Uses and Abuses of In Limine MotionsLegal Compliance Resource
December 4, 2012 — 1,170 views
Uses and Abuses Of In Limine Motions
The careful planning of motions in limine is an important part of trial preparation. This is because these motions are the vehicle used to ask the court to exclude inadmissible evidence or evidence that should not be considered by the trier of fact. Given the difficulties of handling evidentiary disputes in front of a jury, the value of resolving evidentiary issues prior to trial cannot be stressed enough.
Motions in limine are based upon the court’s inability to admit non-relevant evidence, as set forth in the Evidence Code §350, and the court’s power to exclude evidence with no probative value found in Evidence Code §352. Simply put, evidence may be excluded by way of a motion in limine if it is irrelevant, will waste time, create undue prejudice or mislead the trier of fact.
There are three basic categories of motions in limine that are regularly used. While these are not exclusive, most in limine issues will fall in one of these three categories as discussed below.
Certain in limine motions are made in virtually all cases. These motions include requests to exclude witnesses from the courtroom until it is their turn to testify. They also include a request to exclude mentioning the availability of insurance coverage to compensate damages.
Motions to Exclude Evidence
An in limine motion should be filed any time it is anticipated that irrelevant evidence will be introduced. The judge may grant a hearing to determine the relevancy of the evidence outside the presence of the jury. This is a powerful tool because it mitigates the damage that may be done if the jury hears the evidence but is told to disregard it, the problem being self-evident. This type of motion is also useful to exclude overly graphic photographs or any other evidence counsel suspects will be overly prejudicial or needlessly confusing.
Motions to Exclude or Limit Expert Testimony
Motions are appropriately filed if testimony is anticipated by an undisclosed expert. Other “expert” problems include testimony on issues outside of the disclosed area of expertise or lay persons testifying as experts. These issues are ripe for in limine motions requesting the exclusion of the anticipated testimony.
While in limine motions are expected to be filed, they should not be used as a stall tactic. Judges are savvy to inappropriate attempts to bury an opposing counsel, especially when excessive motions are filed in simple cases.