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Sprint/United Management Company v. Mendelsohn (06-1221) 
Employment discrimination "me too" testimony 
Decided February 26, 2008 
Click here for full text of decision 

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Held: It is for the trial court to decide whether to admit "me, too" evidence - testimony, by non-parties, alleging discrimination at the hands of persons who played no role in the adverse employment decision challenged by the plaintiff - subject to abuse-of-discretion review.

Official Syllabus: 

In respondent Mendelsohn's age discrimination case, petitioner Sprint moved in limine to exclude the testimony of former employees alleging discrimination by supervisors who had no role in the employment decision Mendelsohn challenged, on the ground that such evidence was irrelevant to the case's central issue, see Fed. Rules Evid. 401, 402, and unduly prejudicial, see Rule 403. Granting the motion, the District Court excluded evidence of discrimination against those not "similarly situated" to Mendelsohn. The Tenth Circuit treated that order as applying a per se rule that evidence from employees of other supervisors is irrelevant in age discrimination cases, concluded that the District Court abused its discretion by relying on the Circuit's Aramburu case, determined that the evidence was relevant and not unduly prejudicial, and remanded for a new trial. 

Held: The Tenth Circuit erred in concluding that the District Court applied a per se rule and thus improperly engaged in its own analysis of the relevant factors under Rules 401 and 403, rather than remanding the case for the District Court to clarify its ruling. 

(a) In deference to a district court's familiarity with a case's details and its greater experience in evidentiary matters, courts of appeals uphold Rule 403 rulings unless the district court has abused its discretion. Here, the Tenth Circuit did not accord due deference to the District Court. The District Court's two-sentence discussion of the evidence neither cited nor gave any other indication that the decision relied on Aramburu or suggested that the court applied a per se rule of inadmissibility. Neither party's submissions to the District Court suggested that Aramburu was controlling. That court's use of the same "similarly situated" phrase that Aramburu used cannot be presumed to indicate adoption of Aramburu's analysis, for the District Court was addressing a very different kind of evidence here. And the nature of Sprint's argument was not that the particular evidence was never admissible, but only that such evidence lacked sufficient probative value in this case to be relevant or outweigh prejudice and delay. 

(b) Because of the Tenth Circuit's error, it went on to assess the relevance of the evidence itself and conduct its own balancing of probative value and potential prejudicial effect when it should have allowed the District Court to make these determinations in the first instance, explicitly and on the record. Pp. 7-8.

466 F. 3d 1223, vacated and remanded.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Case below:  Mendelsohn v. Sprint/United Management Company, 466 F.3d 1223, (10th Cir 11/01/2006) (2-1). 
Oral argument:  12/03/2007. [
The Solicitor General participates in this oral argument as amicus curiae.]
Transcript of oral argument
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted 06/11/2007.  

Question presented in the petition for certiorari:  

This case presents a recurring question of proof in employment discrimination cases: whether a district court must admit "me, too" evidence - testimony, by non-parties, alleging discrimination at the hands of persons who played no role in the adverse employment decision challenged by the plaintiff. 

The Tenth Circuit panel majority held that a court commits reversible error by excluding "me, too" evidence. This decision conflicts with those of other circuits. Specifically, four circuits have held "me, too" evidence wholly irrelevant. Five circuits have that "me, too" evidence may be excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. Granting certiorari will resolve the conflict between the circuit courts of appeals on this important question of law.

Question presented in petitioner's merits brief:

Whether a district court in a disparate treatment case must admit “me, too” evidence - testimony, by nonparties, alleging discrimination at the hands of persons who played no role in the adverse employment decision challenged by the plaintiff.

Questions presented in respondent's merits brief:

(1) Does Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence bar all evidence of other-supervisor discrimination or actions in an employment discrimination case?

(2) Does Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence invariably require, or in all cases authorize, the exclusion of evidence of other-supervisor discrimination or actions?

(3) Did the court of appeals err in holding that petitioner’s in limine motion should have been denied?  

Certiorari Documents: 

Briefs on the merits: 


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