United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division
JOHN DOE #1, by and through his next friend, SUSAN LEE, and JOHN DOE #2, by and through his next friend, BILLY KING, Plaintiffs,
SEVIER COUNTY, TENNESSEE, SEVIER COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, and Superintendent DR. JACK PARTON in his official capacity, Defendants.
Jordan United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion in
Limine [doc. 35] and Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition
[doc. 40]. For the reasons herein, the Court will deny the
John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 (“John Does”) are
minors and allege that they were students at Sevier County
High School in Sevierville, Tennessee, but were restrained
from attending the school after the State charged each of
them with aggravated rape last year. [Compl., doc. 1-1,
¶¶ 10-12; Susan Lee Aff., doc. 12-1, ¶¶
2-3; Billy King Aff., doc. 12-2, ¶¶ 2-3]. John Does
allege that their counsel and the district attorney's
office reached an eventual settlement agreement, under which
John Does agreed never to return to Sevier County High School
in exchange for dismissal of the criminal charges against
them. [Compl. ¶ 12]. John Does also maintain that they
have since had their juvenile records expunged. [Id.
¶ 13; Chief Deputy Clerk Letter No. 1, doc. 1-5, at 1;
Chief Deputy Clerk Letter No. 2, doc. 1-6, at
According to John Does, after procuring dismissal of the
charges and expungement of the charges from their juvenile
records, they attempted to re-enroll in Sevier County High
School but were denied the opportunity to re-enroll. [Compl.
result, John Does now bring this action against Sevier
County, Sevier County Board of Education, and Superintendent
Dr. Jack Parton in his official capacity, alleging they
violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by abridging their rights
under the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment.
[Id. ¶ 18]. John Does have also
contemporaneously filed a motion for a preliminary injunction
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65, alleging that they
were “in their junior years, ” “have
invested themselves tremendously in the athletic program at
Sevier County High School, ” and “transferring to
any other school will cause irreparable harm.” [Compl.
¶¶ 10; see Mot. for Preliminary Inj., doc.
4, at 1]. Specifically, they claim that the
“opportunities that were available to them for
scholarships and to compete collegiately have been damaged
and/or are rapidly diminishing” because they have been
unable to re-enroll in Sevier County High School and
participate in its athletic program. [Compl. ¶
Within days of the filing of this action, Defendants
proceeded to the Sevier County Juvenile Court, where they
obtained Orders in which that court memorialized the terms of
the expunged plea agreements, and Defendants have since filed
these Orders with this Court. [See Juvenile Records,
doc. 9-1, at 1-7].
after John Does brought this case, the Court scheduled an
evidentiary hearing, to afford the parties an opportunity to
present evidence as to the propriety of a preliminary
injunction. [Order, doc. 13, at 1; Order, doc. 29, at 1]. In
anticipation of the hearing, Defendants are seeking to
exclude in limine evidence concerning “[w]hether the
minor Plaintiffs should have ever faced juvenile charges in
the first place[.]” [Defs.' Mot. in Limine at 2].
They inform the Court that they “believe Plaintiffs and
their counsel may be trying to place [this] third factual
question before this Court.” [Id.] John Does
responded in opposition to the motion. [Defs.' Resp.,
doc. 40, at 1-5].
district court's authority to rule on an evidentiary
motion in limine comes from its “inherent authority to
manage the course of trials, ” rather than a specific
provision of the Federal Rules of Evidence or the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. Luce v. United States, 469
U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984) (citation omitted). As a result, a
district court's choice to grant or deny a motion in
limine “is purely discretionary.” United
States v. Certain Land Situated in Detroit, 547 F.Supp.
680, 681 (E.D. Mich. 1982). The function of a motion in
limine is to bar evidence that is “clearly inadmissible
for any purpose, ” and in this vein, a district court
has authority to exclude evidence only when it is
“clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.”
Contract Mgmt., Inc. v. Babcock & Wilcox Tech. Servs.
Y-12, LLC, No. 3:10-CV-110, 2012 WL 2529214, at *1 (E.D.
Tenn. June 29, 2012) (quoting Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec.
Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846-47 (N.D. Ohio 2004)).
“Unless evidence meets this high standard, ” a
district court will not exclude evidence in limine.
Id. (quoting Ind. Ins. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d
at 846). A party moving for a motion in limine has the burden
of meeting this high standard. Smith v. Highland Park
Ruritan Club, No. 3:06-CV-351, 2008 WL 2669107, at *3
(E.D. Tenn. June 27, 2008).
maintain that the “facts and circumstances” of
John Does' arrests are irrelevant, and they invite the
Court, under Federal Rules of Evidence 401, 402, and 403, to
exclude “any evidence” that is “related to
the[se] facts and circumstances.” [Defs.' Mot. in
Limine at 1, 3]. As an initial matter, the Court underscores
the fact that Defendants' motion arises in the context of
an evidentiary hearing on a motion for a preliminary
injunction, and “the Federal Rules of Evidence
generally do not apply to preliminary injunction
hearings.” House of Bryant Publ'ns, LLC v. City
of Lake City, No. 3:14-CV-93-TAV-HBG, 2014 WL 5449672,
at *10 n.11 (E.D. Tenn. Oct. 22, 2014) (quotation omitted);
see Fidelity Brokerage Servs. LLC v. Clemens, No.
2:13-CV-239, 2013 WL 5936671, at *5 (E.D. Tenn. Nov. 4, 2013)
(“Generally speaking, district courts within this
circuit have not required stringent adherence to rules of
evidence when reviewing petitions for injunctive
relief[.]” (citations omitted)); Damon's
Rests., Inc. v. Eileen K Inc., 461 F.Supp.2d 607, 620
(S.D. Ohio 2006) (recognizing that “district courts
within [the Sixth Circuit]
considered [hearsay] evidence, as have numerous other circuit
courts, ” in addressing motions for a preliminary
injunction (citations omitted)). Defendants overlook this
point, making no attempt to explain how the Court should
consider its request in light of the limited applicability of
the Federal Rules of Evidence. Because Defendants'
argument is incomplete, the Court, on this basis alone, is
not inclined to accept it. See McPherson v. Kelsey,
125 F.3d 989, 995-96 (6th Cir. 1997) (“[I]ssues
adverted to in a perfunctory manner, unaccompanied by some
effort at developed argumentation, are deemed waived. It is
not sufficient for a party to mention a possible argument in
the most skeletal way, leaving the court to . . . put flesh
on its bones.” (quotation omitted)).
the Court were to assume the Federal Rules of Evidence can
and do apply to the upcoming hearing, Defendants' request
for the Court to exclude “any evidence” related
to the “facts and circumstances” of John
Does' arrests is far too vague and far too broad. While
“anticipated” evidence is excludable in limine,
Luce, 469 U.S. at 40 n.2 (quotation omitted), it
must be “very specific, ” Certain Land
Situated in Detroit, 547 F.Supp. at 681; see
Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d
708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975) (stating that “[o]rders in
limine which exclude broad categories of evidence should
rarely be employed”). Defendants offer no information
to the Court to clarify what they mean by “facts and
circumstances, ” a phrase that could refer to
practically anything, and they do not direct the Court to
evidence in the record that warrants exclusion. See
Graves v. District of Columbia, 850 F.Supp.2d 6, 11
(D.D.C. 2011) (stating that parties pursuing the exclusion of
evidence in limine “should . . . direct the trial judge
to specific evidence in the record that would favor or
disfavor the introduction of those particular items or
categories of evidence”) (citation omitted)); see
also Beasley v. SSC Newport Operating Co., No.
2:11-cv-127, 2014 WL 5438524, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Oct. 22,
2014) (recognizing that a court needs to “assess the
value and utility of evidence” before it can decide
whether to bar it) (quotation omitted)).
reference to “facts and circumstances” is so
imprecise and expansive that the Court, frankly, would have
to guess to identify the evidence that Defendants wish to
place at issue. Defendants simply do not provide the Court
with enough grist to allow it to ascertain whether the facts
and circumstances of John Does' arrests are
“clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.”
Contract Mgmt., 2012 WL 2529214 at *1 (quotation
omitted). See generally United States v. Denton, 547
F.Supp. 16, 17 (E.D. Tenn. 1982) (denying a motion in limine
after concluding that “[a]t this time, the Court has no
way of knowing (1) whether any or all of the aforementioned
evidence will be offered at trial, (2) if so, for what
purpose or purposes, (3) whether, if offered, some or all of
such evidence might be admissible for one or more purposes,
and (4) if admissible, whether its probative value might be
outweighed by its prejudicial effect”). The Court would
require far more in the way of specifics before it can
accommodate Defendants' request to exclude evidence in
limine, and that is only if the Court assumes that the
Federal Rules of Evidence even remotely apply to the
evidentiary hearing-an issue that Defendants, again, have
left unaddressed. See House of Bryant Publ'ns,
2014 WL 5449672 at *10 n.11.