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Smith v. City of Philadelphia

October 19, 2009

DAVID SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Slomsky, J.

OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Plaintiff David Smith's Motion in limine Omnibus (sic) seeking to preclude Defendants from offering evidence, testimony or argument regarding any alleged criminal conduct or discipline while incarcerated, or medical condition and/or treatment of Plaintiff unrelated to the allegations in Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint. The Motion also seeks to preclude Defendants from using any documents at trial other than those identified in Plaintiff's Pretrial Memorandum (Doc. No. 87). Also before the Court is an Amended Motion in limine of Defendants City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Sheriff's Office (hereinafter "Municipal Defendants"), Sheriff John D. Green, Deputy Sheriff Darrell Erpp, Deputy Sheriff William Washington, Deputy Sheriff Donald Quirk, Deputy Sheriff Walli Shabazz and Sergeant Joseph Evans (hereinafter"Defendant Officers" or "Individual Defendants") (all hereinafter "Defendants") seeking to preclude Plaintiff from offering evidence relating to prior Internal Affairs Unit (hereinafter "IAU") investigations and incident reports documenting use of force by Defendant Shabazz, the criminal history of Defendant Shabazz, and prior involvement in civil lawsuits by all Defendants (Doc. No. 91). Plaintiff and Defendants filed Responses (Doc. No. 95 and 94, respectively).

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiff initially filed suit on January 3, 2007, and filed his Third Amended Complaint on October 2, 2008. Plaintiff alleges in Count I a violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by all Defendant Officers. In Count II, he alleges violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Municipal Defendants and Sheriff Green. In Count III, he alleges violation of Article I, § 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution by all Defendants. In Counts IV, V, VI and VII Plaintiff alleges assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, and negligence against all Defendant Officers.

This lawsuit arose from an incident occurring on September 22, 2004 at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, in which Defendant Officers allegedly used unlawful force against Plaintiff after Defendants Washington, Quirk and Errp confiscated Plaintiff's religious reading materials. Third Am. Compl., 4-6; Mem. Supp. Def. Mot., 1. Defendants contend that Plaintiff physically attacked Defendant Officers, causing them to use force to subdue him. Def. Resp. Pl. Mot., 1. Plaintiff claims that following the incident, he was not offered or provided with access to medical aid for an extensive period of time. Third Am. Compl., 6-7. After the incident, criminal charges were filed against Plaintiff. They were dismissed for lack of prosecution on or about August 6, 2006. Mem. Supp. Pl. Mot., 4.

Plaintiff alleges that at all relevant times, Municipal Defendants maintained a custom, policy and/or practice of: (1) treating all written religious materials in a prisoner's possession as contraband, subject to immediate confiscation and/or destruction; and (2) permitting the practice of using excessive force, and then refusing medical treatment. Mem. Supp. Pl. Mot., 4-5. Defendants deny these allegations as untrue, inaccurate and misleading. Def. Ans. Pl. Second Compl., 11-13.

The pertinent issues at trial will likely focus on whether the force utilized by Individual Defendants was reasonable, whether Municipal Defendants failed to maintain and/or enforce adequate policies respecting excessive use of force, whether Municipal Defendants' customs, policies or practices regarding treatment of religious materials violated Plaintiff's rights, and whether Individual Defendants instituted criminal proceedings against Plaintiff without probable cause and with malice. The Court must therefore determine whether the evidence which is the subject of the Motions in limine is admissible at trial.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Alleged Prior Criminal Conduct or Discipline While Incarcerated and Medical Condition and/or Treatment of Plaintiff Unrelated to Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff does not identify with particularity in his Motion the exact records he seeks to preclude, but asserts that Defendants indicate in their "Schedule of Exhibits" that they intend to use as exhibits at trial several generalized categories of documents without specifying what documents they will seek to introduce. Mem. Supp. Pl. Mot., 7. Plaintiff asserts that to the extent Defendants' exhibit list suggests Defendants may attempt to introduce evidence related to Plaintiff's prior criminal charges, alleged criminal conduct or discipline while incarcerated, and medical condition and/or treatment, such evidence is irrelevant under Fed. R. Evid. 402 and, alternatively, is unfairly prejudicial and should be excluded under Fed. R. Evid. 403 and/or constitutes character evidence which should be excluded under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). Mem. Supp. Pl. Mot., 9-12. Defendants contend that to the extent Defendant officers were aware of any previous criminal conduct or discipline of Plaintiff while incarcerated, or medical condition and/or treatment of Plaintiff at the time of the incident in this case, this information was used by them to form a basis to evaluate the level of threat posed by Plaintiff. For this reason, they argue, such evidence is relevant to the inquiry of whether the force used against Plaintiff was reasonable under the circumstances. Def. Resp. Pl. Mot., 2.

1. Relevance

Fed. R. Evid. 402 provides that "evidence which is not relevant is not admissible."

"Relevant evidence" is defined in Fed. R. Evid. 401 as "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." If Individual Defendants were aware of Plaintiff's prior criminal conduct or discipline while incarcerated, or his medical condition and/or treatment, and this information formed a basis to evaluate the level of threat posed by Plaintiff, knowledge of such history would be relevant to the inquiry as to whether the force used against Plaintiff was reasonable under the circumstances. See Virgin Islands v. Carino, 631 F.2d 226, 229 (3d Cir. 1980) ("If it can be established that the accused knew at the time of the ...


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