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Ridgell v. City of Pine Bluff

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

May 3, 2018

ALBERT RIDGELL PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF PINE BLUFF, A Public Body Corporate and Politic; and DEBE HOLLINGSWORTH, In Her Individual and Official Capacity as Mayor for the City of Pine Bluff, Arkansas DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          D.P. Marshall Jr. United States District Judge

         1. Ridgell's official-capacity claim against Mayor Debe Hollingsworth is dismissed without prejudice.

         2. For the reasons stated on the record at the 1 May 2018 hearing, the Defendants' motion in limine, Nq 34, is partly granted and partly denied. By agreement, no one will mention that the Arkansas Municipal League may pay some of any judgment. The League's provision of defense counsel is out of bounds, too. The Court will inquire about connections to the League during voir dire. The related-case issues will be handled as discussed: no mention of the Jones settlement; otherwise, Defendants' request for exclusion is overruled with directions to both sides to keep the proof about the other disputes/cases to the essentials.

         3. The Court is attaching its working drafts of (1) the voir dire, (2) the preliminary instructions, (3) the final instructions, and (4) the verdict forms. Please file any suggestions for the voir dire, and objections to the preliminary instructions, by Friday, 11 May 2018. We'll discuss the draft final instructions and draft verdict forms several times during the trial.

         4. The Court forgot to say that counsel should have twenty-minute openings prepared. We'll try to do them Monday afternoon, but they may happen Tuesday morning.

         So Ordered.

         (1) VOIR DIRE

         A. Preliminaries

• Thank you for serving. Echo “Called to Serve.”
• A morning of speaking the truth, voir dire = twelve people good and true.
• All week.
• Urgent or extraordinary obligations this week?
• Rules of the Road:
- Can I be completely fair and impartial?
- Can I decide the case based solely on the evidence seen and heard in this courtroom, the law as explained by the Court, and my common sense?
- Questions and Answers. You = you and your immediate family.
- Raise your hand, state your name, and answer.
- Can answer at the bench if uncomfortable answering a particular question in front of others.
- Eighteen, but all-Notepads.
- Questionnaires. Summary. Confirm lawyers have.
- Case Sketch-Not evidence, just background
  1. This is a civil case. In June 2007, Albert Ridgell was hired by the City of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as the City Collector by then-mayor Carl Redus. Debe Hollingsworth was elected mayor in November 2012, and was sworn in the following January. About seven months later, in July 2013, Mayor Hollingsworth discharged Ridgell. He was reinstated in August, after appealing his discharge to the City Council. Ridgell was again discharged by Mayor Hollingsworth in October 2013. Ridgell contends that he was discharged because of his race, and in retaliation for having opposed discriminatory practices by Mayor Hollingsworth and Pine Bluff. Mayor Hollingsworth and Pine Bluff deny those claims. They say Ridgell was discharged for unsatisfactory job performance and insubordination.

• Introductions
- Plaintiff = Albert Ridgell
Lawyer = Austin Porter Jr.
- Defendants = City of Pine Bluff, and
Mayor Debe Hollingsworth
Lawyers = Amanda LaFever & John Wilkerson
- Witnesses [Read Lists]
- Know the parties? Lawyers? Witnesses?

         B. Call Eighteen, But All - Notepads

         C. General Background Questions

• Know other panel members? Know lawyers or Court staff? Know witnesses?
• Legal training or experience? Deal with the law regularly through work?
• Prior jury service?
• Prior court experience? Sued or been sued? Witness?
• Religious convictions against sitting in judgment?
• Negative feelings about civil justice system?
- Too many lawsuits?
- If sue, then win?

         D. Case-Specific Questions

         Remember, answer about you and your immediate family; approach to answer sensitive questions

• Employed in personnel or human resources?
• Anyone ever employed by a city? A city-funded program? A county?
• Any prior experience with the Arkansas Municipal League? Ever worked for the League or done business with it? Arkansas Association of Counties? Southern States Police Benevolent Association?
• Anyone work regularly with Pine Bluff? With any city?
• Any experience with, or connection to, Pine Bluff?
• Any strong opinions about Pine Bluff?
• Any strong opinions about Mayor Hollingsworth?
• Anyone ever experienced race discrimination on the job? Gender discrimination?
• Anyone ever made a claim or complaint about discrimination on the job?
• Anyone ever been retaliated against for opposing workplace discrimination?

         E. Juror Question Time

         F. The Unasked Question?

         G. Lawyers' Follow-Up Questions? Fed.R.Civ.P. 47(a).

         H. Strikes for Cause. Fed.R.Civ.P. 47(c).[*]

I. Peremptory Challenges. Fed.R.Civ.P. 47(b). [**]

• Three each side.
• Challenging Strikes. Race or Gender? Batson. [***]

         J. Seat and Swear Jury.

“You and each of you do solemnly swear or affirm to well and truly try the matter now on trial and render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence.”

         K. Thanks and Goodbye venire.

         (2) DRAFT PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTIONS

         PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTION NO. 1

         Ladies and gentlemen, I will take a few moments now to give you some initial instructions about this case and about your duties as jurors. At the end of the trial I will give you further instructions. I may also give you instructions during the trial. Unless I specifically tell you otherwise, all these instructions-both those I give you now and those I give you later-are equally binding on you and must be followed.

         I am the judge of the law and you are the judges of the facts. As judges of the facts, it's your duty to determine the truth from the evidence and the reasonable inferences arising from the evidence. In making your factual decisions, you must not engage in guess work or speculation.

         This is a civil case. As I said, in June 2007, Albert Ridgell was hired by the City of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as the City Collector by then-mayor Carl Redus. Debe Hollingsworth was elected mayor in November 2012, and was sworn in the following January. About seven months later, in July 2013, Mayor Hollingsworth discharged Ridgell. He was reinstated in August, after appealing his discharge to the City Council. Ridgell was again discharged by Mayor Hollingsworth in October 2013. Ridgell contends that he was discharged because of his race, and in retaliation for having opposed discriminatory practices by Mayor Hollingsworth and Pine Bluff. Mayor Hollingsworth and Pine Bluff deny those claims. They say Ridgell was discharged for unsatisfactory job performance and insubordination.

         From all the evidence, you will decide what the true facts are. You are entitled to consider all the evidence in the light of your own observations and experiences in the affairs of life. You may use reason and common sense to draw conclusions from facts that have been established by the evidence. You will then apply those facts to the law that I give you in these and in my other instructions, and in that way reach your verdict. While you are the sole judges of the facts, you must follow the law, as stated in my instructions, whether you agree with it or not.

         Do not allow any sympathy or any prejudice to influence you. The law demands of you a just verdict, unaffected by anything except the evidence, your common sense, and the law as I give it to you.

         You should not take anything I may say or do during the trial as indicating what I think of the evidence or what I think your verdict should be.

         PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTION NO. 2

         I have mentioned the word “evidence.” “Evidence” includes the testimony of witnesses, documents, and other things received as exhibits, any facts that have been stipulated-that is, formally agreed to by the parties-and any facts that have been judicially noticed-that is, ...


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