United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB, District Judge.
plaintiff Christopher Scott Atkinson is proceeding on the
following claims: (1) defendants Joseph Warnke and Crystal
Schwersenska removed plaintiff from his prison job at the
Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin because
plaintiff is a Muslim, in violation of his rights under the
free exercise and establishment clauses of the First
Amendment, the equal protection component of the Fifth
Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; (2)
defendant Felipa Mackinnon retaliated against plaintiff, in
violation of his right to free speech, because he complained
about defendants Warnke’s and Schwersenska’s
alleged mistreatment. Defendants’ position is that
plaintiff lost his job because he attempted to steal items
from the food services department.
is scheduled for August 1, 2016. This opinion addresses
defendants’ motions in limine. Dkt. #132. (Plaintiff
did not file any motions in limine.)
Motions to Allow Evidence of Past Convictions
ask the court to admit three sets of plaintiff’s prior
convictions: (1) 2007 convictions for felon in possession of
a firearm and felon in possession of ammunition; (2) a 1992
conviction for armed robbery; and (3) a 1981 conviction for
Fed.R.Evid. 609, the general rule is that evidence of felony
convictions is admissible for the purpose of impeaching a
witness’s credibility. However, if it has been more
than 10 years since the witness was convicted or released
(whichever is later), then the burden shifts to the proponent
of the evidence to show that conviction’s probative
value substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect.
undisputed that plaintiff is serving the sentence for his
2007 conviction, so the general rule applies to that
conviction. Because plaintiff identifies no reason for not
admitting evidence of that conviction, I will grant this
aspect of defendants’ motion. Defendants will be
limited to revealing "the title, date, and disposition
of the offense." United States v. Lewis, 641
F.3d 773, 783 (7th Cir. 2011). I am denying defendants’
related request to introduce certified copies of the
judgments because those documents could contain information
other than the title, date and disposition of the offense.
respect to plaintiff’s 1992 and 1981 armed robbery
convictions, defendants admit that it has been more than 10
years since plaintiff was convicted and released for those
crimes. Defendants argue that the convictions should be
admitted because this case involves an alleged theft, but
this is an admission that defendants seek to use the prior
convictions, not to impeach plaintiff’s credibility,
but to show that plaintiff has a propensity for stealing.
That is not permitted under the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(1) (“Evidence of a crime, wrong, or
other act is not admissible to prove a person's character
in order to show that on a particular occasion the person
acted in accordance with the character.”). Further,
because those convictions are so old, I conclude that the
probative value of the convictions does not outweigh the
unfair prejudice to plaintiff. Accordingly, I am denying
defendants’ motion as to the 1981 and 1992 convictions.
filed a related motion to admit prior felony convictions of
any other prisoner witnesses, but I am denying this motion as
unnecessary because no other incarcerated witnesses will be
Motions Regarding Prison Regulations
ask the court to rule as a matter of law that plaintiff is
misinterpreting certain regulations of the Bureau of Prisons.
I am denying the two motions related to this topic. To the
extent that the meaning of a regulation is relevant to a
claim or defense in this case, defendants are free to submit
as evidence copies of those regulations. And if defendants
believe that plaintiff has misinterpreted any of those
regulations, they are free to impeach him with the text of
the regulations or provide testimony of their own
understanding (again to the extent these issues are relevant
to the case). However, the key issue in this case is not
whether plaintiff or defendants have the
“correct” interpretation of a prison rule, but
whether defendants discriminated against plaintiff in
applying those rules.
cite no authority for the view that they are entitled to the
court’s interpretation of what is essentially a factual
Motion to Exclude ...