Wagner v. City of Omaha, et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS ORDERED that defendants' objection (Filing No. 59 ) to the order of the magistrate judge (Filing No. 56 ) is overruled. Ordered by Judge Joseph F. Bataillon. (TCL )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
THE CITY OF OMAHA; OMAHA POLICE
OFFICERS BILLIE JO CEGLAR, JACKIE
DOLINSKY, JOSH KELLY, AARON
PENNINGTON, JODI SAUTTER, SCOTT
ZYMBALL and MATTHEW KEENAN,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the court on defendants’ objection, Filing No. 59, to the
order of the magistrate judge, Filing No. 56, on defendants’ motion to bifurcate claims
and denying their motion to stay discovery, Filing No. 47. This is a civil rights action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force in effecting an arrest and conspiracy. In his
amended complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant police officers used
excessive force on him during his arrest on May 29, 2011, and also alleges that the City
of Omaha has a policy, practice or custom of failing to train, supervise, or control its
officers and condones or facilitates misconduct by its officers.
The magistrate judge granted a bifurcation of individual and policy claims to
avoid potential prejudice to the individual defendants, but denied a stay of discovery
finding there overlapping evidence and that deferring discovery on the policy claims
would be costly and inefficient.
Defendants object to that portion of the order that
denies a stay of discovery and that requires a trial on the policy claims to commence
immediately following trial on the individual capacity claims. Defendants argue that the
magistrate judge’s order: (1) unreasonably minimizes the costs and inconvenience to
the defendants when it is unlikely that the policy claims will ever go to trial, (2) ignores
that policy claims discovery will not likely lead to admissible evidence and will in reality
be only used to harass the defendants, and (3) overestimates the degree that any policy
claim discovery will generate admissible evidence that has overlapping relevance to the
A magistrate judge’s authority over nondispositive pretrial matters is governed by
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Gomez v. United States, 490 U.S. 858, 873-74 (1989); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a).
On review of a decision of the magistrate judge on a
nondispositive matter, the district court may set aside any part of the magistrate judge’s
order that it finds is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(A); Fed.
R. Civ. P. 72(a); see Ferguson v. United States, 484 F.3d 1068, 1076 (8th Cir. 2007) (“A
district court may reconsider a magistrate judge’s ruling on nondispositive pretrial
matters where it has been shown that the ruling is clearly erroneous or contrary to
A magistrate is afforded broad discretion in the resolution of nondispositive
discovery disputes. Bialas v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 59 F.3d 759, 764 (8th Cir. 1995).
“District courts possess broad discretion to bifurcate issues for purposes of trial under
Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b).” O’Dell v. Hercules, 904 F.2d 1194, 1201-02 (8th Cir. 1990).
When determining whether bifurcation is appropriate, “district courts should consider the
preservation of constitutional rights, clarity, judicial economy, the likelihood of
inconsistent results and possibilities for confusion.” Id. at 1202.
The court finds no clear error in the magistrate judge’s ruling. The defendants
have not shown that the magistrate judge’s order is contrary to law. The magistrate
judge was within his discretion to deny a stay of discovery on the policy claims and to
order bifurcation of the individual and policy claims.
The court agrees with the
magistrate judge that there is a considerable overlap in evidence and that discovery on
all claims is not unduly burdensome for the city.
Little, if anything, in the way of
efficiency would be gained by postponing discovery on the policy claims until the claims
against the individual officers are fully litigated. The court also agrees that bifurcation of
trial is appropriate to avoid the introduction of evidence that could be potentially
prejudicial to the officers in their individual capacities. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that defendants’ objection (Filing No. 59) to the order of the
magistrate judge (Filing No. 56) is overruled.
Dated this 3rd day of July, 2013.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Joseph F. Bataillon
United States District Judge
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