects: (A) plaintiff's prior attorneys - GRANTED; (B) accidental shooting - EXCLUDED until further order of the court; (C) purported shootings in nearby park - GRANTED. (9) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar undisclosed witnesses from testifying at trial - GRANTED. (10) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to Cook County Adult Probation Department "Investigative Report" - GRANTED. (11) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to IDOC records - GRANTED. (12) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to Cornelius Ware's prior arrests and conviction - GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. (1) Defendants' motion to bar medical examiner's death certificate and use of the term "homicide" - GRANTED. (2) Defendants' motion to bar evidence of violation of Chicago Police Department Orders, Rules and Regulations - DENIED. (3) Defendants' motion to bar evidence of prior lawsuit and/or citizen complaints against defendants and any non-defendant police witnesses - GRANTED. (4) Defendants' motion to bar testimony or evidence suggesting that the defendants may be indemnified for compensatory damages - Ruling is RESERVED. (5) Defendants' motion to bar Fraternal Order of Police Disclaimer in Official Reports - DENIED. (6) Defendants' motion to bar evidence or argument suggesting a "code of silence" among police officers - Ruling is RESERVED. (7) Defendants' motion to bar evidence and argument regarding other events concerning allegations of police misconduct - GRANTED. (8) Defendants' motion to bar evidence and argument regarding Monell Claims - GRANTED. (9) Defendants' motion to bar evidence and argument that plaintiff has independent claims for relief or damages - GRANTED. (10) Defendants' motion to exclude witnesses - GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

Thompson v. City of Chicago - Seventh Circuit Affirms Motion In Limine Rulings

On December 5, 2000, James Thompson died after he struggled with police officers who were trying to handcuff him. The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled Thompson's death a homicide, concluding that Thompson died at least in part from a "choke hold." Thompson's mother and wife filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois against the City of Chicago and eleven Chicago Police Officers. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated Thompson's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by using excessive force. Prior to trial, the defendants filed several motions in limine including motions seeking to bar the plaintiffs from introducing: (1) the opinion testimony of officers from the CPD's Office of Professional Standards concerning their investigation into Thompson's death and (2) the CPD's General Orders, practices and policies (or the Officers failure to act in accordance with those Orders, practices and policies). The District Court judge, the Honorable Amy J. St. Eve, granted the motions and the case proceeded to trial. The jury found in favor of the defendants. Plaintiffs appealed, claiming the District Court erred in granting the motions in limine. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that "[i]n this case, the text of the CPD's General Orders pertaining to the use of force would not have been of any consequence whatsoever and would have failed to advance the inquiry into whether Officer Hespe violated Thompson's Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force in apprehending him." The court stated that "[w]hether Officer Hespe's conduct conformed with the internal CPD General Orders concerning the use of force on an assailant was irrelevant to the jury's determination of whether his actions on December 5, 2000 were 'objectively reasonable' under the Fourth Amendment." Finally, the court affirmed the District Court's exclusion of expert testimony concerning excessive force, stating "whatever insight Inspector Lukas and Sgt. Campbell might have had into whether or why Officer Hespe used excessive force would have been of little value except as to possibly causing confusion and bore a substantial risk of prejudice." The opinion was authored by Judge Coffey and joined by Judges Evans and Williams.