September 12, 2019

Considering certain arguments advanced by a petitioner for a new trial following an adverse decision


The appellant [Plaintiff] in this action sued his employer, a public institution of higher education and a number of its administrators as individual defendants [Defendants] alleging that he was not reappointed to his teaching position in retaliation for his complaints alleging unlawful discrimination. A jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the Defendants and Plaintiff appealed the federal district court's judgment and denial of his motion for a new trial.

Among the issues raised by Plaintiff in his appeal were the following:

1. The district court's evidentiary rulings.

The United States Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, said that such ruling are reviewed for abuse of discretion, citing Manley v. AmBase Corp., 337 F.3d 237, and “[u]nless justice requires otherwise, no error in admitting or excluding evidence -- or any other error by the court or a party -- is ground for granting a new trial, for setting aside a verdict, or for vacating, modifying, or otherwise disturbing a judgment or order." Further, said the court, at every stage of the proceeding the court must disregard all errors and defects that do not affect any party’s substantial rights. 

Applying this deferential standard of review, the circuit court ruled that the district court did not exceed the bounds of its discretion in admitting Plaintiff's teaching evaluations from his previous university for two purposes: (a) to impeach Plaintiff’s credibility given his representation that he generally received good teaching evaluations; and (b) to provide after-acquired evidence of misrepresentations that could mitigate damages. In this instance, said the court, the district court "reasonably determined that the probative value of such evidence for impeachment purposes outweighed any potential prejudicial effect because [Plaintiff's] credibility was critical to his retaliation claim."

2. The district court's jury instruction concerning "after-acquired evidence."

The Circuit Court found that Plaintiff had failed to object to the challenged instruction during the trial and a  party who fails to object to a jury instruction at trial waives the right to make that instruction the basis for an appeal. Further, observed the court, assuming that Plaintiff had objected to this instruction, any error would be harmless because it relates only to the calculation of damages and in this instance the jury found for the Defendants and, thus, never calculated damages.

3. Denial of Plaintiff's motion for Venue Transfer.

To successfully challenge the denial of a motion to transfer of venue after entry of a final judgment, a party must demonstrate that the outcome of the trial would have been different had the case been transferred. The circuit court found that Plaintiff failed to meet this burden as he did not contend that the outcome of his trial would have been different in the Southern District of New York. The court also noted that Plaintiff's claim that "a Title VII retaliation claim cannot get a fair hearing in the Northern District [of New York] is belied by the fact that a jury found in his favor at [Plaintiff's] first trial" in the course of this litigation.

4. Challenges to the district court’s discovery rulings.

Although Plaintiff complained that he was prejudiced by the district court’s limitation on his discovery request, the Circuit Court observed that Plaintiff "failed to seek any additional discovery from the [district] court despite the court’s express invitation to do so." In addition, observed the Circuit Court, Plaintiff never objected to the Defendants’ compliance with the court orders until after his second trial resulted in a verdict against him, when he raised it for the first time as a ground for a new trial. Having failed to reserve these issues below, the Circuit Court held that Plaintiff cannot now pursue them on appeal and deemed them waived.

5. Denial of Plaintiff's motion for a new trial on the ground that the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence.

The Circuit Court of Appeals explained that "It is well established that '[a] district court’s denial of a motion for a new trial on weight-of-the-evidence grounds, is not reviewable on appeal", citing Rasanen v. Doe, 723 F.3d 325.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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