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Jacobs v. Leblanc

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

January 26, 2015

ZZEUNDRE JACOBS (#447048),
v.
JAMES M. LeBLANC, ET AL

RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE

JOHN W. deGRAVELLES, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion in Limine (R.Doc. 187) filed by Defendants, Warden Burl Cain, Assistant Warden Kevin Benjamin, Colonel Jimmy Smith, and Shirley Valentine (collectively, "Defendants"). In the motion, Defendants object to certain exhibits listed in Plaintiff's Proposed Pretrial Order (R.Doc. 120-1) and included in Plaintiff's "Benchbook". Plaintiff opposes the motion. (R.Doc. 193). Oral argument is not necessary

Having carefully reviewed the objections, the responses, and the documents at issue, the Court finds that the Motion in Limine (R.Doc. 187) is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual Background

The pro se plaintiff, an inmate confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary ("LSP"), Angola, Louisiana, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Secretary James M. LeBlanc, Warden N. Burl Cain, Assistant Warden Kevin Benjamin, Assistant Warden Jimmy Smith, Sgt. Valentine, Sgt. Lollis, and Sgt. Ware, contending that the defendants have violated his constitutional rights by failing to enforce the no-smoking policy at LSP, resulting in the plaintiff's exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. The Plaintiff further complains that prison officials have subjected him to threats and verbal abuse in response to his attempts to obtain compliance with the referenced policy. Pursuant to earlier Report and Recommendation, approved by the District Judge on March 17, 2011 (see R.Docs. 83 and 85), the Court has dismissed the plaintiff's claims against defendants LeBlanc, Lollis, and Ware, and dismissed the plaintiff's claims against the remaining defendants except his claim, arising under federal law, for monetary damages asserted against the defendants in their individual capacities and for declaratory and injunctive relieve asserted against the defendants in their individual and official capacities arising out of the Defendants' alleged deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

II. Discussion

Defendants have objected to Exhibits 3, 4, 8, 9, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 36, and 37. The Court will address each of these in turn.

Exhibit 3-(C)- Plaintiff describes Exhibits 3 as a "Letter of complaint Plaintiff mailed to different organization" that will prove that "Plaintiff was spreading the word of this violation and seeking assistant [sic] to help stop it." (R.Doc. 120-1, p. 1). Defendants object that this is irrelevant and has "no bearing on whether the amount of smoke was excessive or if any of the remaining defendants in this case were deliberately indifferent." (R.Doc. 187-1, p. 1-2). Plaintiff responds that this shows the continual violation of the no smoking policy and is relevant because it is consistent with the original complaint. It will cause no prejudice or jury confusion, Plaintiff claims. The Court agrees with the Defendants, whose objection is sustained, and will exclude Exhibit 3.

Exhibit 4-(D)- Exhibit 4 is Act 815, entitled the Louisiana Smoke Free Air Act. (R.Doc. 120-1, p.). Plaintiff claims that this will prove "That a law was passed banning smoking in any state, local, or private correctional facility." (R.Doc. 120-1, p.1). Defendants object that the statute is irrelevant to the deliberate indifference claim and will waste time and confuse the jury. (R.Doc. 187-1, p. 2). The suit is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, not the Louisiana Smoke-Free Air Act. Further, Defendants argue that state law violations are not actionable under § 1983. Plaintiff claims the relevance comes from section (14), which states: "After August 15, 2009 smoking shall be prohibited in any state, local or private correctional facility." (R.Doc. 193, p. 1).

Defendants' objection is overruled. The evidence may be admitted for the limited purpose of considering the knowledge of the Defendants. A limited instruction will be given if requested. Further, the Court shall take judicial notice of the statute at issue, if requested.

Exhibits 8 & 9-H & I- Plaintiff seeks to submit to introduce two letters he received from the Louisiana Justice Department concerning the smoking policy. The letters are dated September 9, 2009, and October 26, 2009. Plaintiff claims the first letter will prove "The Dept. Of Justice is one of the organizations Plaintiff mailed his complaint letter too, in a means of some assistants. The letter was answered by Asst. Attorney General Patricia H. Wilson, who preciously was the defendants attorney. Ms Wilson as well as the (AG) office knew of this violation and done nothing." (R.Doc. 120-1, p. 2). Plaintiff claims the second letter will prove: "Again this letter was answered by Asst. Attorney General Patricia H. Wilson, informing Plaintiff the Dept. Of Justice couldn't help in this matter." (Id.). Defendant claims these letters are irrelevant because Assistant AG Sherlyn Shumpert, who sent the letters, is no longer assigned to the case and is not a named defendant." (R.Doc. 187-1, p. 2). Plaintiff responds that "Ms. Wilson represented the defendants' when she was aware of the on going violation of the no smoking policy." (R.Doc. 193, p. 1-2).

The Court has reviewed the two letters. The first merely says that the Louisiana Department of Justice has no authority to assist Plaintiff in this matter and that the undersigned Patricia Wilson will forward the letter to the Department of Corrections. (R.Doc. 120-1, p. 40). The second reiterates the first. These letters are irrelevant, so Defendants' objection is sustained.

Exhibit 13-M- Plaintiff seeks to submit a "Letter Plaintiff received from the American Non Smokers Right Foundation" because it seeks to prove that "The letter had Louisiana correctional facilities as being 100% smokefree." (R.Doc. 120-1, p. 3). The document (which appears to be only part of a larger document), dated October 2, 2009, does indeed state that, in Louisiana, "Correctional facilities are 100% smokefree indoors and on their entire grounds". ( Id., pg. 50). Defendants object that this is irrelevant and does not prove deliberate indifference. Plaintiff responds that this confirms that LSP is supposed to be smoke free. (R.Doc. 193, p. 2).

Defendant is correct that the document fails to establish any basis for any alleged conclusions in the document. Further, the document is hearsay if offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, and no exception appears ...


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