The opinion of the court was delivered by: Swain, District Judge.
Plaintiff Calvin Dallas ("Plaintiff" or "Dallas") brings this
action against defendants Janis Goldberg ("Goldberg") and Gregory
Harlin ("Harlin") (collectively, "Defendants") pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants
violated his federal civil rights when, on September 18, 1994,
they arrested him for possession of drugs. Plaintiff also alleges
that he was thereafter prosecuted maliciously for illegal
possession of drugs with intent to sell and that Defendants
abused judicial process in connection with the criminal charges.
The Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Before the Court is the motion of Defendants, brought pursuant
to Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule
42(b)"), seeking bifurcation of the trial of the issues of
liability and damages. Also before the Court are Plaintiff's
motions seeking to: (1) preclude Defendants' introduction at
trial of evidence relating to alleged drug paraphernalia found in
Plaintiff's residence after Plaintiff's arrest; and (2) preclude
Defendants from introducing at trial evidence of Plaintiff's
convictions. The parties have also raised the issue of whether
Plaintiff is entitled to seek to recover damages in respect of
his incarceration, following the arrest and interposition of drug
charges at issue here, for violation of parole.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to
bifurcate is denied, Plaintiff's preclusion motions are granted,
in part, in respect of the alleged drug paraphernalia, decision
is reserved as to the admissibility of Plaintiff's prior
convictions, and Plaintiff will not be permitted to seek damages
in respect of the parole violation incarceration.
PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Two motions for summary judgment have previously been
adjudicated in this action. Familiarity with the Court's opinions
on those motions, which detail most of the relevant background
facts, is presumed. By opinion dated November 20, 1997, the Court
granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants other than
Goldberg and the New York State Police ("NYSP") with respect to
all of the claims asserted in Plaintiff's original complaint.
Plaintiff's claims against defendant Goldberg for false arrest
and malicious prosecution, and Plaintiff's claims against
the NYSP, survived the motion.*fn1 Dallas v. Goldberg, 95 Civ.
9076, 1997 WL 728153 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 20, 1997) (Cote, J.)
By opinion dated August 4, 2000, the Court granted in part a
summary judgment motion directed to Plaintiff's amended
complaint. Plaintiff's claim of unlawful search and seizure was
dismissed, as was his cause of action against defendant Goldberg
for false arrest. The motion was denied with respect to all other
claims and all other defendants. Dallas v. Goldberg, No. 95
Civ. 9076, 2000 WL 1092986 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 4, 2000) (Pauley, J.)
("Dallas II"). Dallas's surviving causes of action are claims
of malicious prosecution and abuse of the legal process against
both Defendants, and a claim of false arrest against defendant
Harlin. See Dallas II, 2000 WL 1092986.
Under Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure the
Court, in its discretion, can bifurcate the trial of an action
for "convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials
will be conducive to expedition and economy." Fed. R.Civ.P.
42(b). The decision to bifurcate a trial rests within the sound
discretion of the trial court. See Simpson v. Pittsburgh Corning
Corp., 901 F.2d 277, 283 (2d Cir. 1990); Agron v. Trustees of
Columbia Univ., No. 88 Civ. 6294, 1997 WL 399667 at *1 (S.D.N Y
July 15, 1997). Although bifurcation of trials is not unusual and
may under appropriate circumstances be the preferred method,
bifurcation remains the exception rather than the rule. See
Lewis v. Triborough Bridge, No. 97 CIV. 0607, 2000 WL 423517 at
*2 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 19, 2000); Agron, 1997 WL 399667 at *1;
Kerman v. City of New York, No. 96 Civ. 7865, 1997 WL 666261 at
*5 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 24, 1997).
The application of Rule 42(b) does not lend itself to a
bright-line test but, rather, requires case-by-case analysis.
See Monaghan v. SZS 33 Associates, 827 F. Supp. 233, 245
(S.D.N.Y. 1993). Factors that courts consider in determining
whether bifurcation is appropriate include: (1) whether the
issues are significantly different from one another; (2) whether
the issues are to be tried before a jury or to the court; (3)
whether the posture of discovery on the issues favors a single
trial or bifurcation; (4) whether the documentary and testimonial
evidence on the issues overlap; and (5) whether the party
opposing bifurcation will be prejudiced if it is granted. See
Lewis, 2000 WL 423517 at *2; Reading Indus., Inc. v. Kennecott
Copper Corp., 61 F.R.D. 662, 664 (S.D.N.Y. 1974). The party
seeking bifurcation bears the burden of establishing that
bifurcation is warranted. See Lewis, 2000 WL 423517 at *2.
Plaintiff, on the other hand, urges that judicial economy would
not be served by bifurcation, and that Plaintiff would be
prejudiced "[b]ecause the standard of conduct necessary to
establish punitive damages overlaps with Defendants' state of
mind in each of the [Section] 1983 claims, and because the same
facts and witness testimony will be required to prove each of
these issues." (Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to
Defendants' Motion ("Pl.Memo") at 3.) Defendants do not dispute
the overlapping nature of the relevant evidence.
Defendants have failed to sustain their burden with respect to
the propriety of bifurcation. Their motion for a bifurcated trial
is, accordingly, denied. The Court will, however, give an
appropriate limiting instruction with respect to the jury's
consideration of evidence concerning Defendants' finances if they
so request. By May 14, 2001, the parties shall make a written
joint submission to the Court including any proposed or agreed
upon Request to Charge on this subject; to the extent separate
proposed charges are submitted, the parties' joint submission
shall explain precisely the nature of the outstanding dispute.
ALLEGED DRUG PARAPHERNALIA
After plaintiff Dallas was arrested on September 18, 1994,
police officers searched his residence and found numerous items
alleged to be drug paraphernalia, including a CD case, a
prescription bottle, aluminum foil, plastic caps, a Proventil
inhalation aerosol canister, paper, string, two metal rods and 25
small plastic bags containing residue that, according to
Defendants, tested positive for cocaine. Plaintiff moves to
exclude testimony concerning this evidence from trial, asserting
that: (1) it is inadmissible to establish probable cause because
it was found after Dallas's arrest; and (2) it is inadmissible to
impeach Dallas because it has no probative value and is unduly
prejudicial. At oral argument on the instant motions Plaintiff's
counsel asserted, and Defendants did not dispute, that the
physical evidence seized from Plaintiff's residence is no longer
available. Plaintiff's current counsel assert that they never had
access to that physical evidence.
Defendants contend that the alleged drug paraphernalia is
relevant within the meaning of Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of
Evidence with respect to Plaintiff's false arrest claim. They
further assert that the evidence is admissible under Rule 404(b),
which permits the admission of evidence of other crimes, wrongs
and acts under certain circumstances. In addition, Defendants
argue that the evidence is ...