Wednesday, 9 July 2003

7th Circuit Backs Trial Judge's Decision To Keep Out Testimony Of Other Discriminatory Acts in Title VII Case

The fear of having to try multiple cases is one that haunts defense lawyers in a discrimination case, and fortunately bothers most trial judges as well. In Manuel v. City of Chicago (7th Cir. 7/9/03) [pdf], the trial court granted defendant's motion in limine to preclude a fellow employee testifying that she had been mistreated by the supervisor in question and that she felt he was a racist. Defense counsel nearly went too far when he asked the following:
Q. Have you ever treated Josephine Manuel differently because she’s an African American?

A. No.

Q. Have you ever treated anyone differently at Fleet

Management because they are African American?

A. No.
Fortunately, for counsel, the appeals court view is that even after the door was opened, which it certainly was, the trial court's ability to use its discretion and weigh the probative value versus the dangers as set out in Rule 403, such as prejudice, confusion etc. continued. Here, the court did not find the court had abused that discretion in not allowing the open door to permit plaintiff to go into the supervisor's treatment of others. A good example of how there was almost one question too many.

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