Love et al v. City of Lanett et al

Filing 19

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that Defendant's Motion to Stay All Proceedings is DENIED as further set out in the opinion and order. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 8/17/2009. (dmn)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA E A S T E R N DIVISION S A N D R A LOVE, as parents and next friend ) o f B.L., a minor, et al., ) ) P la in tif f s , ) ) v. ) ) C IT Y OF LANETT, et al., ) ) D e f e n d a n ts. ) C A S E NO. 3:09-cv-622-MEF M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER P la in tif f s Sandra Love and Patricia Perkins ("Plaintiffs") brought this action on J u ly 2, 2009 asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and various state law causes of a c tio n . (Doc. # 1.) Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, punitive damages, and fees a n d costs. This cause is before the Court on Defendant Jose Maldonado Jaramillo, Jr.'s (" D e f e n d a n t" ) Motion to Stay filed on July 22, 2009. (Doc. # 10.) Because Defendant h a s not demonstrated any special circumstances warranting a stay, Defendant's motion is d u e to be DENIED. A. Facts and Procedural History 1 P la in tif f s allege that on December 30, 2009, Defendant, while on duty as a City of L a n e tt Police Officer, inappropriately touched minors B.L. and A.L. (Doc. #1.) On M a rc h 4, 2009, Plaintiffs signed a warrant for Defendant's arrest for committing Sexual Due to the procedural posture of this case, the facts set forth herein are taken from the allegations of the Complaint. 1 Abuse in the Second Degree. (Doc. #11, Ex. A.) A month later, on April 4, 2009, D e f e n d a n t was arrested and placed in jail. Defendant currently awaits trial in Chambers C o u n ty, Alabama, on September 22, 2009, for charges of sexual abuse. See Doc. #11. Plaintiffs filed their complaint on July 2, 2009 against City of Lanett, Teddy M o rris , and Jose Maldonado Jaramillo, Jr. None of the defendants have yet filed an a n s w e r. Instead, Defendant Jose Maldonado Jaramillo, Jr. filed the present Motion to S ta y on July 22, 2009. Plaintiffs have not served discovery on defendants, nor have the p a rtie s participated in a Rule 26(f) planning meeting or Rule 16 pretrial conference. In h is motion, Defendant seeks to stay all proceedings in this case until the resolution of his c rim in a l trial. B. Discretion to Stay " [ T ]h e District Court has broad discretion to stay proceedings as an incident to its p o w e r to control its own docket." Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997); see also L a n d is v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936) (stating that "[t]he power to stay p ro c e e d in g s is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of th e causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litig a n ts ." ) However, the Constitution "does not ordinarily require a stay of civil p ro c e e d in g s pending the outcome of criminal proceedings." SEC. v. Dresser Indus., 628 F .2 d 1368, 1375 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (en banc). Absent special circumstances, the mere e x is te n c e of parallel criminal and civil proceedings does not compel stay of the civil 2 proceeding. U. S. v. Lot 5, Fox Grove, Alachua County, Fla., 23 F.3d 359, 364 (11th Cir. 1 9 9 4 ) ("a court must stay a civil proceeding pending resolution of a related criminal p ro s e c u tio n only when special circumstances so require in the interests of justice"). i. "Special Circumstances" To determine whether "special circumstances" exist to warrant a stay, courts b a la n c e the interests of the parties, the courts and the public, including such c o n s id e ra tio n s as: "(1) the extent to which the issues in the criminal case overlap with those p re s e n te d in the civil case; (2) the status of the case, including whether the d e f e n d a n ts have been indicted; (3) the private interests of the plaintiffs in p ro c e e d in g expeditiously weighed against the prejudice to plaintiffs caused b y the delay; (4) the private interests of and burden on the defendants; (5) th e interests of the courts; and (6) the public interest." Chao v. Fleming, 498 F. Supp. 2d 1034, 1037 (W.D. Mich. 2007) (citation omitted). Although many factors may be relevant, "the similarity of issues in the underlying civil a n d criminal actions is considered the most important threshold issue in determining w h e th e r to grant a stay." Dominguez v. Hartford Fin. Servs., 530 F. Supp. 2d 902, 906-07 (S .D . Tex. 2008); see also Chao, 498 F. Supp. 2d at 1039 (degree of overlap is "the most im p o rta n t factor" because absent such overlap there would be no need for a stay). In a d d itio n , the Eleventh Circuit has held that "a blanket assertion of the privilege [against c o m p u ls o ry self-incrimination] is an inadequate basis for the issuance of a stay." Lot 5, 2 3 F.3d at 364. 3 C. Instant Case U n d e r the circumstances presented here, the Court finds that a stay is not w a rra n te d . Defendant has submitted no evidence or argument of any "special c irc u m s ta n c e " that would compel a stay. Instead, Defendant argues that his Fifth A m e n d m e n t right against self-incrimination requires a stay because his assertions of p riv ile g e will delay the case. This argument does not demonstrate a "special c irc u m s ta n c e ." The Eleventh Circuit has expressly stated that a blanket assertion of Fifth A m e n d m e n t privilege against self-incrimination is an inadequate basis for the issuance of a stay. See Lot 5, 23 F.3d at 364. Defendant's Fifth Amendment concerns are too s p e c u la tiv e and hypothetical at this time. The parties here have not yet engaged in d is c o v e ry, held a Rule 26(f) meeting, or participated in a Rule 16 pretrial conference. In a d d itio n , the Defendant's trial is scheduled for September 22, 2009. It is not clear to the C o u rt how any potential assertion of Fifth Amendment rights affects either party to the d e trim e n t of the other at this stage of the proceedings. If "substantial circumstances" a rise that Defendant believes warrants a stay during the course of litigation, then D e f e n d a n t may re-file his motion. Another consideration for the Court in determining whether to stay this case is the s im ila rity between the two actions. This factor likewise favors denial of Defendant's m o tio n to stay. While an issue in both this civil action and the Chambers County p ro c e e d in g will be whether Defendant sexually assaulted minors B.L. and A.L., Plaintiffs 4 bring several other claims against two other defendants, City of Lanett and Teddy Morris. The two actions, therefore, are sufficiently different from one another and a stay is not a p p ro p ria te at this time. CONCLUSION A c c o rd in g ly, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendant's Motion To Stay All P ro c e e d in g s (Doc. # 10) is DENIED. D o n e this the 17 th day of August, 2009. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 5

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