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Martensen v. Koch

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 28, 2015

KIRBY MARTENSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM KOCH, and DOES 1-25, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT WILLIAM I. KOCH'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO PRECLUDE EVIDENCE OF OXBOW'S ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND ALLEGED TAX VIOLATIONS

ROBERT E. BLACKBURN, District Judge.

The matter before me is Defendant William I. Koch's Motion In Limine To Preclude Evidence of Oxbow's Organizational Structure and Alleged Tax Violations [#252], [1] filed September 15, 2014. I grant the motion.

Defendant seeks to preclude plaintiff from presenting evidence relating to the tax structure of plaintiff's former employer, Oxbow Carbon & Minerals International GmbH ("OCMI"), which plaintiff maintains was illegal.[2] Plaintiff posits that such evidence is relevant to demonstrate that defendant's true motive for orchestrating the events that give rise to plaintiff's false imprisonment claim was to "intimidate and silence [him] as a critic of the tax scheme." (Plf. Resp. Br. at 4.) He also suggests that such evidence is admissible under Rule 404(b) to prove motive or intent and/or under Rule 608(b) as probative of defendant's character for truthfulness.

None of these arguments is in the least convincing. Assuming arguendo that defendant knew of plaintiff's "whistleblower" claims prior to the date plaintiff's employment was terminated, his motive is not relevant to any element of plaintiff's claim for false imprisonment. See CJI-Civ. 4th 21:3 (2013) (defendant's malice or ill will is irrelevant to establish element requiring proof of defendant's intent to restrict plaintiff's freedom of movement). Even if relevant to prove intent, evidence regarding the structure or legality vel non of OCMI's tax strategy would not be admissible under Rule 404(b) because those issues bear no resemblance whatsoever to the acts made the basis of this suit. See United States v. Moran, 503 F.3d 1135, 1144 (10th Cir. 2007) (when admitted to show knowledge or intent, prior acts must be similar to charged offense), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 2424 (2008). Nor does plaintiff adequately explain how Rule 608(b) might be implicated here. While that rule allows the cross-examiner to inquire into specific instances of conduct that go to the character for truthfulness of the witness, it is not clear how the alleged transgressions of non-party OCMI bear on defendant's credibility.[3]

Nevertheless, to the extent such evidence might be thought to have some minimal relevance to the issues before the jury or otherwise be admissible, whether for impeachment or otherwise, allowing plaintiff to delve into the particulars of OCMI's tax structure would take this case much too far afield. This is a relatively straightforward case presenting a single, largely uncomplicated, claim. The court has no intention of conducting a separate trial within this trial on the largely (if not wholly) collateral issue of the nature and legality of OCMI's tax strategy.[4] See Schneider v. City and County of Denver, 47 Fed.Appx. 517, 529 (10th Cir. Aug. 22, 2002) (appellate court will "give wide discretion to the avoidance of side issues and minitrials' by district courts"); United States v. Talamante, 981 F.2d 1153, 1156 n.5 (10th Cir. 1992) (court retains discretion under Rule 403 to exclude evidence which "could [lead] to collateral mini trials"), cert. denied, 113 S.Ct. 1876 (1993). Patently, such evidence creates a substantial risk of unnecessarily misleading the jury, confusing the issues, and unduly delaying the trial. See FED. R. EVID. 403. These dangers substantially outweigh whatever marginal probativity this evidence might have.[5]

THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED as follows:

1. That Defendant William I. Koch's Motion In Limine To Preclude Evidence of Oxbow's Organizational Structure and Alleged Tax Violations [#252], filed September 15, 2014, is GRANTED; and

2. That pending further order, all parties are PRECLUDED and PROHIBITED from offering or discussing evidence in the presence of the jury to establish the particulars of OCMI's tax structure or strategy or to attempt to prove that the company's tax strategy was illegal.


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