The Tennessee Court of Appeals, in Anderson v. Poltorak, No. M2015-02523-COA-R3-CV, filed December 29, 2016, has held that, although the plaintiff’s three (3) convictions for child pornography strictly qualified under Rule 609 of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence as admissible into evidence for impeachment, the trial court properly limited the scope of the questions to the fact of three (3) prior convictions; defendant was properly prevented from questioning the plaintiff about the nature of crimes involved.
After a jury verdict finding the defendant 100% at fault and an award of $30,000 in damages, defendant appealed the evidentiary ruling and interpretation of Rule 609 – contending that the trial court had no ability to conduct a balancing test under Rule 403.
The Court of Appeals found that the plain language and history of Rule 609 supported the conclusion that the trial court retained discretion in the matter. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision which had been based on concern that the admission of the nature of the felonies presented the “danger of unfair prejudice” to the plaintiff, and the risk of unavoidable anger, offense, and motivation to punish the plaintiff.