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L.W. v. Knox County Board of Education

May 27, 2008

L.W., A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENTS SAMUEL AND TINA WHITSON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KNOX COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, CHARLES LINDSEY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF KNOX COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, AND CATHY SUMMA, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS PRINCIPAL OF KARNS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: H. Bruce Guyton United States Magistrate Judge

PHILLIPS/GUYTON

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This civil action is before the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Rules of this Court, and by the Orders [Docs. 186, 187, 188, 208] of the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, United States District Judge, for disposition of the plaintiffs' Motions in Limine [Docs. 159, 172, 173, 174, 175, 178, 180] and Motion to Have Requests Deemed Admitted, or, in the Alternative, Compel Further Response [Doc. 182]; and the defendants' Motions in Limine [Docs. 169, 170], Motion to Strike, [Doc. 184], and Motion to Amend/Revise Defendants' Final Exhibit List. [Doc. 207] On May 19, 2008, the parties appeared before the Court for a hearing on the instant motions. After the hearing, the Court took the motions under advisement, and they are now ripe for adjudication. The Court will address each of the motions in turn.

I. Plaintiff's Motions Regarding Martha McCampbell [Docs. 159, 175]

Initially, the Court notes that, except as it pertains to Martha McCampbell, the plaintiffs have withdrawn their first motion in limine [Docs. 159, 199] With respect to Martha McCampbell, the plaintiffs move the Court to exclude attorney McCampbell from being called as a witness, arguing that it is improper for an attorney to appear as a witness in this matter while actively representing the defendants. [Doc. 159] The plaintiffs also move the Court to preclude attorney McCampbell from sharing her personal knowledge with the jury in the form of argument. [Doc. 175] The Court notes that attorney McCampbell has requested to withdraw from the case as an attorney of record. [Doc. 213] Accordingly, the plaintiffs' motions [Docs. 159, 175] are hereby DENIED as moot.

II. Defendants' Motion in Limine Regarding Designation of Affidavits for Admission at Trial [Doc. 169] and Plaintiff's Motion in Limine Regarding Designation of Affidavits and Deposition Transcripts for Admission at Trial. [Doc. 180]

The plaintiffs and the defendants both move the Court to exclude certain affidavits and deposition transcripts from introduction at trial. During the hearing, the parties indicated that each party designated the affidavits and deposition transcripts at issue in the event that the witnesses were to become unavailable at trial. The parties also stated that the individuals associated with the transcripts and affidavits at issue would be available at trial, baring any unforeseen circumstances.

The Court finds that, at this time, the witnesses at issue do not qualify as unavailable witnesses under Rule 804 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, and thus the affidavits and deposition transcripts at issue are inadmissible at trial. Accordingly, the defendants' motion [Doc. 169] and the plaintiffs' motion [Doc. 180] are hereby GRANTED. Should one of the individuals at issue become unavailable to appear at trial, the appropriate party may raise that issue at that time.

III. Defendants' Motion in Limine Regarding Designation of Affidavits for Admission at Trial and Designation of a Videotape of WATE-TV Newscasts. [Doc. 170]

The defendants next move the Court to exclude several affidavits designated on the plaintiffs' Final Exhibit List [Doc. 148, at p. 2, items a through j] as documents the plaintiffs may seek to introduce at trial should the need arise. The defendants also seek to exclude from trial a videotape of WATE-TV newscasts designated by the plaintiffs. The defendants contend that the affidavits are inadmissible because the witnesses do not qualify as unavailable under Rule 804 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the defendants further argue that the videotape is inadmissible hearsay.

During the hearing, the plaintiffs stated that the affidavits at issue were designated only to cover the possible unavailability of the witnesses at trial, and further indicated that the plaintiffs anticipated the individuals at issue to appear at trial. The Court finds that, at this time, the witnesses at issue do not qualify as unavailable witnesses under Rule 804 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, and thus the affidavits at issue are inadmissible at trial. Accordingly, the defendants' motion [Doc. 170] is GRANTED as to the affidavits at issue.

As to the newscast, the plaintiffs contend that the portions of the newscast depicting the testimony of Ms. Summa, a defendant in this matter, and Mr. Oaks, an agent of defendant Knox County Board of Education, are admissions by party opponents, and thus are not considered hearsay under Rule 801 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. The plaintiffs further argue that the other portions of the newscast are not being presented for the truth of the matter asserted, but are instead being offered only to provide context for the statements of Ms. Summa and Mr. Oaks. The defendants contend that the statements made on the videotape are not against the defendants' interest, and thus do not fall under Rule 801.

In addressing this issue, the Sixth Circuit has previously held that:

On its face, Rule 801(d)(2) does not limit an admission to a statement against interest. Furthermore, this court has refused to place such a limited construction on the scope of an admission. In United States v. Sloan, 833 F.2d 595, 601 (6th Cir. 1987), this court concluded that a defendant's testimony to a grand jury was admissible under Rule 801(d)(2) despite the fact that the testimony denied rather than admitted the allegations that the prosecution were attempting to prove.

United States v. Turner, 995 F.2d 1357, 1363 (6th Cir. 1993). Another court described the issue in this manner:

The statement of a party may be introduced as an admission only when offered against that party. This principle is reflected by the standard but often unanalyzed objection that such testimony by a party constitutes a "self-serving declaration." Some confusion arises by reason of the fact that, to be admissible, a party's out-of-court statement need not have been ...


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