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Motions in Limine - What are your thoughts?

Are motions in limine appropriate in arbitration? Why or why not?

Please provide your thoughts/comments below.

Comments (12)

Steven Skulnik:

No, except for privileged matters. Otherwise, the notion makes little sense as there are no rules of evidence.


Should be used sparingly and carefully. Always a concern about heavy motion practice. It's not federal court where I litigated hundreds of cases. Thanks

Paul Nicolai:

In U.S. law, a motion in limine is a motion, discussed outside the presence of the jury, to request that certain testimony be excluded. Since there is no jury in an arbitration proceeding, a motion "in limine" is literally impossible. This kind of issue is dealt with as an objection to the introduction of pieces of evidence.

Mary K Austin:

Generally they should be unnecessary except for privilege. There are some cases, particularly pro se, where a party tries to amass huge amount of information that isn’t remotely relevant under any circumstances. In those cases, at least an informal letter and preliminary ruling or guidance may be helpful.

If the rationale for asking for a motion in limine is to prevent the arbitrators from being exposed to some prejudicial evidence, it seems to me that is one of the main reasons that parties choose arbitration instead of court trials - that arbitrators are sophisticated enough and less inclined to be swayed by emotional or prejudicial evidence than a jury that is composed of peers. After all, we don't have to give all evidence presented equal weight. Bring it on.

If anyone has an example of why a party in arbitration would introduce such a motion, which is generally used to keep certain information from a jury, please share it.

Barry H. Evenchick:

A motion in limine in arbitration is probably an oxymoron. However, if it is defined for arbitration purposes as a motion to be brought at the outset of the proceedings, it could serve ( depending on the outcome) as a device that could shorten the arbitration or even bring it to an immediate conclusion.

Judge Gerald Harris:

Agree completely with the commentators who have identified the motion as one calculated to keep prejudicial evidence from a jury. It has no place in an arbitration.

Hon William G Bassler:

I agree with the above comments.
The use of in limine motions in arbitration is yet another example of inappropriate litigation tactics in arbitration.
As with all motions I require a short explanation of the necessity for any motion.
Very few in limine motions would pass muster.
Judge Bassker

David Hyland:

Arbitration is the equivalent of a bench trial. When I hear motions like this - mostly made in the context of a disciplinary case - I understand that the moving party is typically asking me to disregard an employee's disciplinary record until I have made a determination on the merits regarding the alleged misconduct. While a motion in limine is technically inappropriate under these circumstances, I have explained that I do not consider past discipline as a factor in whether the instant misconduct is proved by preponderant evidence, except to the extent that there is a claim of a lack of notice regarding rules of conduct. I am simply telling the truth and I believe there are occasions when this is really what the Grievant needs to hear.

William Pastor:

I generally agree with the consensus above that finds motions in limine to be unnecessary in arbitration, particularly where they seek to preclude introduction of certain evidence. In such cases, an objection at the time an inappropriate question is asked of a witness should adequately deal with the matter. If counsel persists, a general instruction to avoid a certain line of inquiry could follow

That said, it may be that the "never say never" principle applies. A comment above asks: "If anyone has an example of why a party in arbitration would introduce such a motion, which is generally used to keep certain information from a jury, please share it." I'll try to do that.

It's generally assumed that an arbitrator can disregard improper evidence that he or she has heard (an assumption we don't make with juries). However, suppose that a party suspects that the opponent will try to mention in passing some highly prejudicial (and completely unrelated) fact about a party or witness. Would it not be completely appropriate (and consume at most a minute or two at the start of the hearing) to ask that opposing counsel and witnesses not reference extraneous matters, personal matters related to the party and witnesses, etc.?

And if "motion in limine" is defined broadly to include any evidence-limiting motion at the start of the hearing, as suggested in another comment above, then there are undoubtedly valid uses for such motions. Drawing from my own experiences and observations practicing law and serving as an arbitrator, such circumstances could include a major change of law or factual circumstances, including the very recent death of a party, circumstances making contract performance no longer possible, etc.

Edwin H. Stern:

I appreciate the above comments about the lack of a need for an in limine motion in arbitrations because of the absence of a jury and the lack of need to keep prejudicial evidence from a fact finder who can exclude it. However, I believe in the value of a pre-arbitration in limine ruling if the party seeking to admit or to exclude evidence seeks it, and particularly if they both agree, and it may save time in the ultimate preparation and presentation of the arbitration. Moreover, a ruling on critical evidence to be admitted at the actual hearing may avoid the need for an arbitration and promote settlement before the arbitration itself begins. Hence, this is another issue regarding which the position of the parties and their reasoning should be considered.

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