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Sublett v. Green

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

May 29, 2019




         This matter is before the Court upon motion in limine by Plaintiff, Damien A. Sublett, seeking an order excluding certain evidence from trial. (DN 52). Defendants, Linda S. Green, Chris Hatton, and Jon Tangerose, have responded to the motion (DN 56) and Plaintiff has filed a reply (DN 62). Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for review and for the following reasons Plaintiff's motion in limine is DENIED.


         The Plaintiff in this case, Damien Sublett, is an inmate at Green River Correctional Complex. Defendant Linda Green was the Unit Administrator of the Restricted housing Unit at Western Kentucky Correctional Complex (“WKCC”) during the period relevant to this action. (DN 33-7). Defendant Jon Tangerose is a Unit Administrator at WKCC, sometimes serves as a grievance coordinator, and sometimes supervises the inmate legal library. (DN 33-9). Defendant Chris Hatton is the Deputy Warden of Programs for WKCC. (DN 33-6). Plaintiff filed this action on August 3, 2017 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that Defendants violated several of his constitutional rights. (DN 33-1 at 1). During the period relevant to this action, Plaintiff was an inmate at WKCC. Id. During his time at WKCC, Plaintiff spent some time in the Restricted Housing Unit where he was in contact with the Defendants in this case. (DN 6 at 2). Damien Sublett is a prolific filer. Plaintiff had at least six civil actions against prison officials working their way through the courts while he was housed in the Restricted Housing Unit at WKCC. (DN 1-1 at 1-2).

         On January 18, 2019, this Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Sublett v. Green, No. 5:17-CV-116-TBR, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9165 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 18, 2019). Two of Plaintiff's retaliation claims survived summary judgment. The claims are: (1) that Green, Tangerose, and Hatton denied him access to the legal library and use of the Lexis Nexis computer; and (2) that Green directed prison officials to enter Plaintiff's cell and confiscate all of his legal materials. Plaintiff now seeks an order excluding certain evidence from trial. Each of Plaintiff's six arguments will be discussed below.


         Using the inherent authority to manage the course of trials before it, this Court may exclude irrelevant, inadmissible, or prejudicial evidence through in limine rulings. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 103(c)); Louzon v. Ford Motor Co., 718 F.3d 556, 561 (6th Cir. 2013); Mahaney v. Novartis Pharms. Corp., 835 F.Supp.2d 299, 303 (W.D. Ky. 2011). Unless such evidence is patently "inadmissible for any purpose," Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997), though, the "better practice" is to defer evidentiary rulings until trial, Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975), so that "questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context," Gresh v. Waste Servs. of Am., Inc., 738 F.Supp.2d 702, 706 (E.D. Ky. 2010). A ruling in limine is "no more than a preliminary, or advisory, opinion." United States v. Yannott, 42 F.3d 999, 1007 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing United States v. Luce, 713 F.2d 1236, 1239 (6th Cir. 1983), aff'd, 469 U.S. 38, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443). Consequently, the Court may revisit its in limine rulings at any time and “for whatever reason it deems appropriate.” Id. (citing Luce, 713 F.2d at 1239).


         1) Motion to prohibit Green from calling any witness other than herself.

         PLAINTIFF moves the Court to prohibit Defendant Green from calling witnesses other than herself because, he argues, Green failed to supplement her responses to Plaintiff's interrogatories pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26 and 37. In relevant part, the Rules provide as follows:

         Rule 26(e)(1)(A-B): A party who has made a disclosure under Rule 26(a)-or who has responded to an interrogatory, request for production, or request for admission-must supplement or correct its disclosure or response: . . . in a timely manner if the party learns that in some material respect the disclosure or response is incomplete or incorrect, and if the additional or corrective information has not otherwise been made known to the other parties during the discovery process or in writing; or . . . as ordered by the court.

         Rule 37(c)(1): If a party fails to provide information or identify a witness as required by Rule 26(a) or (e), the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.

         In his request for interrogatories, Plaintiff asks Defendants to “Name Any and All witness which may be call'd for trial?” (DN 15 at 2). In response to this request, Defendants answered “No decisions have been made with regard to witnesses that may be called at trial. Will supplement when such decisions have been made and/or as ordered by the Court.”

         PLAINTIFF argues that Green should be prohibited from calling witnesses, other than herself, because she did not supplement her answer to the interrogatory discussed above. Defendants argue that no decisions were made regarding who they might call as witnesses until after the Court's order regarding pretrial deadlines (DN 41). Further, Defendants argue that they timely filed their ...

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