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Rice v. City of Boise City

United States District Court, D. Idaho

April 5, 2018

LEE ARTHUR RICE II, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BOISE CITY; COUNTY OF ADA; CITY OF MERIDIAN; IDAHO STATE POLICE; STATE OF IDAHO; JANET MURAKAMI; and JOHN DOES 1-20, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

         INTRODUCTION

          B. Lynn Winmill Chief U.S. District Court Judge.

         The Court has before it several pre-trial motions filed by both parties. The motions are fully briefed and at issue. The Court will explain its ruling on each motion below.

         LITIGATION BACKGROUND

         In 2011, Idaho State Trooper Janet Murakami pulled plaintiff Lee Arthur Rice over for failing to signal a lane change. When she asked him to turn over his driver's license, he refused. When she informed him he was under arrest, he refused to get out of the car. As Rice remained seated in his car, Officer Murakami called in a Code 3 alarm, signally that she was exposed to a life or death situation. Immediately, seventeen officers responded. Predictably, they used aggressive force to pull Rice from the car, push him to the ground, and place him in handcuffs. During this time - referred to as the scrum - several officers were involved in restraining Rice while he was on the ground. Rice alleges that even though he was not resisting arrest, the officers struck him, kneed him in the back, and wrenched his arms and shoulders, causing permanent injury. The officers dispute that account, and claim Rice was resisting arrest.

         Rice originally sued Officer Murikami and the other officers who responded to her call for help. Decisions by this Court and the Ninth Circuit establish that: (1) the traffic stop was lawful; (2) Officer Murikami was entitled to qualified immunity for requiring Rice to surrender his license; (3) the arrest of Rice did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights; (4) the forcible removal of Rice from his car did not constitute excessive force; (4) the “take-down” of Rice by Officers Morehouse and Shaffer did not constitute excessive force; and (5) Officer Murikami is entitled to qualified immunity and was dismissed as a defendant, The only remaining issue is whether the four remaining defendants - Officers Abercrombie, Hill, Morehouse and Shaffer - used excessive force on Rice while restraining and handcuffing him during the scrum. Trial is set for April 23, 2018. With that background, the Court will turn to the pending pre-trial motions.

         ANALYSIS

         Rice's Motion in Limine re Witness Murikami

         Rice intends to call Officer Murikami as a witness, and asks the Court to deem her a hostile witness and allow leading questions. Rule of Evidence 611(c)(2) allows leading questions “when a party calls a hostile witness . . . or a witness identified with an adverse party.” Officer Murakami was a defendant in this case but was dismissed because she had qualified immunity. She is certainly a “witness identified with an adverse party” and hence Rice will be allowed to ask her leading questions under Rule 611(c)(2). The motion shall be granted.

         Defendants' Second Motion in Limine

         Defendants seek to exclude several items of evidence. The Court will consider each below.[1]

         Traffic Stop

         Defendants seek to preclude Rice from arguing that the traffic stop was unlawful. Because the Court has determined as a matter of law that the traffic stop was reasonable, this issue is resolved and will not be presented to the jury. The motion shall be granted to preclude any argument that the traffic stop was unlawful. Rice may still present evidence explaining in detail how the traffic stop occurred, and its aftermath, but is precluded from arguing or suggesting that the traffic stop itself was unlawful.

         Criminal Charges

         Defendants seek to exclude any evidence that the criminal charges filed against Rice for his conduct during the traffic stop were later dismissed. Defendants argue that this evidence should be excluded “because this Court found that Trooper Murakami's traffic stop was proper as a matter of law.” See Brief (Dkt. No. 155-1) at p. 2. The Court disagrees; evidence of the resolution of the criminal charges is necessary to give the jury a complete factual account. The jury will certainly hear evidence that Rice was arrested. To justify that arrest, the jury will also certainly hear evidence that he was charged with certain criminal offenses. To then ignore the resolution of those criminal charges would leave a large and conspicuous gap in the factual record. This portion of the motion shall be denied.

         Surrendering License, Arrest, and Take-Down

         Defendants seek to preclude any argument from Rice that he was not required to hand his driver's license to Officer Murikami, that his arrest was unlawful, and that the “take-down” by Officers Morehouse and Shaffer constituted excessive force. With regard to the arrest and take-down, the motion will be granted - the Court has held as a matter of law that the arrest was lawful and that the take-down did not constitute excessive force, and these issues cannot be reargued to the jury. Nevertheless, Rice may establish all the factual details of his arrest and take-down without arguing that they constitute Fourth Amendment violations or excessive force.

         The Court turns next to the license surrender issue. In its earlier decision, the Court found that Idaho Code § 49-316 requires a driver to “surrender” his driver's license to a police officer upon demand. See Memorandum Decision (Dkt. No. 86). The Court discussed the holding in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District of Nevada, 542 U.S. 177, 186 (2004) that a state law requiring a driver to identify himself upon demand by the police - at least where there is no evidence that this would incriminate the person - does not run afoul of the Fourth or Fifth Amendments. In that case, the driver “refused to identify himself only because he thought his name was none of the officer's business.” Id. at 190. There was no “articulated real and appreciable fear that his name would be used to incriminate him.” Id. Accordingly, the Court rejected his Fifth Amendment objection to being arrested and convicted for refusing to identify himself.

         In this case, the Court found some evidence that Rice's license had been suspended, which at least raised a question whether he would incriminate himself by surrendering his license to Officer Murikami. The Court held that it need not resolve that issue because Officer Murikami was at least entitled to qualified immunity for following the Idaho Code provisions requiring surrender.

         With this background, the Court turns to defendants' motion to preclude any argument that Rice was not required to surrender his license to Officer Murikami. Rice is entitled to explain his response to Officer Murikami's demand for his license. He is not entitled to expound upon the law. The Court will have to wait until trial to see how this evidence is introduced to make a final ruling. But to give counsel some guidance, the Court will generally allow Rice to explain why he responded the way he did to Officer Murikami but will not allow any argument based on the law. It may be necessary for the Court to explain the law to the jury through jury instructions but that decision must await trial.

         Bailment & Conversion

         Defendants ask to exclude any evidence of bailment or conversion, and Rice agrees that he will not pursue damages for these matters. The motion shall be granted to exclude any evidence of bailment or conversion.

         Lost Wages

         Defendants seek to exclude any evidence of lost wages on the ground that Rice has failed to produce any evidence of lost wages in response to discovery requests. Rice does not rebut this argument by showing what discovery on lost wages he did provide to defendants. The Court must therefore assume that Rice has failed to produce any evidence of lost wages in response to discovery requests. That failure bars Rice from offering at trial any evidence of lost wages.

         Medical Expenses

         Defendants seek to exclude any claim for damages based on medical expenses. Rice agrees that his expenses were all covered by the Veterans Administration and will not be seeking damages for medical expenses. The ...


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