United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MICHAEL T. KEISER, Plaintiff
THE BOROUGH OF CARLISLE, Defendant
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CARLSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Factual and Procedural Background
a workplace age discrimination lawsuit brought by the
plaintiff against a local municipality under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621
(“ADEA”). The plaintiff in this action, Michael
Keiser, worked for 27 years as the Director of Public Works
for the Borough of Carlisle before he was fired on May 1,
2014, just hours after formally complaining to his supervisor
about what he perceived as his supervisor's repeated
ageist and discriminatory comments and criticism. Keiser
alleges that his firing constituted unlawful age
discrimination and was retaliatory.
Borough, and Keiser's supervisor, Mathew H. Candland,
Sr., maintain that Candland was compelled to terminate
Keiser's employment because it had become impossible to
work cooperatively with Keiser; because of fundamental
disagreements over significant public-works projects; and
because morale had reached an unacceptable low within
Keiser's department. Keiser retorts that these given
reasons are pretextual cover for his unlawful firing, which
is belied by evidence of Candland's discriminatory
comments and other evidence in the record that cast doubt on
Candland's articulated justification.
respect to these competing claims and defenses, we have
previously concluded that this case is riddled with factual
disputes that make summary judgment inappropriate.
Accordingly, we have scheduled this case for trial in
October, 2017 and in anticipation of that trial the parties
have filed an array of motions in limine, including
a motion in limine filed by the plaintiff which
seeks to exclude evidence of Candland's clergy status
from the trial of this case. (Doc. 59.) The parties have
fully briefed this motion in limine, (Docs. 60 and
87), and this motion is, therefore, ripe for resolution.
reasons set forth below, this motion in limine will
be granted, in part, as described below.
Court is vested with broad inherent authority to manage its
cases, which carries with it the discretion and authority to
rule on motions in limine prior to trial. See
Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984);
In re Japanese Elec. Prods. Antitrust Litig., 723
F.2d 238, 260 (3d Cir. 1983), rev'd on other grounds
sub nom., Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986) (the court
exercises its discretion to rule in limine on
evidentiary issues “in appropriate cases”).
Courts may exercise this discretion in order to ensure that
juries are not exposed to unfairly prejudicial, confusing or
irrelevant evidence. United States v. Romano, 849
F.2d 812, 815 (3d Cir. 1988). Courts may also do so in order
to “narrow the evidentiary issues for trial and to
eliminate unnecessary trial interruptions.” Bradley
v. Pittsburgh Bd. of Educ., 913 F.2d 1064, 1069 (3d Cir.
1990) (citation omitted).
courts should be careful before indulging in pre-trial
rulings excluding evidence. Parties frequently invite courts
to make pre-trial rulings on issues of prejudice, relevance
and admissibility through motions in limine. The
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has
cautioned us, however, that “pretrial [rulings
regarding evidentiary] exclusions should rarely be granted. .
. . Excluding evidence as being more prejudicial than
probative at the pretrial stage is an extreme measure that is
rarely necessary, because no harm is done by admitting it at
that stage.” In re Paoli R. Yard PCB Litig.,
916 F.2d 829, 859 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Spain v.
Gallegos, 26 F.3d 439, 453 (3d Cir. 1994) (noting that
the Third Circuit's “cautious approach to Rule 403
exclusions at the pretrial stage . . . .”). Moreover,
the Third Circuit has characterized Rule 403, the rule
permitting exclusion of evidence, as a “trial-oriented
rule” and has warned that “[p]recipitous Rule 403
determinations, before the challenging party has had an
opportunity to develop the record, are . . . unfair and
improper.” In re Paoli R. Yard PCB Litig., 916
F.2d at 859. However, it is also well-settled that “[a]
trial court is afforded substantial discretion when striking
a . . . balance with respect to proffered evidence, and a
trial judge's decision to admit or exclude evidence . . .
may not be reversed unless it is arbitrary and
irrational.” McKenna v. City of Philadelphia,
582 F.3d 447, 461 (3d Cir. 2009).
there are several different bases for motions in
limine. First, such motions are filed when it is alleged
that evidence is going to be offered which is improper under
the Federal Rules of Evidence. In considering motions in
limine which call upon the Court to engage in
preliminary evidentiary rulings under Rule 403 of the Federal
Rules of Evidence, we begin by recognizing that these
“evidentiary rulings [on motions in limine]
are subject to the trial judge's discretion and are
therefore reviewed only for abuse of discretion ...
Additionally, application of the balancing test under Federal
Rule of Evidence 403 will not be disturbed unless it is
‘arbitrary and irrational.' ” Abrams v.
Lightolier Inc. 50 F.3d 1204, 1213 (3d Cir.1995)
(citations omitted); see Bernardsville Bd. of Educ. v.
J.H., 42 F.3d 149, 161 (3d Cir.1994) (reviewing in
limine rulings for abuse of discretion). Yet, while
these decisions regarding the exclusion of evidence rest in
the sound discretion of the district court, and will not be
disturbed absent an abuse of that discretion, the exercise of
that discretion is guided by certain basic principles.
these key guiding principles is reflected in the philosophy
which shapes the rules of evidence. The Federal Rules of
Evidence can aptly be characterized as evidentiary rules of
inclusion, which are designed to broadly permit fact-finders
to consider pertinent factual information while searching for
the truth. The inclusionary quality of the rules is embodied
in three cardinal concepts.
first of these concepts is Rule 401's definition of
relevant evidence. Rule 401 defines what is relevant in an
expansive fashion, stating:
“Relevant evidence” means 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 ...