Williams v. aragon et al
ORDER granting 34 Joint Motion to Stay. All discovery in this matter is hereby STAYED pending ruling on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. The Scheduling Conference set for January 23, 2014 is VACATED. No later than seven days after ruling o n Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, if any portion of this case remains pending, the parties shall file a Joint Status Report advising whether the stay should be lifted and the Scheduling Conference should be reset, by Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya on 1/17/13.(sgrim)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya
Civil Action No. 13BcvB02377BREBBKMT
LESTER WILLIAMS, an individual,
JOHN DOE, individual employees of the Colorado Department of Corrections,
JAMES MARKUM, individual employees of Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center in
Colorado Springs, Colorado, and
COMMUNITY EDUCATION CENTERS, INC., d/b/a CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN REENTRY
CENTER in Colorado Springs, Colorado,
This matter is before the court on Defendants’ “Joint 1 Motion to Stay.” (Doc. No. 34,
filed Dec. 23, 2013.) “Plaintiff’s Opposition to Motion to Stay Discovery” was filed on January
13, 2014. (Doc. No. 41.) Although the time for Defendants to file a reply has not yet passed, the
Defendants’ Motion is “joint” insofar as it was filed by both the CDOC and CMRC
Defendants. It is not joint between Defendants and Plaintiff.
court notes that it may rule on a motion at any time after it is filed. D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1C. For
the following reasons, Defendants’ Motion to Stay is GRANTED.
Plaintiff’s Complaint, filed September 3, 2013 (Doc. No. 1), alleges two claims,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violations of his Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth
Amendment rights, as well as a state law negligence claim, based on Defendants’ actions
of revoking his parole for 378 days. Plaintiff alleges that this parole revocation was 198
days more than the 180 days allowed under Colorado law for a technical violation of the
terms of parole where the original conviction was not a Crime of Violence.
Defendants Community Education Centers, Inc. d/b/a/ Cheyenne Mountain ReEntry Center, James Markum, and Richard LaLonde (hereinafter the “CMRC
Defendants”) and Defendants Aragon, Archuleta, Carlson, Cooper, Hager, Hollenbeck,
and Watt (hereinafter the “CDOC Defendants”) filed separate Motions to Dismiss on
November 22, 2013. (Doc. No. 26 [CMRC Mot. Dismiss] & Doc. No. 28 [CDOC Mot.
Dismiss].) In their Motion to Dismiss, the CDOC Defendants argue, inter alia, that they
are entitled to qualified immunity from Plaintiff’s constitutional claims. (CDOC Mot.
Dismiss at 13-15.) As such, Defendants argue in their Motion to Stay that discovery in
this case should be stayed until after ruling on the Motions to Dismiss.
Immunity provisions, whether qualified, absolute or pursuant to the Eleventh
Amendment, are meant to free officials from the concerns and burdens of litigation, such as
disruptive discovery. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 685 (2009) (citing Siegert v. Gilley,
500 U.S. 226, 236 (1991)) (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment); see also Workman v. Jordan,
958 F.2d 332, 335 (10th Cir. 1992) (citing Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 817-18 (1982))
(qualified immunity, if successful protects the official both from liability as well as from the
ordinary burdens of litigation). As explained by Justice Kennedy in Iqbal, there are serious and
legitimate reasons for this protection.
If a Government official is to devote time to his or her duties, and to the
formulation of sound and responsible policies, it is counterproductive to require
the substantial diversion that is attendant to participating in litigation and making
informed decisions as to how it should proceed. Litigation, though necessary to
ensure that officials comply with the law, exacts heavy costs in terms of
efficiency and expenditure of valuable time and resources that might otherwise be
directed to the proper execution of the work of the Government.
556 U.S. at 685.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly provide for a stay of
proceedings. See String Cheese Incident, LLC v. Stylus Shows, Inc., 02–CV–01934–
LTB–PA, 2006 WL 894955, at *2 (D. Colo. March 30, 2006) (unpublished).
[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
effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants. How this can best be done calls for
the exercise of judgment, which must weigh competing interests and maintain an
Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254–55 (1936) (citing Kansas City S. Ry. Co. v.
United States, 282 U.S. 760, 763 (1931)). A stay of proceedings is thus an appropriate
exercise of this court’s discretion. Id.
Additionally, a court may decide that in a particular case it would be wise to stay
proceedings until certain challenges have been resolved. See 8A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R.
Miller & Richard L. Marcus, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 2040, at 198 (3d ed. 2010).
Although a stay of all proceedings is generally disfavored, see Bustos v. United States, 257
F.R.D. 617, 623 (D. Colo. 2009), a stay may be appropriate if “resolution of a preliminary
motion may dispose of the entire action.” Nankivil v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 216 F.R.D. 689,
692 (M.D. Fla. 2003). See also Vivid Techs., Inc. v. Am. Sci. & Eng'r, Inc., 200 F.3d 795, 804
(Fed. Cir. 1999) (“When a particular issue may be dispositive, the court may stay discovery
concerning other issues until the critical issue is resolved”). When considering a stay of
proceedings, this court considers: (1) the plaintiff's interests in proceeding expeditiously with
the civil action and the potential prejudice to plaintiff of a delay; (2) the burden on the
defendants; (3) the convenience to the court; (4) the interests of persons not parties to the civil
litigation; and (5) the public interest. See String Cheese Incident, 2006 WL 894955, at *2 (citing
FDIC v. Renda, No. 85–2216–O, 1987 WL 348635, at *2 (D. Kan. Aug. 6, 1987)).
The court acknowledges that Plaintiff has an interest in proceeding with this case in an
expeditious manner, and that “with the passage of time, the memories of the parties and other
witnesses may fade, witnesses may relocate or become unavailable, or documents may become
lost or inadvertently destroyed.” (Resp. at 11 (quoting Sanaah v. Howell, 08-cv-02117-REBKLM, 2009 WL 980383, at *1 (D. Colo. Apr. 9, 2009)). Nevertheless, the court finds that any
potential prejudice to Plaintiff is outweighed by the burden on the CDOC Defendants if they
forced to proceed with discovery in spite of well-established precedent supporting a stay when
qualified immunity is raised as a defense.
Plaintiff argues that a stay is not appropriate in this case because the CDOC Defendant’s
immunity defense is not “particularly well developed or compelling on its face.” (Resp. at 12
(quoting Sanaah, 2009 WL 980383, at *1)); see also Rome v Romero, 225 F.R.D. 640, 643 (D.
Colo. 2004) (noting that “a well-supported claim of qualified immunity should shield a defendant
from unnecessary and burdensome discovery.”) (emphasis added). The court disagrees. The
CDOC Defendants have argued at length that their actions did not violate Plaintiff’s
constitutional rights because, even though Plaintiff’s conviction may not have constituted a
crime of violence per se, the CDOC was nevertheless required to examine the facts and
determine if plaintiff’s conviction nevertheless falls within the definition of a crime of violence
in determining whether to release him. (CDOC Mot. Dismiss at 10-11 (citing Busch v. Gunter,
870 P.2d 586, 587 (Colo. App.1993)). Although the court declines to discuss the proper
resolution of the CDOC Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss in detail at this time, it does note that the
CDOC Defendants’ would likely be entitled to qualified immunity if this argument proves
correct. See PJ ex rel. Jensen v. Wagner, 603 F.3d 1182, 1196 (10th Cir. 2010) (qualified
immunity applies if the plaintiff fails to establish (1) that the defendant’s actions violated a
federal constitutional or statutory right or (2) that the federal right was clearly established at the
time of the challenged conduct). As such, the court rejects Plaintiff’s argument that the CDOC
Defendants’ qualified immunity argument is too specious to support a stay of discovery. 2
Plaintiff also argues that the CDOC defendants’ qualified immunity defense contradicts their
own admissions and actions with respect to Plaintiff. Namely, Plaintiff argues he was released
after Defendants admitted, in writing, that they were holding him illegally. However, because
the CDOC Defendants have raised qualified immunity in a motion to dismiss, the court’s
analysis of the defense will be limited to the four concerns of the complaint. Further, the CDOC
Defendants’ qualified immunity defense appears to raises a question of law regarding the proper
interpretation of Colorado statutes. Therefore, at this time, Defendants’ purported admissions
Plaintiff also points out that the CMRC Defendants have not, and likely cannot, raise
qualified immunity as a defense. Therefore, Plaintiff argues that even if the CDOC Defendants
may be entitled to a stay based on qualified immunity, discovery should not be stayed with
respect to the CMRC Defendants. However, the Supreme Court has recognized:
It is no answer to these concerns [of avoiding disruptive discovery] to say that
discovery can be deferred while pretrial proceedings continue for other
defendants. It is quite likely that, when discovery as to the other parties proceeds,
it would prove necessary for petitioners and their counsel to participate in the
process to ensure the case does not develop in a misleading or slanted way that
causes prejudice to their position. Even if petitioners are not yet themselves
subject to discovery orders, then, they would not be free from the burdens of
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 685. As such, proceeding with discovery as to the claims or defendants that
are not subject to the assertion of qualified immunity is not a permissible alternative. Nor would
it be enviable to proceed with discovery in such a piecemeal fashion.
The third String Cheese factor also favors a stay. Although the court has an interest in
managing its docket by seeing the case proceed expeditiously, 3 the court finds that any
inconvenience that might result from rescheduling the docket is outweighed by the potential
waste of judicial resources that would result from allowing discovery to proceed only to have the
case subsequently dismissed in its entirety on the grounds raised in the motions to dismiss.
Indeed, upon review, granting both Motions to Dismiss in toto would be dispositive of this entire
are not relevant to Defendants’ qualified immunity defense.
Plaintiff appears to argue that a stay is improper because District Judge Blackburn’s Practice
Standards discourage motions to stay. (Resp. at 3-4.) To the contrary, Judge Blackburn’s
Practice Standards discourage motions to continue and motions for extension of time—they do
not discuss motions to stay. See REB Civ. Practice Standard II.F.1, G.1.
case. See Nankivil, 216 F.R.D. at 692 (a stay may be appropriate if “resolution of a preliminary
motion may dispose of the entire action.”).
Finally, neither the interests of nonparties or the public interest in general prompt the
court to reach a different result. Accordingly, on balance, the court finds that a stay of discovery
is appropriate in this case. Therefore, it is
ORDERED that Defendants’ “Joint Motion to Stay” (Doc. No. 34) is GRANTED. All
discovery in this matter is hereby STAYED pending ruling on Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss.
The Scheduling Conference set for January 23, 2014 is VACATED. No later than seven days
after ruling on Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss, if any portion of this case remains pending, the
parties shall file a Joint Status Report advising whether the stay should be lifted and the
Scheduling Conference should be reset.
Dated this 17th day of January, 2014.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?