Preserving charge error

In the case of Jimenez v. Wood County, the en banc Court reviewed the requirements for preserving charge error.  The case presented a civil rights challenge to a county’s strip-search policy as to misdemeanor arrestees.  At trial, the County made the objection, “Just one objection, Your Honor, the — the Court finding that this was a minor offense as a matter of law.  For record purposes, we would object.”  Op. at 2-3.  The Court found that this objection preserved an argument as to whether the plaintiff was arrested for a “minor offense,” but did not preserve an argument as to whether “reasonable suspicion” was required for the search at issue.  The Court thoroughly reviewed the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 51, both as to the substance and timing of a charge objection.  Op. at 4-6 & n.2.  It rejected the County’s argument that statements made at a pre-trial conference were sufficient to preserve error here, and that “any objection would have been futile” because of the state of Circuit precedent at the time.  Judge Smith’s dissent suggests potential exceptions to the majority’s approach to Rule 51.  Op. at 16 n.4.

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