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Newkirk v. Enzor

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

March 2, 2017

Jerome C. Newkirk, Sr., Plaintiff,
v.
James B. Enzor, individually and as an officer of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, and the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Defendants. Catherine B. Newkirk, Plaintiff,
v.
James B. Enzor, individually and as an officer of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, and the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant James Enzor's motion in limine to exclude evidence (Dkt. No. 121), [1] Plaintiffs' motion in limine to strike undisclosed witnesses (Dkt. No. 123), Plaintiffs' motion in limine to exclude expert testimony (Dkt. No. 124), Defendant South Carolina Department of Public Safety's ("SCDPS") motion in limine to exclude evidence (Dkt. No. 125), and Plaintiffs' motion to strike SCDPS's motion in limine to exclude evidence (Dkt. No. 137). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Mr. Enzor's motion in limine (Dkt. No. 121), grants Plaintiffs motion in limine (Dkt No. 123), grants in part and denies in part Plaintiffs' motion to exclude expert testimony (Dkt. No. 124), denies SCDPS's motion in limine to exclude evidence (Dkt. No. 125), and denies as moot Plaintiffs' motion to strike SCDPS's motion in limine (Dkt. No. 137).

         I. Background

         This lawsuit arises from a traffic stop on Interstate 95 ("1-95") and an arrest following the stop. (Dkt. No. 1.) On October 14, 2012, Mr. Enzor, then a Lance Corporal with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, stopped a car driven by Plaintiff Catherine Newkirk for speeding in Florence County, South Carolina.[2] Her husband, Plaintiff Jerome Newkirk, was a passenger. Mr. Enzor told Mrs. Newkirk (the driver) that she had been traveling at 77 miles per hour in a construction work zone where the posted speed limit was 55 miles per hour. After reviewing Mrs. Newkirk's registration and proof of insurance, Mr. Enzor decided to issue a citation for 64 in a 55. Mrs. Newkirk, however, insisted that she had not been speeding, stating, "I think there is a bit of discrimination going on here." Mr. Enzor then ordered her to exit the car and she did so, going to the rear of the car with Mr. Enzor.

         Mr. Enzor and Mrs. Newkirk then engaged in a somewhat inaudible discussion, during which Mr. Enzor pointed at Mrs. Newkirk and said, "Let me tell you something right now, " and Mrs. Newkirk responded, "No." Mr. Enzor then arrested Mrs. Newkirk. He took her wrist and attempted to pull her arms toward him, then stepped behind her and pressed her against the car, twisting her hands and wrists to pull her hands behind her back. He instructed Mrs. Newkirk to "quit resisting arrest, " and she responded, "I'm not resisting arrest." He then called for backup.

         Struggling to handcuff Mrs. Newkirk (a woman of fifty years of age), Mr. Enzor repeatedly yelled at Mrs. Newkirk, "Get in the car, " referring to his patrol car. Mrs. Newkirk protested, "You're hurting me, " and called out to her husband. Mr. Newkirk exited the car and walked to Mr. Enzor, allegedly telling him that his actions were unnecessary (his statements are inaudible). Still struggling to handcuff Mrs. Newkirk, Mr. Enzor pointed at Mr. Newkirk, and instructed him to "get in the car, sir, get in the car." Mr. Newkirk walked back to the car, and once inside, left the door slightly ajar, keeping his head turned toward Mr. Enzor and Mrs. Newkirk. While Mr. Enzor continued to struggle with Mrs. Newkirk, Mr. Newkirk shouted "ain't no reason for that" and other inaudible statements to Mr. Enzor. Mr. Enzor then told Mr. Newkirk that he too was under arrest. Once Mrs. Newkirk was in the custody of an officer who responded to Mr. Enzor's request for backup, Mr. Enzor arrested Mr. Newkirk.

         The Newkirks each filed suit against Mr. Enzor and SCDPS. Mr. Newkirk alleged (1) false arrest in violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Mr. Enzor; (2) negligence, gross negligence, or recklessness against SCDPS; (3) outrage against SCDPS; (4) malicious prosecution against SCDPS; (5) false imprisonment against SCDPS; and (6) negligent supervision against SCDPS. Mrs. Newkirk alleged (1) false arrest and excessive force in violation of her constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Mr. Enzor; (2) assault against SCDPS; (3) battery against SCDPS; (4) negligence, gross negligence, or recklessness against SCDPS; (5) outrage against SCDPS; (6) malicious prosecution against SCDPS; (7) false imprisonment against SCDPS; and (8) negligent supervision against SCDPS. (Dkt.No. l-l;(Dkt.No. 1-1 in 2:13-1635-RMG).) Claims for outrage and negligent supervision were abandoned, and the Court granted summary judgment for Defendants on Mrs. Newkirk's claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment. (Dkt No. 90; (Dkt. No. 89 in 2;13-1635-RMG).)

         After the Court ruled on Defendants' motions for summary judgment, Mr. Enzor filed an interlocutory appeal of the Court's denial of his claim of qualified immunity, which took over 18 months to resolve. (Dkt. Nos. 93 (notice of appeal July 16, 2015), 106 (mandate January 27, 2017).) When the Fourth Circuit finally issued its mandate affirming the denial of qualified immunity, this Court promptly scheduled the case for trial. (Dkt. No, 113 (February 13, 2017 notice of jury trial to begin March 13, 2017).) Both parties have now filed numerous motions in limine seeking to exclude various evidence.

         II. Legal Standard

         Although not specifically provided for in the Federal Rules of Evidence, motions in limine "ha[ve] evolved under the federal courts' inherent authority to manage trials." United States v. Verges, Crim. No. 1; 13-222, 2014 WL 559573, at *2 (E.D. Va. Feb. 12, 2014). "The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow a court to rule on evidentiary issues in advance of trial in order to avoid delay, ensure an even-handed and expeditious trial, and focus the issues the jury will consider." Id. "Questions of trial management are quintessential' the province of the district courts." United States v. Smith, 452 F.3d 323, 332 (4th Cir. 2006); see also United States v. McBride, 676 F.3d 385, 403 (4th Cir. 2012) ("[Assessing [whether evidence is] relevan[t] is at the heart of the district court's trial management function."). A district court therefore has "broad discretion" in deciding a motion in limine. Kauffman v. Park Place Hosp. Grp., 468 F.App'x 220, 222 (4th Cir. 2012). Nonetheless, a motion in limine "should be granted only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds." Verges, 2014 WL 559573, at *3.

         III. Discussion

         A. Mr. Enzor's motion to exclude facts and circumstances surrounding the termination of his employment with SCDPS

         SCDPS investigated the arrest of the Newkirks, and concluded that Mr. Enzor arrested Mrs. Newkirk lawfully, that he arrested Mr. Newkirk unlawfully, and that he was discourteous and behaved in a manner unbecoming an officer. (Dkt. No. 65-2 at 27.) As a result, Mr. Enzor was demoted and suspended for ten days. (Dkt. No. 134 at 2.) Mr. Enzor's demotion was withdrawn after he filed an administrative grievance. (Id. at 3.) Thereafter, Mr. Enzor was fired for making a derogatory comment about a superior officer. (Id.) In response to his termination, Mr. Enzor has sued SCDPS, alleging he was fired in racial retaliation for the incident with the Newkirks and not because of a later derogatory comment about a superior officer. (Id. 3-4.) Mr. Enzor moves to exclude "[t]he facts and circumstances surrounding the separation of employment between [himself] and [SCDPS]." (Dkt. No. 114 at 1.)

         The controlling standard for an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment is whether the force employed was objectively reasonable. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989). The Court agrees that SCDPS's personnel management decisions are not relevant to this case, because SCDPS's standards of courtesy and its standards for trooper discipline are not the legal standards applicable to Plaintiffs' claims. See 3 Martin A. Schwartz, Section 1983 Litigation - Federal Evidence ยง 1, 04[C] [15] (5th ed. 2013) ("[T]he circuit courts have consistently rejected attempts by plaintiffs to demonstrate that the defendant officer failed to follow police department guidelines or proper procedure."). Thus, evidence about how SCDPS disciplined Mr. Enzor in response to the findings of its investigation of the arrest of the Newkirks cannot make any fact material to Plaintiffs' claims more or less probable, nor will evidence about a ...


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