ROBINSON v. MCNEESE et al
ORDER denying 36 Motion for Reconsidetaion. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE TILMAN E SELF, III on 10/13/2020. (chc) Modified on 10/15/2020 to edit docket text (vs).
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
JONATHAN CHASE MCNEESE; DAVID
KEITH OAKS; DAVID KEITH OAKS,
P.A.; TIFFANY HUGGINS; FLORIDA
HIGHWAY SAFETY & MOTOR
VEHICLES DEPARTMENT; and DOOLY
CIVIL ACTION NO.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
On October 1, 2020, the Court stayed consideration of Plaintiff’s Partial Motion
for Summary Judgment [Doc. 29] against Defendant Huggins. See [Doc. 34]. Plaintiff
now moves the Court to reconsider its Order granting Defendant Huggins’ Motion to
Stay [Doc. 33]. In his Motion for Reconsideration [Doc. 36], Plaintiff argues that he was
not afforded a hearing or opportunity to file a response prior to the entry of the
aforementioned Order. In denying this Motion, the Court considered Plaintiff’s
objections to its ruling and found them meritless and unpersuasive.
As explained in more detail below, this Court routinely stays discovery when a
defendant files a motion to dismiss. Because motions to dismiss, by their very
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definition, test the sufficiency of a plaintiff’s pleadings as drafted, discovery is not and
cannot be allowed. Thus, it serves the interests of judicial efficiency and economy to
immediately consider and rule on pending motions to dismiss that present purely legal
questions prior to discovery.
In this action, Plaintiff has failed to serve four of the six named defendants. Both
defendants that have appeared timely filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a
claim. Again, such motions present purely legal questions that should be resolved
before the parties bear the costly burdens associated with the discovery process.
Therefore, the Court appropriately stayed discovery and consideration of any motions
reliant on discovery (such as Plaintiff’s Motions for Partial Summary Judgment) in
order to resolve these preliminary matters. See [Doc. 13]; [Doc. 29]. For this reason, and
for those discussed below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration
For context, the Court provides a brief overview of the filings relevant to its
consideration of Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration.
Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit against Defendants McNeese and Dooly County,
Georgia, on April 24, 2020. [Doc. 1]. Several months later, Plaintiff amended his
Complaint to add four new defendants: David Keith Oaks; David Keith Oaks, P.A.;
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Tiffany Huggins; and the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department.
[Doc. 8]. Presently, only Defendants McNeese and Huggins have appeared in this
action. They each filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, 1 which remain
pending before the Court. [Doc. 12]; [Doc. 21]. In turn, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment [Doc. 13] against Defendant McNeese on August 24, 2020.
Subsequently, Defendant Huggins moved for a stay of discovery which the Court
granted via text-only Order the same day. [Doc. 23]; [Doc. 24]. There, the Court
explicitly stated that “[d]iscovery shall not commence in this case until the Court rules
on all motions to dismiss.” [Doc. 24]. Soon thereafter, Defendant McNeese moved to
stay consideration of Plaintiff’s partial summary judgment motion until the close of
discovery. [Doc. 26]. The Court granted Defendant McNeese’s motion to stay, once
again noting an interest in ruling first on the pending motions to dismiss. [Doc. 27].
Then on September 22, 2020, Plaintiff filed another Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment [Doc. 29], this time against Defendant Huggins. Within a week, Defendant
Huggins moved the Court to stay consideration of Plaintiff’s motion against her until
the close of discovery. [Doc. 33]. Upon review of prior orders staying discovery pending
In Huggins’ Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 21], she seeks dismissal of the pending claims against her on the
grounds that (1) the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over her and (2) that Plaintiff failed to state a claim
for conspiracy or unreasonable search and seizure against her. In contrast, Defendant McNeese, in his
Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 12], only pointed to Plaintiff’s failure to state a claim as grounds for dismissal.
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resolution of the motions to dismiss, the Court likewise granted Defendant Huggins’
motion. [Doc. 34].
Following the entry of the most recent stay Order [Doc. 34.], Plaintiff filed a
Motion for Reconsideration. In it, he requests the Court “to reconsider and/or strike”
each motion staying consideration of his partial summary judgment motions because he
was not afforded an opportunity to be heard on the stay motions before the Court
granted them. [Doc. 36-1, pp. 1, 5].
Standard of Review
Pursuant to Local Rule 7.6, “[m]otions for reconsideration shall not be filed as a
matter of routine practice.” Accordingly, such motions are appropriate only if a party
demonstrates that “(1) there has been an intervening change in the law, (2) new
evidence has been discovered that was not previously available to the parties at the
time the original order was entered, or (3) reconsideration is necessary to correct a clear
error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Bryant v. Walker, No. 5:10-CV-84, 2010 WL
2687590, at *1 (M.D. Ga. July 1, 2010) (quoting Wallace v. Ga. Dep’t of Transp., No. 7:04-cv78, 2006 WL 1582409, at *2 (M.D. Ga. June 6, 2006)). In this matter, Plaintiff appears to
rely on the third factor to support his Motion because he does not cite to any changes of
law or present new evidence. Rather, Plaintiff alleges the Court violated his due process
rights when it did not grant him any opportunity to respond to the motions to stay
before they were granted. [Doc. 36-1, pp. 1, 5]. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that “the
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Court appears to be favoring the Defendants in this matter by clearing the path for a
dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claims . . . and denying discovery.” [Id. at p. 5].
Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration
Upon review of Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration, Plaintiff takes issue with
the Court’s order regarding procedural matters and the discovery process. In fact,
Plaintiff even goes so far as to argue that “[t]he Court has slammed the doors shut to
any meaningful discovery that would surely lead to an electronic connection between
[Defendants McNeese and Huggins]” and is “clearing the path for a dismissal of . . .
Plaintiff’s claims . . . .” [Doc. 36-1, p. 5]. Serious accusations to be sure.
First, the Court stayed discovery and consideration of Plaintiff’s post-discovery
motions in the interests of judicial efficiency and competent case management. It is
well-established that “[t]he Court has broad inherent power to stay discovery until
preliminary issues can be settled which may be dispositive of some important aspect of
the case.” Whitaker v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. Sys. of Ga., No. CV 118-141, 2019 WL
5569735, at *1 (S.D. Ga. Oct. 28, 2019) (quoting Feldman v. Flood, 176 F.R.D. 651, 652
(M.D. Fla. 1997)). As noted, there are preliminary matters in this action—two motions to
dismiss—that the Court must resolve prior to its consideration of substantive, highlyfact intensive disputes, such as motions for partial summary judgment. As a general
principle, “[f]acial challenges to the legal sufficiency of a claim or defense, such as a
motion to dismiss based on failure to state a claim for relief should . . . be resolved
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before discovery begins.” Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1367 (11th Cir.
1997); see Roberts v. FNB S. of Alma, Ga., 716 F. App’x 854, 857 (11th Cir. 2017) (“And, in
general, motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim ‘should be resolved before
discovery begins.’”) (citation omitted).
And this makes sense because generally a court does not (and cannot) refer to
facts or evidence beyond a plaintiff’s complaint to rule on a motion to dismiss. “Such a
[motion] always presents a purely legal question; there are no issues of fact because the
allegations in the pleading are presumed to be true.” Chudasama, 123 F.3d at 1367; see
Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999) (“At the motion to
dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences
therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”). Because any facts
in a plaintiff’s complaint are accepted as true, neither party has a right to full-blown
discovery, which is designed to ferret out the facts, prior to a court ruling on motions to
Next, the Court correctly stayed discovery before ruling on pending motions to
dismiss because their resolution may narrow the scope of discovery. See Chudasama, 123
F.3d at 1368–69 (discussing how a motion to stay discovery is appropriate where ruling
on a motion to dismiss may narrow the scope of the parties’ discovery requests).
Although Plaintiff alleges that the Court’s stay of discovery, and subsequently, its delay
in considering his partial summary judgment motions effectively denied him the right
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to any “meaningful discovery” to support his claims, he is misguided. [Doc. 36-1, p. 5].
Plaintiff cannot rely on discovery as the device which will enable him “to make a case
[if] his complaint has failed to state a claim.” Chudasama, 123 F.3d at 1367 (quoting
Kaylor v. Fields, 661 F.2d 1177, 1184 (8th Cir. 1981)). In other words, because a plaintiff is
the master of his complaint, he must draft it well enough to survive any preliminary
Furthermore, if the Court ultimately grants the pending motions to dismiss, it
would eliminate any need for discovery as to Defendants McNeese and Huggins,
clearly narrowing the scope of any allowed discovery.2 Conversely, Plaintiff suffers no
harm upon a denial of the dismissal motions because his claims would simply continue
forward, and the parties would then meet to jointly submit a Rule 16/26 discovery order
for the Court’s ultimate approval.
The Court acknowledges and agrees that discovery is “essential to the fairness of
our system of litigation.” Chudasama, 123 F.3d at 1367. Accordingly, the Court would
never deprive the parties of the opportunity for discovery when the need for it arises.
However, the Court also understands that discovery imposes significant costs and
burdens on litigants and the judicial system itself. 3 Indeed, the Court’s failure to rule on
Additionally, if the Court dismisses the claims asserted against Defendants McNeese and Huggins, then
Plaintiff’s pending partial summary judgment motions would be moot.
Upon review, the Court considers those burdens associated with discovery such as:
the time spent searching for and compiling relevant documents; the time, expense, and
aggravation of preparing for and attending depositions; the costs of copying and shipping
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motions to dismiss until after the start of discovery “encourages abusive discovery, and
if [such claims are eventually] dismissed, imposes unnecessary costs” on both parties.
Id. at 1368. Thus, the Court correctly stayed discovery in this case.
Lastly, the Court must address Plaintiff’s allegation that he was denied a hearing
and opportunity to respond to both Defendants’ motions to stay prior to a ruling by the
Court. [Doc. 36-1, pp. 1, 5]. Under Local Rule 7.7, the Court may immediately consider
certain motions after filing when “the Court may clearly determine from the record
before it the relative legal positions of the parties so as to obviate the need for the filing
of opposition thereto.” Prior to the entry of its Orders [Doc. 27]; [Doc. 34] to stay
consideration of Plaintiff’s partial summary judgment motions, the Court had already
issued an Order [Doc. 24] to stay discovery pending ruling on the motions to dismiss.
Since September, Plaintiff has known of the Court’s intention to first rule on the
motions to dismiss, and he did not raise any objection until his present Motion for
Reconsideration. See [Doc. 24 (“Discovery shall not commence in this case until the
court rules on all motions to dismiss . . . .”)]. Furthermore, since the Court stayed
consideration of Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment against Defendant
McNeese without objection from Plaintiff, the Court determined from the parties’
documents; and the attorney’s fees generated in interpreting discovery requests, drafting
responses to interrogatories and coordinating responses to production requests, advising
the client as to which documents should be disclosed and which ones withheld, and
determining whether certain information is privileged.
Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1367 (11th Cir. 1997).
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actions that a motion to stay consideration of Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment against Defendant Huggins would similarly be unopposed. Regardless, the
Court, through this Order, has weighed Plaintiff’s objections to each motion to stay in
this action, and found them to be unpersuasive.
To summarize, two Defendants have filed motions to dismiss, which are prediscovery motions. Plaintiff has filed two motions seeking partial summary judgment,
which are post-discovery motions. The motions to dismiss cannot rely on discovery and
the motions for partial summary judgment almost certainly must rely on discovery. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). Therefore, the Court will rule on the pending motions to dismiss
first. If claims against those Defendants survive, then the Court will issue a Rule 16/26
order which will set the boundaries for discovery. Thus, the Court reassures Plaintiff
that should his claims against Defendants McNeese and Huggins survive their
dismissal motions, the Court will hold wide the discovery door for him. But, if those
claims fail to survive the pending motions to dismiss, there will simply be no need for
Based on the foregoing, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration
[Doc. 36], and the Court’s previous Orders [Doc. 27]; [Doc. 34] stand as filed.
The Court takes this opportunity to remind Plaintiff of his responsibility to serve the remaining
Defendants within the time constraints of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m).
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SO ORDERED, this 13th day of October, 2020.
S/ Tilman E. Self, III
TILMAN E. SELF, III, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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