United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
Richard A. Jones, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and Plaintiff-Intervenors'
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”) Motions in Limine.
Dkt. # 99. For the reasons that follow the Court GRANTS in
part and DENIES in part the motions.
allege that Defendant Trans Ocean Seafoods, Inc.
(“Trans Ocean”) engaged in illegal discriminatory
and retaliatory practices against certain individuals
employed to harvest shellfish on tidal flats near Mt. Vernon
and Bellingham, Washington. Dkt. # 1 at 3-7.
Plaintiff-Intervenors are among the victims of these alleged
practices. Dkt. # 11. Discovery has closed, the dispositive
motions deadline has passed, and trial is set for March 27,
may file motions in limine before or during trial “to
exclude anticipated prejudicial evidence before the evidence
is actually offered.” Luce v. United States,
469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984). To resolve such motions, the
Court is guided by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 401 and
403. Specifically, the Court considers whether evidence
“has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable
than it would be without the evidence, ” and whether
“the fact is of consequence in determining the
action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. But the Court may exclude
relevant evidence if “its probative value is
substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the
following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading
the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting
cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403.
move to exclude “any inquiry, evidence, argument,
suggestion or mention of the immigration status, work
authorization, or documents that indicate such information of
Plaintiffs-Intervenors, Claimant, their family members, or
their witnesses.” Dkt. # 99 at 2-4. Trans Ocean opposes
the motion, arguing that the immigration status of certain
claimants is relevant and that introducing this evidence
poses “essentially no danger” because Skagit
County and King County, Washington are “sanctuary
counties” that do not cooperate with Immigration and
Customs Enforcement. Dkt. # 115 at 4.
Court GRANTS in part and RESERVES in part Plaintiffs'
motion. The Court excludes all evidence concerning the
immigration status of any party, claimant, witness, or other
individual implicated in this matter. Trans Ocean asserts
that one of the claimants, Ms. Sanchez Perea, lied about her
age on her I-9 form and that Plaintiffs' requested relief
would preclude efforts to impeach her. At this time, the
Court leaves open the possibility that Ms. Perea's I-9
form may be redacted such that it would be admissible for the
limited purpose of impeachment. A redacted version of the I-9
form must eliminate any and all information about Ms.
Perea's immigration status. The Court thus RESERVES
ruling on the narrow issue of whether a properly redacted
version of Ms. Perea's I-9 form will be admitted for the
limited purpose of impeachment. If Trans Ocean wishes to use
the form at trial, then within seven (7) days from the date
of this Order, Trans Ocean is ordered to serve upon
Plaintiffs for inspection a proposed redacted version of Ms.
Perea's I-9 form.
Ocean's remaining assertions of relevance are
unpersuasive. For example, it speculates that claimants may
have brought this action for the purpose of acquiring U
visas. Trans Ocean, however, offers no meaningful evidence to
substantiate this claim. Even in cases where immigration
status does carry some degree of weight, it poses a serious
risk of unfair prejudice under Rule 403. See, e.g.,
Salas v. Hi-Tech Erectors, 230 P.3d 583, 587 (Wash.
2010) (holding that trial court abused its discretion by
admitting probative information about a plaintiff's
immigration status when doing so was outweighed by the risk
of unfair prejudice).
Trans Ocean's contention that immigration is not a
concern given the sanctuary status of Skagit County and King
County, the Court finds that Trans Ocean is estopped from
this line of reasoning. In a previous motion, Trans Ocean
relied extensively on the “current political
climate” as engendering a “palpable reason”
for witnesses to “fear for their safety and their
families.” Dkt. # 91 at 3. In support of that motion,
Trans Ocean submitted several articles reporting on the
extent to which immigration has dominated recent headlines
and cultivated fear among numerous communities. Dkt. ## 92-6,
92-7, 92-8, 92-9. All of those articles discuss the new
administration's plans to remove current protections in
place for certain undocumented immigrants. Id. It is
disingenuous for Trans Ocean to now argue that sanctuary
counties are places where “there is essentially no
danger that the jury in this case would alter its decision
based on information about the charging parties'
immigration status.” Dkt. # 115 at 4. Indeed, even the
article that Trans Ocean submits in support of its opposition
to Plaintiffs' motion in limine undermines its position.
That article states: “President Donald Trump has
ordered cuts in federal grants for cities that offer safe
harbor for undocumented immigrants.” Dkt. # 116-3 at 2.
Sexual Behavior ...