Smith v. Shartle et al

Filing 136

ORDER GRANTING 111 Motion for Temporary Stay of Discovery Pending Resolution of Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Senior Judge Raner C Collins on 11/16/20. (BAC)

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1 WO 2 3 4 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 6 7 Estate of Clinton Dewayne Smith, et al., 8 9 10 11 Plaintiffs, No. CV-18-00323-TUC-RCC ORDER v. John T. Shartle, et al., Defendants. 12 13 14 Pending before the Court is Defendant United States’ Motion for Temporary Stay of 15 Discovery Pending Resolution of Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 111.) This matter has been fully 16 briefed. (Docs. 111, 118, 121.) This case has proceeded in an unusual manner, resulting in 17 the disjointed status of discovery that now exists between Defendant United States 18 (“Defendant United States”) and Defendants John Domitrovich, et al. (“Bivens 19 Defendants”). As fully outlined below, in the interests of promoting judicial economy and 20 resolving the current fragmentation in the discovery process, the Court grants the motion. 21 a. Relevant Facts 22 The procedural history of this case is extensive and will not be summarized in its 23 entirety here. There are, however, a number of points the Court wishes to highlight. On July 24 2, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their first Bivens complaint against two named wardens and seven 25 un-named defendants arising out of the death of Clinton Dewayne Smith. (Doc. 1.) Since 26 that time, Plaintiffs have filed several amended Bivens complaints against shifting 27 individual government employees, culminating in the operative fourth amended complaint 28 against sixteen Bivens Defendants. (Doc. 103.) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 In the interim, on June 20, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a separate Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) action against the United States arising out of the same event. (Doc. 1, Case No. CV-19-00325-TUC-RCC.) On June 28, 2019, the Court consolidated the two actions pursuant to Local Rule 42. (Doc. 44.) After consolidation, Defendant United States filed its Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction on October 5, 2019. (Doc. 64.) With this motion pending, the Court issued an order finding that, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(4) and General Order 17-08(A)(6), Defendant United States was not required to 8 provide discovery under the Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot (“MIDP”) until “the Court’s 9 ruling on the pending Motion to Dismiss and the remaining parties’ answers or Rule 12 10 motions.” (Doc. 84.) Subsequently, the Court denied Defendant United States’ Motion to 11 Dismiss. (Doc. 92.) After filing its answer (Doc. 93), Defendant United States disclosed 12 “approximately 2,900 pages of documents, including staff rosters, inmate files, and 13 investigation documents concerning the death of Smith.” (Doc. 111 at 6.) 14 15 16 17 On June 26, 2020, Plaintiffs filed their fourth amended Bivens complaint. (Doc. 103.) Bivens Defendants then filed their Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 109.) As of October 28, 2020, this matter has been fully briefed. (Docs. 103, 109, 128, 134.) The Court has yet to rule on the pending Motion to Dismiss. 18 The issue currently before this Court follows Plaintiffs’ request for discovery from 19 Defendant United States. (Doc. 111-1.) Plaintiffs’ request included records of inmate-on- 20 inmate violence and details of “the involvement of all individuals who decided or 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 effectuated the cell placement of Romeo Giovanni and Clinton Smith . . . . [and] every reason and any rationale as to why Romeo Giovanni was celled with Clinton Smith . . . .” (Doc. 111-1 at 9–10.) Defendant United States recognizes that it will eventually provide this information as part of the discovery process, but it asks this Court to temporarily stay discovery pending resolution of Bivens Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 111 at 12– 15; Doc. 121 at 5.) In relevant part, Defendant United States argues that the discovery request, although not directed at Bivens Defendants, inextricably involves information relating to Plaintiffs’ -2- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 claim against these sixteen individuals. (Doc. 111 at 13.) Plaintiffs contend that “[t]he fact that the discovery may finally reveal which Bureau of Prisons official did what with respect to the circumstances in this case . . . is of no consequence to the Court’s analysis.” (Doc. 118 at 3.) Additionally, Plaintiffs urge the Court to avoid further delay, noting that the information requested will eventually be disclosed as the FTCA claim against Defendant United States proceeds. (Id. at 7, 9.) b. Discussion Although motions to stay discovery are generally disfavored, “[a] district court has discretion to stay civil proceedings in the interest of justice and in the light of the particular circumstances of the case.” Moreno v. Maricopa Cty. Corr. Health Servs., No. CV-1701074-PHX-DJH (JFM), 2018 WL 3154470, at *3 (D. Ariz. June 28, 2018) (citing Grubbs v. Irey, No. Civ. S-0601714 RRB GGH, 2008 WL 906246, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 31, 2008); see also Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936) (“[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and efforts for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.”). As the parties correctly observe, Plaintiffs’ FTCA claim against Defendant United States will proceed. This includes the attendant discovery. Nonetheless, Plaintiffs had this valid FTCA claim at the time they filed their original Bivens action. While Plaintiffs relay the difficulty they have had litigating this case given the “secretive” nature of the events (Doc. 118 at 9), the fact remains, had Plaintiffs filed these claims together, the trajectory of discovery from all defendants would have proceeded on the same timeline. However, because of the unique procedural history of the case, this did not happen. Instead, Defendant United States provided initial discovery before the fourth amended Bivens complaint and subsequent Motion to Dismiss. The Court would like to resolve the disjointed nature of this case moving forward in light of the circumstances and in the interests of judicial economy. Therefore, the Court will temporarily stay additional discovery until the resolution of the pending Motion to Dismiss 28 -3- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 as to Bivens Defendants. This will allow all parties to proceed on the same timeline and offer more clarity. Furthermore, the Court does not believe that the information requested by Plaintiffs is necessary at this point to the extent it could have supported Plaintiffs’ claims against Bivens Defendants. With regard to the fourth amended Bivens complaint, Plaintiffs need only meet the pleading standard. Of possible assistance, Plaintiffs now have more than 2,000 pages of discovery including staff rosters, daily logs, inmate rosters, post orders, and policies and program statements. (Doc. 121 at 4–5.) 9 10 11 12 IT IS ORDERED GRANTING the Motion for Temporary Stay of Discovery Pending Resolution of Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 111.) Dated this 16th day of November, 2020. 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -4-

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