United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER REGARDING MOTIONS IN LIMINE AND OTHER PRETRIAL
MATTERS RE: DKT. NOS. 606, 607, 617, 618, 619, 620, 621, 622,
623, 624, 625, 626, 628
M. WHYTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case involving allegations of racial discrimination by the
clerk of the Sixth District Court of Appeal, the court will
hold a further pretrial conference on July 15, 2016. In
advance of that conference, defendant Beth Miller submitted
two motions in limine, Dkt. Nos. 606-607; plaintiff Adil
Hiramanek submitted five motions in limine, Dkt. Nos.
617-620, 628; plaintiff Roda Hiramanek submitted one motion
in limine, Dkt. No. 621; and Roda Hiramanek filed three
additional motions styled as motions for leave to file
motions in limine, Dkt. Nos. 622-624. Each plaintiff filed a
joinder to the other plaintiff's motions in limine. Dkt.
Nos. 625-626. As promised in the court's June 17, 2016
order, Dkt. No. 629 at 2, the court issues the following
rulings in advance of the pretrial conference.
MILLER MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 3: TO BIFURCATE THE ISSUE OF
PUNITIVE DAMAGES AND EXCLUDE FINANCIAL EVIDENCE
Defendant moves under FRE 403 to bifurcate the issue of
punitive damages in the first phase of the trial and exclude
any evidence of defendant Miller's financial condition.
Dkt. No. 606. Plaintiffs oppose. Dkt. No. 644. Plaintiffs
argue that courts routinely try the issues of compensatory
and punitive damages together. See Id. at 1-2
(citing Hangarter v. Provident Life & Acc. Ins. Co.,
373 F.3d 998, 1021 (9th Cir. 2004)). Plaintiffs also argue
that bifurcating compensatory and punitive damages will
unfairly prejudice plaintiffs. Id. at 3. Plaintiffs
are concerned that if the jury is instructed that a finding
for plaintiffs in the first phase of trial will require
another phase on punitive damages, the jury may be encouraged
to render a liability verdict in favor of defendant to avoid
further jury service.
court finds that bifurcating the issues of compensatory and
punitive damages would not serve the interests of judicial
economy. Furthermore, while the court agrees with defendant
that her financial condition is irrelevant to whether she is
liable for racial discrimination, defendant does not appear
to argue that her wealth is irrelevant to the issue of
punitive damages.Accordingly, the court declines to preclude
plaintiffs from discussing defendant's financial
condition with respect to punitive damages. Plaintiffs will
not be allowed to discuss defendant's financial condition
with respect to any other issue.
MILLER MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 4: TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE OF CONTENT
OF UNSUBSTANTIATED WEBSITES
Defendant moves to preclude plaintiffs from referring to,
arguing, or attempting to introduce any evidence from
unsubstantiated websites or blog posts. Dkt. No. 607. As
examples of the evidence defendant seeks to preclude,
defendant points to documents that plaintiffs have attached
to court filings that contain disparaging remarks about
courts in Santa Clara County. In one example cited by
defendant, an "anonymous" blog posting contains
commentary on this case and an image that appears to be a
screen capture from the video record of Miller's
deposition. See Dkt. No. 501 Ex. F. Defendant argues
that Mr. Hiramanek is behind the blog post in question. Dkt.
No. 607 at 2. Plaintiffs oppose defendant's motion and
argue, among other things, that the court can take judicial
notice of websites. Dkt. No. 645. Plaintiffs misunderstand
the purpose of judicial notice, which is to allow the court
to consider facts "whose accuracy cannot reasonably be
questioned." FRE 201. For example, the court might take
judicial notice of the existence of a website, if
that fact were relevant, because that fact would not likely
be in dispute. In this case, however, it appears that
plaintiffs want the court to accept the truth of content on
websites created by authors who are not testifying in court.
Plaintiffs will not be allowed to rely on websites or blog
posts written by authors who are not present in court-or by
plaintiffs themselves-unless they can show that the
prohibitions against the introduction of hearsay do not apply
and that the probative value of the evidence outweighs the
risk of unfair prejudice. See FRE 801-807, 402, 403.
ADIL HIRAMANEK MOTIONS IN LIMINE NOS. 1 AND 5: TO
EXCLUDE "PREJUDICIAL EVIDENCE" OF
STATE COURT RULINGS
in Part and Denied in Part. Mr. Hiramanek moves
under FRE 402 and 403 to exclude evidence of various state
court orders that were adverse to him and his mother. These
include, among other things, orders designating Mr. Hiramanek
a vexatious litigant, a restraining order entered against him
during divorce proceedings, and a judgement in favor of Mr.
Hiramanek's ex-wife in a case that Roda Hiramanek filed
against the ex-wife. Dkt. No. 617. Defendant opposes and
argues that the state court orders are relevant to
plaintiffs' damages theories. Dkt. No. 639. For example,
defendant notes that Roda Hiramanek is seeking $9, 999,
999.00 for "[l]oss of Roda's claims on 2/28/14
judgment" and that Adil Hiramanek is seeking $10, 950,
000 for "9/10/13 retaliation denied access to his
children and legitimate discovery." Id. at 1
(citing plaintiffs' pretrial disclosures, Dkt. No. 611 at
ECF p. 14).
court tentatively concludes that Mr. Hiramanek's motion
in limine no. 1 should be granted. The only issues for the
jury to decide at trial are whether defendant Miller
unlawfully denied plaintiffs the use of the court restroom
because of their race and if so, the appropriate remedy. It
is difficult to see how the adverse rulings against
plaintiffs in state court are at all relevant to the issues
of defendant's liability or the harm plaintiffs allegedly
suffered, and the danger of unfair prejudice and waste of
time is considerable. While an order finding that Mr.
Hiramanek has made frivolous filings in the past may be
somewhat relevant to plaintiff's reputation for
truthfulness, introduction of such an order would likely
cause the jury to waste time considering the merits of
plaintiff's past acts.
however, plaintiffs rely on state court rulings in support of
their damages arguments or for any other purpose, defendants
may be entitled to discuss those rulings. Moreover, while the
court does not expect plaintiffs to argue at trial that
defendant's racial prejudice against them motivated
defendant to conspire with others to frame criminal charges
against Mr. Hiramanek, see Dkt. No. 94-1 ¶ 798,
if plaintiffs are allowed to make such an argument, defendant
will be entitled to rebut those allegations. At the pretrial
conference, plaintiffs should be prepared to provide an
overview of the damages arguments that they actually plan to
present at trial to assist the court in determining whether
to refine this ruling.
Hiramanek's motion in limine no. 5, plaintiff moves
categorically to exclude any document authored by the state
court, presumably including the orders previously discussed.
Plaintiff accuses the state court system-Miller's
employer-of "purposefully/maliciously" making
"fabricated" findings, "gutting the
constitutional due process and other federal and human
rights, " and issuing rulings akin to "Nazi Party
decrees and orders." Dkt. No. 620 at 1. The court agrees
with defendant that plaintiff has failed to provide a factual
or legal basis in support of these frivolous accusations.
Plaintiff's motion in limine no. 5 is denied without
prejudice to particular state court orders being excluded as
irrelevant or under FRE 403.
ADIL HIRAMANEK MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 2 AND RODA HIRAMANEK
MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 1: EXCLUDE EVIDENCE NOT PRODUCED DURING
Plaintiffs generally move to preclude defendant from relying
on any evidence that was denied to plaintiffs during
discovery. Dkt. Nos. 618, 621. Mr. Hiramanek further moves
for a ruling that "facts underlying the discovery which
Def. defied on, or abused, shall be taken as established in
favor of Pltfs'" or a ruling striking
defendant's answer as a sanction. Dkt. No. 618 at 1. Ms.
Hiramanek moves for an order "that all inferences of
barred testimony, or evidence authored by persons who were
barred to plaintiffs', to [sic] be drawn in
plaintiffs' favor." Dkt. No. 621 at 1. Ms.
Hiramanek's motion is apparently focused on the fact that
she was not able to obtain discovery from sitting state
judges in this case. See Id. at 1-2 (mentioning
Justice Rushing). Defendant opposes these motions. Dkt. No.
640; Dkt. No. 638 at 2.
motions appear to be improper attempts to re-litigate
discovery issues that were decided in defendant's favor.
See Dkt. No. 451 (Order Denying Plaintiffs'
Discovery Motions). While the court generally agrees that
defendant should not be allowed to rely on evidence
improperly denied to plaintiffs during discovery,
plaintiffs have not pointed to any such evidence.
Plaintiffs' motions do ...