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Russell v. Board of Public Education of the School District of Pittsburgh

March 11, 2009

JAMES T. RUSSELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF PUBLIC EDUCATION OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PITTSBURGH, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court

MEMORANDUM ORDER OF COURT

Presently before the Court are the following Motions in Limine filed by Defendant:

(1) DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 1: EXCLUSION OF OTHER CLAIMS AND SETTLEMENTS, with brief in support (Document Nos. 48 and 51), and the response in opposition filed by Plaintiff (Document No. 73) ;

(2) DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 3: EXCLUSION OF SETTLEMENT FORMALITIES AND DISMISSINAL ORDER OF PRIOR LAWSUIT AS EVIDENCE OF RETALIATORY TIMING, with brief in support (Document Nos. 57 and 59), and the response in opposition filed by Plaintiff (Document No. 75); and

(3) DEFEENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 4: EXCLUSION OF TESTIMONY FROM DR. HADDAD, LLOYD RUSSELL, AND OTHER EVIDENCE RELATING TO PLAINTIFF'S DISABILITY, with brief in support (Document Nos. 60 and 61), and the response in opposition filed by Plaintiff (Document No. 76).

The motions will be addressed seriatim.

DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE NO.1

Exclusion of Other Claims and Settlements (Document No. 48)

Defendant seeks to preclude the introduction of evidence relating to twelve other claims and settlement agreements involving discriminatory allegations against Chief Fadzen in which the Plaintiff was neither a named party nor a participant. (D's Mot. at 1.) Defendant argues that there is no foundational evidence for the introduction of these documents for intent or a pattern of conduct since none of the other claims involve a situation where the complainant applied for a promotion and was unjustly denied the promotion or even had the opportunity to apply for a promotion. (Id. at 2). Additionally, Defendant argues the introduction of this evidence will allow the jury to make an improper character conclusion based on highly prejudicial prior claims against Chief Fadzen. (Id.

Plaintiff responds that the evidence will not be introduced to show the propensity of the Defendant to commit bad acts, but merely as evidence of intent. For example, Plaintiff wishes to argue that Chief Fadzen was angry about the complaints and perceived his career and reputation at risk, which gave him a motive to retaliate against Russell. (Pl's Resp. at 4.) In addition, Plaintiff is willing to stipulate with regard to the settlements and amounts and exclude documentary evidence at trial. (Pl's Resp. at 9.)

The Court agrees with the Plaintiff that this evidence is probative and logically relevant on the issue of intent and motive only. However, on the other hand, the evidence at issue is highly prejudicial to the Defendant. Specific allegations of discrimination from other claims and settlements, such as evidence that Chief Fadzen used racial slurs against another employee, is not relevant to the matters at issue in this lawsuit and would undoubtedly cause the jury to make improper character conclusions.

Therefore, the Court concludes that with the proper foundation, the Plaintiff will be permitted to introduce the following evidence (preferably by stipulation) for the purpose of intent and motive only:

* Between the years 1998 and 2000, thirteen individuals, including the Plaintiff, filed administrative charges or lawsuits against the School District which alleged that Chief Fadzen had discriminated against them in one way or another.

* In 1998, Chief Fadzen was suspended by the School District for a period of four to six months, as a result of these claims ...


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