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Zagaja v. Village of Freeport

United States District Court, E.D. New York

December 17, 2019

DEBBIE ZAGAJA, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF FREEPORT and ANDREW HARDWICK as both Mayor and in his Individual Capacity, Defendants. DEBBIE ZAGAJA, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF FREEPORT, MIGUEL BERMUDEZ, As both Chief of Police and in his Individual Capacity, ANDREW HARDWICK and ROBERT T. KENNEDY as both Mayors and in their Individual Capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Joan M. Azrack United States District Judge.

         The Court issues the following rulings on the defendants' motions in limine. (ECF Nos. 157, 161.) The specific requests not addressed herein will be addressed on the record at the December 17, 2019 pretrial conference.

         Motions in Limine by the Village and Defendant Bermudez

         With respect to the Village and Bermudez's First Motion in Limine to preclude lay opinion testimony, it is clear based on the Second Circuit's decision in Barrella, that there can be no lay opinion testimony speculating as to Hardwick's motives for various personnel decisions. However, it is possible that some lay opinion testimony on other subjects could be appropriate if based on a witness's first-hand knowledge or observation. Accordingly, the Court issues the following rulings with respect to the identified witnesses:

- Alfred Gros: The specific lines of questioning that Judge Wexler precluded at the second Barrella trial (as identified by in the motion in limine) are precluded.
- John Maguire: Neither plaintiff nor defendants identify specific lay opinion testimony Maguire may offer in this case. In accordance with Barrella, he may not speculate as to Hardwick's motives for personnel decisions.
- Shawn Randall: The specific testimony identified by the Village and Bermudez in their first motion in limine is precluded.
- Anthony Miller: Neither plaintiff nor defendants identify specific lay opinion testimony Miller may offer in this case. In accordance with Barrella, he may not speculate as to Hardwick's motives for personnel decisions.
- Michael Woodward: The portions of Woodward's deposition testimony cited by the Village and Bermudez constitutes the type of inadmissible lay opinion testimony as to Hardwick's reasons without indicating that Woodward had firsthand knowledge of Hardwick's thinking. Accordingly, plaintiff is precluded from offering this excerpt at trial.
- The Court will address the Ray Horton evidence at the pretrial conference.

         The Court grants the Village and Bermudez's Second Motion in Limine to preclude witness affidavits. Of course, that does not preclude any statements from being used as impeachment evidence, to rebut a recent fabrication charge, or as rehabilitation evidence, as necessary.

         The Court denies the Village and Bermudez's Third Motion in Limine to preclude the introduction of evidence related to “canvassing” and the litigation between the Village and the Nassau County Civil Service Commission. The factual circumstances here are different than those in Barrella, such that these pieces of evidence are relevant and admissible at this trial. Accordingly, the Court will permit plaintiff to present evidence on these points. However, any relevant evidence must be introduced with the proper foundation and the defendants may make any relevant hearsay objections at trial. Furthermore, plaintiff is again cautioned against introducing lay opinion testimony about the reasons certain actions were taken, or the content of certain documents, by witnesses without direct first-hand knowledge.

         The Court denies the Village and Bermudez's Fourth Motion in Limine to preclude evidence as to formerly proposed and never adopted legislation for the same reasons as the Third Motion in Limine.

         The Court grants the Village and Bermudez's Fifth Motion in Limine to preclude evidence in support of a ...


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