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Sandoval v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 10, 2017

JESUS RODRIGUEZ SANDOVAL et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          ROBERT C. JONES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case involves claims of constitutional right violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and false imprisonment, which allegedly occurred when officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (“Metro”) entered the home of Plaintiff Jesus Sandoval under the incorrect belief that a burglary was in progress. Pending before the Court are the parties' motions in limine, (ECF Nos. 69, 70). Jury trial in this case is currently set for Tuesday, January 17, 2017, at 8:30 AM in Las Vegas Courtroom 4B.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 19, 2010, Jesus Rodriguez Sandoval, Adriana Rodriguez (individually and as guardian ad litem for Kenya Rodriguez), Henry Rodriguez, Martha Leal (as guardian ad litem for Jordhy Leal), and Monica Moreno (as guardian ad litem for David Madueno) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed a complaint against Metro, the County of Clark, and Doe Officers I-X. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) On May 25, 2011, Plaintiffs amended their Complaint to add as defendants Sergeant Jay Roberts, Officer Michael Dunn, Officer Christopher Kohntopp, Officer Justin Byers, and Officer Troy Givens. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 15.) The amended complaint contains six causes of action, including: (1) violation of the civil right to life and security of persons under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) violation of the civil right to familial relationships under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) assault and battery; and (6) false imprisonment. (Id. at 7-10).

         On February 24, 2012, this Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims. (See Order, ECF No. 47.) On August 21, 2014, the Court of Appeals reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded the case to this Court for further proceedings. (See Mandate, ECF No. 60.) Based on this Court's review of the Court of Appeals' opinion, the following issues remain for trial: (1) the violation of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights with respect to Officer Dunn's warrantless entry into Sandoval's home; (2) the violation of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights with respect to the alleged use of excessive force by Sergeant Roberts and Officers Dunn, Kohntopp, Byers, and Givens; (3) the state-law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and false imprisonment, only as they relate to Plaintiff Jesus Sandoval and to the handcuffing and detention of the boys after the point in time when the officers learned no crime had been committed.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A motion in limine is a procedural device used to obtain an early and preliminary ruling on the admissibility of evidence. “Typically, a party makes this motion when it believes that mere mention of the evidence during trial would be highly prejudicial and could not be remedied by an instruction to disregard.” Black's Law Dictionary 1171 (10th ed. 2014). Trial judges are authorized to rule on motions in limine pursuant to their authority to manage trials. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4 (1984) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 103(c) (providing that trial should be conducted so as to “prevent inadmissible evidence from being suggested to the jury by any means”)).

         Judges have broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). However, a motion in limine should not be used to resolve factual disputes or weigh evidence. See C&E Servs., Inc., v. Ashland, Inc., 539 F.Supp.2d 316, 323 (D.D.C. 2008). To exclude evidence on a motion in limine “the evidence must be inadmissible on all potential grounds.” E.g., Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). “Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context.” Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Tech., Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). This is because although rulings on motions in limine may save “time, costs, effort and preparation, a court is almost always better situated during the actual trial to assess the value and utility of evidence.” Wilkins v. Kmart Corp., 487 F.Supp.2d 1216, 1219 (D. Kan. 2007).

         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); accord Luce, 469 U.S. at 41 (noting that in limine rulings are always subject to change, especially if the evidence unfolds in an unanticipated manner). “Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted to trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded.” Ind. Ins. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d at 846.

         III. ANALYSIS

         a. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine #1 (ECF No. 70 at 2-3)

         Plaintiffs' first motion in limine is a request that this Court adopt certain conclusions of the Court of Appeals, pursuant to the Law of the Case doctrine, and instruct the jury that “Dunn's warrantless entry into the home was not supported by probable cause, and thus violated Sandoval's rights.” (Pls.' Mot. Lim. 2-3, ECF No. 70.) A motion in limine is for the purpose of obtaining a preliminary order on the admissibility of particular evidence under applicable evidentiary rules. Here, Plaintiffs seek a jury instruction. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' first motion in limine is denied as procedurally improper.

         b. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine #2 (ECF No. 70 at 3-4)

         In their second motion in limine, Plaintiffs' seek an order precluding any reference to the marijuana found in Sandoval's home when officers conducted a search. Plaintiffs argue that references to the marijuana would be prejudicial, and only relevant as evidence of bad character or prior bad acts. In response, Defendants argue that the discovery of marijuana in the room where the officers found the boys is relevant to impeach the boys' account of events. The Court agrees with Defendants. The boys testified that they followed all of Sergeant Roberts's commands as he stood outside the bedroom window. In contrast, Roberts testified that the boys, after seeing Roberts and hearing his commands, “start[ed] freaking out, moving around, reaching under the bed, reaching on the ...


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