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In Limine Orders — Enforcement

State v. Sylvester Sigarroa, 2004 WI App 16
For Sigarroa: John Pray, UW Law School
Issue/Holding:

¶28. We do not end our discussion here. Instead, we are compelled to admonish the increasing pattern of witness and/or attorney violation of in limine orders. On several occasions, we have spent judicial time and resources to make a very similar admonition. Unfortunately, it appears our reproach has fallen on deaf ears because the pattern of these violations continues.¶29. We now reiterate the message of our previous admonitions; our objective is to raise the intensity of our delivery to an appellate shout….

¶30. We are convinced that the bar, and, particularly, the bench, should be aware of the increasing phenomenon of violations and should take measures designed to increase the risks to attorneys, witnesses, parties and/or any persons who have a role in violations of motion in limine orders. See id. at 122. In our unremitting effort to eliminate this conduct, we now offer the following suggestions to the trial courts-any of which, if employed, would go a long way in avoiding violations of motion in limine orders:

(1) Prior to trial, outside the presence of the jury, the court could address the attorney bound by the motion in limine order and get that attorney’s assurance that each and every witness has been instructed about the order;
(2) Prior to a pertinent witness testifying before the jury, the witness could be put on the stand, outside the presence of the jury, sworn, and then asked:
a. if he or she is aware of the motion in limine order,
b. if he or she understands what evidence is barred and,
c. if he or she will abide by the court’s order;
(3) Prior to the witness testimony, reduce the motion in limine order to writing and have a copy served upon each witness.

¶31. The practice of flouting motion in limine orders has become nearly epidemic. Trial courts must be proactive in order to end this flagrant misconduct. “Suffice it to say, however, this court’s warning shot across the bow, we hope, will help alert everyone in the legal profession that it is time for the judiciary to exercise more control.” Id. at 124.

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