Cassotto v. Potter
Evidence of a prior decision on the same topic can be admitted, if the prior decision is the product of independent, unbiased arbitrators and is based on substantial evidence, after a fair hearing. Allegedly, the plaintiff employee, Robert Cassotto, was discharged in retaliation, because he complained about discrimination on the basis of age, disability and religion. Cassotto or the union filed a grievance, and the individuals who ruled on the grievance affirmed the decision to discharge. Cassotto sued John Potter, the postmaster general of the U.S. Postal Service. The defendant postmaster general filed a motion to admit the grievance decision. Cassotto objected that the grievance decision was unfairly prejudicial and should be excluded, because the prejudice was greater than the probative value. The District Court found that the grievance decision was admissible, because it was the product of independent, unbiased arbitrators and based on substantial evidence after a fair hearing. "[T]here is no evidence," wrote the District Court, "that undermines the decision's reliability, such as an indication that the decision was factually or legally flawed, failed to consider critical evidence, or did not consider new evidence." The court granted the defendant's motion to admit the evidence and observed it will issue instructions to the jury, to decrease the risk of unfair prejudice.