Bowden v. Bright House Networks LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 26 MOTION to Stay. Accordingly, the Stay previously entered in this action is hereby LIFTED. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 1/5/2017. (JLC)
2017 Jan-05 PM 04:41
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
BRIGHT HOUSE NETWORKS,
) Case No.: 2:16-CV-1237-VEH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending before the court is Defendant’s Opposed Motion To Stay
Proceedings (Doc. 26) (the “Stay Motion”), filed December 15, 2016.1 Attached to
the Stay Motion are several documents, including a memorandum of law, or brief.
(Doc. 26-1).2 Plaintiff filed her opposition (Doc. 27) on December 12, 2016, and
Defendant followed with its reply (Doc. 30 as corrected by Doc. 31) on December
20, 2016. Oral argument was held on December 21, 2016. At that hearing, the court
directed the parties to file supplemental briefing and stayed this action (by consent
This action was filed on July 29, 2016, and randomly assigned to a magistrate judge of
this court. On November 9, 2016, the matter was reassigned to the undersigned district judge.
In fact, not counting the Stay Motion or the brief in support of it, the Defendant filed
almost 300 pages of attachments to its Stay Motion. See Docs. 26-2 through 26-9.
of the parties) pending a substantive decision on the Stay Motion. (Order, Doc. 32).
That supplemental briefing was filed yesterday, January 3, 2017. (Docs. 34, 35).
This Order is the court’s substantive decision on the Stay Motion. The Stay Motion
A court has inherent power to grant or deny a request to stay a proceeding in
its discretion. Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). The power
to stay should be exercised based on considerations of “[w]ise judicial administration, giving regard to conservation of judicial resources and comprehensive
disposition of litigation.” Kerotest Mfg. C. v. C-O-Two Fire Equip. Co., 342 U.S.
180, 183 (1952). As the Supreme Court has noted, “[a] stay is not a matter of right,
even if irreparable injury might otherwise result. It is instead an exercise of judicial
discretion, and the party requesting a stay bears the burden of showing that the
circumstances justify an exercise of that discretion.” Indiana State Police Pension
Trust v. Chrysler LLC, 556 U.S. 960, 961 (2009) (internal citation and quotation
marks omitted)(emphasis supplied). Stated differently, the party seeking a stay must
make out a clear case of hardship or inequity in being required to go forward, if
there is even a fair possibility that the stay for which he prays will work damage to
some one else. Only in rare circumstances will a litigant in one cause be compelled
to stand aside while a litigant in another settles the rule of law that will define the
rights of both. Landis, 299 U.S. at 254-55. The decision whether to grant a stay
pending resolution of other litigation requires balancing the competing interests of
the parties. Id.
THE PARTIES’ ARGUMENTS
Defendant premised its Stay Motion on the D.C. Circuit’s anticipated
decision in ACA International v. FCC, No. 15-1211 (D.C. Cir.) and suggested that
it “ is likely to be outcome-determinative of this dispute and therefore merits a stay
of all pending proceedings, including discovery, until it has been issued.” (Doc. 26
at 1).3 Defendant states that the “requested stay will be brief as ACA International
is fully briefed and has already been argued before the D.C. Circuit.” (Id.).
Defendant initially argued that the traditional stay factors weighed in its favor: (1) A
Stay Poses No Risk of Harm to Plaintiff (Doc. 26-1 at 23-25); (2) [Defendant] BHN
Will Suffer Hardship and Inequity if this Action Proceeds Before ACA is Decided
(id. at 26-28); (3) A Stay Will Promote Judicial Efficiency by Simplifying this Case
(id. at 28-29); and (4) A Stay Will Further the Public Interest and the Interests of
Unless otherwise noted, all references to page numbers of filings made with this court are
to the number(s) assigned by the court’s cm/ecf electronic filing system.
Persons Not Parties to this Action (id. at 30).4 Although these are the four primary
arguments made in initial support of the Stay Motion, Defendant also asserted that
“this Court may lack jurisdiction to address several of [Defendant’s] defenses at all
prior to a ruling in ACA, preventing a meaningful adjudication of [Defendant’s]
defenses” (Doc. 26-1 at 27). Indeed, Defendant asserted that failure to grant the
requested stay would cause Defendant to be “handcuffed from asserting its ATDS
defense (and other defenses) under the Hobbs Act, in violation of due process.”
(Doc. 30 at 5)(emphasis supplied). (See also id. at 9) (“Absent a stay, however,
[Defendant] could be foreclosed from asserting its ATDS and other defenses
altogether under the Hobbs Act, in violation of its due process rights.”)(emphasis
supplied); (id. at 10) (“[Defendant] also seeks a stay to prevent being forced to
litigate this action while it is prevented from asserting its substantive defenses by the
Hobbs Act in violation of due process.”)(emphasis supplied). Indeed, in its
supplemental brief (Doc. 35), Defendant devoted an entire section to its argument
that a denial of a stay would, under the facts of this case, deprive the Defendant of
due process. (Id. at 11-12).
Plaintiff disputed the significance of what the ACA International opinion will
mean to the merits of this action. And, it appears that the Defendant now concedes
See also Doc. 26-1 at 9-10.
that ACA International will not necessarily “end this case”, as it once contended.
Compare Doc. 35 at 13 (“[E]ven if the ... decision in ACA does not lead to an
immediate dismissal of this case, it will clarify the appropriate scope of discovery
and other proceedings in this case.”) with Doc. 26-1 at 28 (“As explained herein, the
D.C. Circuit’s final interpretation of the TCPA could ‘be outcome-determinative of
Having carefully considered all the arguments of the parties, the court finds
that a stay is not appropriate in this case. The Defendant has failed to meet its
burden to show that the harm to it from the litigation’s proceeding outweighs the
Plaintiff’s (and the public’s) right to a prompt resolution of this matter. I will not
speculate as to whether the named Plaintiff’s claims (in this putative class action)
would be resolved by whatever decision the D.C. Circuit reaches in the ACA case.
The Defendant has not helped itself by hyperbole such as claiming that this court
lacks jurisdiction over this matter because of the ACA case, or that a denial of a stay
is a denial of due process. Further, it appears to me that a stay pending the decision
of another court necessarily is “indeterminate”, and therefore I cannot determine
that it is “not immoderate,” just as I cannot say whether or not the ACA decision
will be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. “When a district court
exercises its discretion to stay a case pending the resolution of related proceedings
in another forum, the district court must limit properly the scope of the stay[, which]
must not be immoderate.” Ortega Trujillo v. Conover & Co. Communications, Inc.,
221 F.3d 1262, 1264 (11th Cir.2000) (internal quotes omitted)(emphasis supplied).5
For the reasons set out above, the court finds that the Stay Motion is due to
be, and hereby is, DENIED. Accordingly, the stay previously entered in this action
is hereby LIFTED.
DONE and ORDERED this the 5th day of January, 2017.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
To the extent that the Defendant believes that discovery should be limited at this time to
the facts relevant to the named Plaintiff’s claims in this putative class action, the court will
consider a motion to that effect, provided that the parties first confer as required under my
Uniform Initial Order.
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