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Charmaine Klatch-Maynard and William Maynard v. Sugarloaf Township

April 26, 2013

CHARMAINE KLATCH-MAYNARD AND WILLIAM MAYNARD,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SUGARLOAF TOWNSHIP, SUGARLOAF TOWNSHIP BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, ROBERT STANZIOLA, EARL MILLER, JOYCE P STEVENS, POLICE CHIEF JOHN HUDSON, AND JAMES SCHNEIDER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Brann)

MEMORANDUM

This civil rights action, commenced on April 26, 2006, is set for trial on May 13, 2013. Pending before the court is defendants Earl Miller and James Schneider's ("Sugarloaf defendants") Motion for Reconsideration re 131 Order on Motion in Limine , ECF No. 212, in which defendant Police Chief John Hudson ("Chief Hudson") joins, Def. Mot., ECF No. 214.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 18, 2013, the court held an in-person pretrial conference in this matter with counsel of record. An order resulting from that conference was issued on March 20, 2013, which set forth a schedule by which all pretrial matters were to be conducted and completed. Schd. Order, ECF No. 209. Specifically, all parties were required to file any motions in limine by April 8, 2013. Id. Any responses to such motions were to be filed by April15, 2013. Id. The order also provided for the deposition of Joanne Morganti to be taken by April 10, 2013. Id. To date, only the defendants have filed motions in limine and plaintiff has failed to file any briefs opposing these motions.

The Sugarloaf defendants request this court to reconsider an evidentiary issue that the court ruled on by way of a motion in limine when this case was set for trial in August, 2011. By order dated May 23, 2011, ECF No. 131, Chief Judge Yvette Kane excluded evidence of plaintiff's prior criminal convictions from being introduced at trial. That trial, however, was subsequently continued pending further order of the court and the parties moved, again, for summary judgment.*fn1 On August 20, 2012, the court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 195, and set trial on the remaining issues for March 11, 2013, Schd. Order, ECF No. 197. The case was reassigned to the undersigned on January 19, 2013 and made subject to the current scheduling order. Schd. Order, ECF No. 206.

Since the court issued its May 23, 2011 order on the admissibility of plaintiff's past convictions, defendants claim that evidence has come to light that warrants a reconsideration of this issue. Defs. Mot. Recons., ECF No. 212. Specifically, defendants point to the sworn statement of Joanne Morganti, a fact witness originally identified by the plaintiff, who now claims that she was solicited by plaintiff to fabricate eye-witness testimony of the alleged interaction between plaintiff and defendant Hudson. Defs. Mot. Recons., Ex. D, ECF No. 212-4.

Court records from the Courts of Common Pleas of Schuylkill, Berks and Lehigh Counties, Pennsylvania reveal plaintiff's criminal history. On January 12, 1989, plaintiff was convicted of theft by deception (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3922), theft by failing to make required disposition of funds (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3927), theft by unlawful taking (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3921), and tampering with public records (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 4911, 4101). On August 7, 1991, plaintiff plead no contest to receiving stolen property (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3925). See Defs. Mot. Recons., Exs. AC, ECF No. 212-1 - 212-3. Although these convictions are all between twenty-two (22) and twenty-four (24) years old, as of March 19, 2013, plaintiff was delinquent in making restitution payments in connection with these various convictions. Id.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Reconsideration of the Motion in Limine

Defendants ask the court to reconsider the ruling on a prior motion in limine excluding evidence that defendants intend to introduce at trial. "The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir.1985) (citation omitted). A judgment may be altered or amended if the party seeking reconsideration establishes at least one of the following grounds: "(1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion ...; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice." Max's Seafood Cafe, by Lou Ann, Inc., v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir.1999); and see Arlington Indus., Inc. v. Bridgeport Fittings, Inc., 2012 WL 5296165 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 25, 2012) (Caputo, J.)

The standard for reconsidering a motion in limine is somewhat unsettled as such a motion is not specifically recognized by any of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Burger v. Mays, 176 F.R.D. 153, 155 (E.D. Pa. 1997) (Antwerpen, J.). Both Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) and 60(b) only address final judgments or orders of the court. See Id. Motions in limine, by contrast, are preliminary in nature as they are made before or during trial to exclude anticipated prejudicial evidence before that evidence is actually offered. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38,40, n. 2, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984). As such, rulings on such motions are subject to change as the case unfolds, even if "nothing unexpected" happens at trial. See Id. at 41 (" . . . . district judge is free, in the exercise of sound discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling.") While pretrial rulings on the admissibility of evidence are helpful to the litigants in planning their trial strategy and handling disputes in advance, they are difficult to make without the benefit of the larger factual picture that develops during trial See 1 CHRISTOPHER B. MUELLER & LAIRD C.

KIRKPATRICK, FEDERAL EVIDENCE § 1:11 (3d ed. 2012).

This is especially true in the instant matter, where the prior ruling was made nearly two years ago, in anticipation of a trial date that never came to pass, and where the issues of the case were subsequently narrowed following successive summary judgment briefing. Of particular importance here is evidence of plaintiff's alleged attempt to suborn perjury from a witness who now appears on both parties' witness lists. These circumstances present a factual picture that is both different from and larger than what was before the court when it ruled on the admissibility of this evidence on May 23, 2011. Accordingly, the court will consider, anew, the issue of whether to admit evidence of plaintiff's prior convictions in light of this information.

B. Plaintiff's Prior ...


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