By definition, motions in limine are pretrial evidentiary motions. In practice, however, they are—or at least can be—far, far more. Experienced trial lawyers know that thanks to motions in limine, trials may be won or lost before they even begin. Yet, often, such motions are underused and underappreciated, or they are prepared in a way that diminishes their impact on the outcome of a case. This article contains a few tips for making the most of your motions in limine.
Although limine is the Latin word for threshold, many of us don’t think about our motions in limine at the threshold of a case. Instead, we begin thinking about them in the roar to trial, as the deadline to file draws near.
But be careful about waiting this late—that approach could leave a lot of opportunity on the table. Although we can’t always predict early on all the motions in limine that we will ultimately file, quite often we can predict the most important ones. Filing important motions in limine well before the deadline—even during discovery, if the grounds for the motion are clear and won’t change—may result in your client gaining an important strategic advantage early in the life of the case. On the flip side of the coin, a loss early on may provide helpful clarity for you and your client about how the court is thinking about the case and the potential trial. Think early and often about whether there are particular motions in limine that could and/or should be put before the court well before the crush of pretrial prep arrives.