United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
C. Nye U.S. District Court Judge.
matter comes before the Court on five Motions in Limine filed
by Plaintiff Nova Miller in anticipation of a seven-day trial
scheduled to begin on April 23, 2018. Dkts. 42-46. As
explained below, the Court finds good cause to GRANT IN PART
some of the motions, DENY some of the motions, and postpone
ruling on the merits of some of the motions until trial.
factual background of this case was set forth in the
Court's Memorandum Decision and Order granting in part
and denying in part Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment. Dkt. 28. The Court incorporates that background in
full by reference.
in limine are well-established devices that streamline trials
and settle evidentiary disputes in advance, so that trials
are not interrupted mid-course for the consideration of
lengthy and complex evidentiary issues.” United
States v. Tokash, 282 F.3d 962, 968 (7th Cir. 2002).
“The term ‘in limine' means ‘at the
outset.' A motion in limine is a procedural mechanism to
limit in advance testimony or evidence in a particular
area.” United States v. Heller, 551 F.3d 1108,
1111 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 803
(8th ed. 2004)). Because “[a]n in limine order
precluding the admission of evidence or testimony is an
evidentiary ruling, ” United States v.
Komisaruk, 885 F.2d 490, 493 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation
omitted) “a district court has discretion in ruling on
a motion in limine.” United States v. Ravel,
930 F.2d 721, 726 (9th Cir. 1991). Further, in limine rulings
are preliminary and, therefore, “are not binding on the
trial judge [who] may always change his mind during the
course of a trial.” Ohler v. United States,
529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3 (2000).
Jack Miller's Criminal Record
first motion in limine, Miller seeks to exclude from trial
evidence of Jack Miller's criminal conduct. Jack Miller
is Miller's husband and prior supervisor. In October
2013, when Jack Miller was the Lemhi County landfill manager,
a landfill employee reported to the Lemhi County Treasurer
that he suspected Jack Miller had placed tires purchased by
the County onto Miller's vehicle. The County
Sheriff's Office began investigating and, shortly
thereafter, Jack Miller admitted that he purchased the tires
with County funds and had retained cash received from
recycling materials for personal use. On November 6, 2013,
the County terminated Jack Miller based on the theft of
County money and property. On April 17, 2014, Jack Miller was
arraigned in state district court in Lemhi County on criminal
theft charges. On August 21, 2014, the State of Idaho and
Jack Miller entered into a Plea Agreement under which he pled
guilty to grand theft. On November 20, 2014, the state court
entered an Order Withholding Judgment and Order of Probation.
summary judgment stage, the Court struck from the record
written evidence of Jack Miller's criminal information
and withheld judgment presented by the County under Federal
Rule of Evidence 401, because the evidence lacked relevance,
and under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), because it was
impermissible character evidence.Miller now asks the Court to
reaffirm this ruling and exclude evidence of Jack
Miller's criminal conduct from trial for four reasons:
(1) lack of relevance under Rule 401; (2) impermissible
character evidence under Rule 404(b); (3) improper
impeachment evidence under Rule 609; and (4)
prejudice/confusion of the issues under Rule 403.
County has made clear that it “has no intention of
challenging Magistrate Dale's F.R.E. 401 and 404
rulings.” Dkt. 51, at 2. However, the County argues
that if Jack Miller testifies at trial the Court should allow
it to present evidence of his criminal conduct under Federal
Rule of Evidence 609. This Rule provides, in relevant part:
(a) In General. The following rules apply to attacking a
witness's character for truthfulness by evidence of a
(1) for a crime that, in the convicting jurisdiction, was
punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one
year, the evidence:
(A) must be admitted, subject to Rule 403, in a civil case or
in a criminal case in which the witness is not a defendant;
. . .
(2) for any crime regardless of the punishment, the evidence
must be admitted if the court can readily determine that
establishing the elements of the crime required proving ___or
the witness's admitting ___ a dishonest act or false
Fed. R. Evid. 609.
first argues that any evidence of Jack Miller's criminal
conduct is inadmissible under Rule 609 because, although he
pled guilty, the judgment against him was withheld, and under
the Idaho Rules of Evidence, “[e]vidence of a withheld
judgment or a vacated judgment shall not be admitted as a
conviction.” I.R.E. 609(c). This argument requires the
Court to consider whether Idaho Rule of Evidence 609 applies
in this case. Generally, “federal courts sitting in
diversity apply state substantive law and federal procedural
law.” Feldman v. Allstate Ins. Co., 322 F.3d
660, 666 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Erie R.R. v.
Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). “Most
evidentiary rules are ...