Valdez v. Derrick, III et al
ORDER Denying 294 Defendants' Emergency Motion to Continue Trial by Judge William J. Martinez on 9/9/2021.(trvo, )
Case 1:15-cv-00109-WJM-STV Document 299 Filed 09/09/21 USDC Colorado Page 1 of 4
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge William J. Martínez
Civil Action No. 15-cv-0109-WJM-STV
ROBERT MOTYKA, Jr., Denver Police Officer, in his individual capacity, and
CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER, a municipality,
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ EMERGENCY MOTION TO CONTINUE TRIAL
Before the Court is Defendants’ Emergency Motion to Continue Trial (“Motion”),
filed September 8, 2021. (ECF No. 294.) In the Motion, Defendants represent that
Sergeant Motyka tested positive for COVID-19 on September 8, 2021, and that all
attorney members of the trial team were exposed to Sergeant Motyka while he was
infected but before he was symptomatic. (Id. at 1–2.) On September 9, 2021, the Court
requested supplemental information from Defendants (ECF No. 296), which Defendants
provided (ECF No. 298). Plaintiff opposes the Motion. (ECF No. 297.) For the reasons
explained below, the Motion is denied.
A continuance rests in the sound discretion of the district court. See United
States v. McClaflin, 939 F.3d 1113, 1117 (10th Cir. 2019), cert. denied, 140 S. Ct. 1214
(2020). In determining whether a continuance is necessary, the Court considers the
following four factors: (1) the diligence of the party seeking the continuance; (2) the
Case 1:15-cv-00109-WJM-STV Document 299 Filed 09/09/21 USDC Colorado Page 2 of 4
likelihood the continuance, if granted, would have accomplished the stated purpose; (3)
the inconvenience to the opposing party, witnesses, and the court; and (4) the need for
the continuance and any harm resulting from its denial. Id. (citing United States v.
Glaub, 910 F.3d 1334, 1345 (10th Cir. 2018)). “The final factor is the most important.”
Id. (quoting United States v. Orr, 692 F.3d 1079, 1100 (10th Cir. 2012)).
While the Court recognizes that the requested continuance does not arise from a
lack of diligence by Defendants, and that the denial of the requested continuance may
cause some harm to Defendants, the Court concludes that the need for a continuance is
substantially outweighed by the resulting prejudice and inconvenience to the Plaintiff, as
well as the related inconvenience to the witnesses and the Court.
This civil rights action arises from events that occurred on January 16, 2013—
over 8 ½ years ago—and is now by far the oldest action, civil or criminal, on the
undersigned’s docket. During this time, witnesses have retired, relocated out of state,
or passed away, and memories have undoubtedly dimmed. (ECF No. 297 at 2.)
Counsel for both parties have already spent an extraordinary amount of time and
resources preparing this case for trial to commence on September 13, 2021.
This action has already been continued twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(ECF Nos. 218, 231.) Given the substantial trial backlog as a result of the pandemic,
the undersigned is likely unable to reschedule this three-week trial for any time prior to
mid-2022 at the earliest. Even if the Court were to grant Defendants’ Motion, there is
unfortunately no guarantee that the COVID-19 pandemic situation will have improved by
the next trial setting.
Case 1:15-cv-00109-WJM-STV Document 299 Filed 09/09/21 USDC Colorado Page 3 of 4
In the Motion, Defendants represent that Sergeant Motyka first began exhibiting
symptoms of COVID-19 on Friday, September 4, 2021. (ECF No. 294 at 3.) Given that
he has now tested positive for COVID-19, pursuant to the current guidance from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), Sergeant Motyka can emerge
from isolation and attend trial as soon as: (1) 10 days have passed since his symptoms
first appeared; (2) 24 hours have passed with no fever without the use of fever-reducing
medications; and (3) his other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving. See CDC,
“Quarantine and Isolation,” at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/yourhealth/quarantine-isolation.html (last updated June 29, 2021). Based on this guidance,
it is likely that Sergeant Motyka will be able to attend trial as soon as Wednesday,
September 15, 2021. His inability to attend trial in person will thus be limited to only the
first two days of trial.
During any portion of the trial in which Sergeant Motyka is unable to attend in
person, the Court will: (1) allow Sergeant Motyka to listen and follow along with the
proceedings over the public access line; and (2) allow defense counsel reasonable
opportunities to consult with Sergeant Motyka by e-mail, text or mobile phone.
The Court further believes that defense counsel still has ample opportunity to
finalize their trial preparations. Because all attorney members of the defense team were
fully vaccinated when they were exposed to COVID-19, CDC guidance does not require
them to quarantine unless they have symptoms. (Id.) Notwithstanding Defendants’
assertions that the events underlying the Motion have caused a “substantial disruption
to their preparations” (ECF No. 294 at 5), the Court notes that all attorney members of
the trial team have still been able to interact with each other in person for multiple hours
Case 1:15-cv-00109-WJM-STV Document 299 Filed 09/09/21 USDC Colorado Page 4 of 4
a day and engage in trial preparations (ECF No. 298 at 2). 1 Moreover, while the Court
recognizes that the days leading up to trial are busy for counsel in any case, the
undersigned notes that defense counsel have years of familiarity with this action, and
they have already submitted all of their pretrial deliverables, including their proposed
stipulated and disputed jury instructions, proposed voir dire questions, proposed verdict
form, witness lists, exhibit lists, and deposition designations.
After carefully considering the parties’ arguments in the Motion, Plaintiff’s
response, and Defendants’ supplemental statement, the Court concludes that a
continuance is not warranted, primarily due to the extraordinary prejudice that would be
inflicted on the Plaintiff as a result. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, the
Court ORDERS that Defendants’ Emergency Motion to Continue Trial Date (ECF No.
294) is DENIED.
Dated this 9th day of September, 2021.
BY THE COURT:
William J. Martinez
United States District Judge
Because this trial is scheduled to last 12 days with no trial held on Friday, September
24, 2021 (ECF No. 231), counsel will also have opportunities to prepare during trial.
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?