Legal English: “Motion in Limine”

Today’s phrase, “motion in limine,” (Pronunciation: MOW-shun ihn LIHM-ihn-ay; Origin: Latin) is a Latin term referring to a motion that is made before or during a trial, generally to request a judge’s ruling on admissibility of evidence. Translating to “at the start” , a motion in limine is made outside of the jury’s hearing and before a piece of evidence is presented to the court.

Here are some examples of the phrase used in a sentence:

  • “The only way they could have obtained those documents is through hacking into our corporate servers. I’m going to make a motion in limine before the opening of trial to request that the judge rule the documents inadmissible as evidence.”
  • “Your objection is noted, counselor, but wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to deal with this in the context of a motion in limine? You’ve known of the plaintiff’s intent to offer this evidence for several weeks now.”
  • “Do we have any time left to make a proper motion in limine? The company’s trade secrets should not be discussed in open court, and I’d like to request a special proceeding to evaluate their relevance to the issues at hand.”

Motions in limine are governed by each court’s rules of procedure and evidence. They are permitted at many jurisdictional levels (local, state and federal), can generally be made by either party, and, as stated above, will usually seek a ruling either in favor or against admissibility of a particular evidentiary item.

Motions in limine can be made verbally and must take place outside the presence of the jury. Often, before a jury pool is brought in for questioning and empaneling, a pre-trial proceeding takes place in which motions in limine are made, discussed and ruled upon. The central questions usually include whether a particular piece of evidence is relevant, unduly prejudicial, admissible under a particular rule of evidence or was obtained in a way that is violative of law. If parties need to make reference to an inadmissible item, they generally request a “sidebar” with the judge so they can discuss matters quietly at the bench where the jury cannot hear the discussion.

Please note that because the phrase “in limine” is a direct foreign language borrowing, it is appropriate to present it in italics.