SPERRY v. BRIDGES et al
OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer on 11/18/2021. (qa, )
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 18-9996 (ES) (MAH)
ANDRAIA BRIDGES, et al.,
This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Andraia Bridges’s motion for a
protective order deferring her deposition until the resolution of a New Jersey Superior Court
criminal action against her. Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order, Sept. 14, 2021, D.E. 85. The
Court has considered the parties’ submissions and, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
78 and Local Civil Rule 78.1, has decided the motion without oral argument. For the reasons set
forth below, the Court will deny the motion.
Plaintiff initiated this action on June 1, 2018 by filing a Complaint against Bridges and
other New Jersey Department of Corrections officers. Compl., June 1, 2018, D.E. 1, at ¶¶ 9, 2429. According to the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Northern State
Prison on November 29, 2017. On that date, Defendant Raheem Williams and Defendant
Bridges were working at that facility as corrections officers. Second Am. Compl., Mar. 4, 2020,
D.E. 36, at ¶¶ 6-7, 17-18. Plaintiff alleges that he was attacked without provocation and
repeatedly punched by Defendant Williams. Id. at ¶¶ 17-19. Plaintiff further alleges that
Defendant Bridges failed to intervene, and instead pepper-sprayed Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 33-38.
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Plaintiff contends that Defendants’ conduct during and after the incident constituted violations of
his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at pp. 9-14.
Defendant Bridges has not been subject to criminal charges for her role in the alleged
assault on Plaintiff. However, Defendant Bridges has been charged in New Jersey Superior
Court with one count of official misconduct, N.J.S.A. 2C:30-2B, in connection with a January
12, 2021 incident at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at pp. 1, 4;
Exh. A to Certification of Benjamin Clarke, Esq., April 27, 2021, D.E. 85-1, at pp. 4-7
(“Criminal Complaint”). According to the affidavit of probable cause attached to the Criminal
Complaint, Bridges witnessed and failed to prevent a five-person extraction team’s use of
excessive force against a handcuffed, compliant female inmate. Criminal Complaint, D.E. 85-1,
at p. 8. The Criminal Complaint also charges that Defendant Bridges failed to report the
extraction team’s unauthorized use of force, despite having a legal duty to do so. Id. Defendant
Bridges has pleaded not guilty to the Criminal Complaint, has not been indicted, and a trial date
has not been set. Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at p. 4.
Defendant Bridges now seeks a protective order to defer 1 her deposition in this matter
until the resolution of her New Jersey Superior Court criminal case. Id. Defendant Bridges
asserts that the ongoing criminal case “involve[s] many of the same issues” and “nearly identical
allegations of misconduct.” Id. at p. 9. She contends that her deposition in this matter will
therefore “tread upon her Fifth Amendment rights” and “place her in the unfair position of being
Defendant Bridges states that she “does not seek a stay; rather, she seeks a mere deferral of her
deposition.” Def.’s Reply Br., Oct. 11, 2021, D.E. 88, at p. 1. Bridges’s motion papers and the
case law she relies upon repeatedly use the term “stay.” See Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2; see also
Def.’s Reply Br., D.E. 88. The Court sees no functional difference between these two terms, as
in either event Defendant Bridges seeks to postpone her deposition pending resolution of the
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forced to choose between invoking her right against self-incrimination . . . or waiving them
[sic].” Id. at p. 1. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Pl.’s Br. in Opp’n, Oct. 4, 2021, D.E. 87.
The Court has “broad discretion to manage [its] docket and to decide discovery issues.”
Gerald Chamales Corp. v. Oki Data Ams., Inc., 247 F.R.D. 453, 454 (D.N.J. 2007). This
discretion includes the ability to, “for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from
annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1).
Upon a showing of good cause, the Court may enter a protective order “forbidding disclosure or
discovery; . . . forbidding inquiry into certain matters, or limiting the scope of disclosure or
discovery to certain matters.” Id. Bridges, as the moving party, bears the burden of proving
good cause exists to limit or foreclose discovery. Cipollone v. Ligget Grp., Inc., 785 F.2d 1108,
1121 (3d Cir. 1986). Good cause is established “by demonstrating a particular need for
protection. Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated
reasoning, do not satisfy the Rule 26(c) test.” Id.
Criminal proceedings against a named party do not necessarily justify entry of a stay or a
protective order, see Forrest v. Corzine, 757 F. Supp. 2d 473, 476 (D.N.J. 2010), but a stay “may
be warranted in certain circumstances,” Walsh Sec., Inc. v. Cristo Prop. Mgmt., 7 F. Supp. 2d
523, 526 (D.N.J. 1998). “The power to stay a portion of a case or the entire proceeding is
incidental to a court’s power to dispose of cases to promote their fair and efficient adjudication.”
Gerald Chamales Corp., 247 F.R.D. at 456 (citing United States v. Breyer, 41 F.3d 884, 893 (3d
Cir. 1994)). That power “calls for the exercise of judgment and the weighing of competing
interests.” Id. (citing Landis v. North Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936)). In this case,
Defendant Bridges asserts that it is appropriate to stay her deposition because her testimony at
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this deposition may be used as evidence in her criminal case. Therefore, she asserts that if the
deposition were to proceed, she would face the Hobbesian choice of providing potentially
inculpatory testimony or invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and
thereby risking an adverse inference.
The Court finds, and the parties agree, that the six-factor test set forth in Walsh Securities
is the relevant analysis for the instant motion. Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at p. 7; Pl.’s Br., D.E. 87 at
pp. 3-4. In the context of parallel civil and criminal proceedings,
[t]he factors to be considered in deciding whether to grant a stay
include: 1) the extent to which the issues in the criminal and civil
cases overlap; 2) the status of the case, including whether the
defendants have been indicted; 3) the plaintiff’s interest in
proceeding expeditiously weighed against the prejudice to plaintiff
caused by a delay; 4) the private interests of and burden on
defendants; 5) the interests of the court; and 6) the public interest.
Walsh Sec., 7 F. Supp. 2d at 526-27 (citing Trs. of Plumbers & Pipefitters Nat’l Pension Fund v.
Transworld Mech., 886 F. Supp. 1134, 1139 (S.D.N.Y. 1995)).
The Court will address each of these factors in turn.
1. The Extent to Which the Issues in the Criminal and Civil Cases Overlap
The degree to which the issues in the parallel civil and criminal proceedings overlap is
“‘the most important issue at the threshold’ in determining whether or not to grant a stay.” Id. at
527 (quoting Milton Pollack, Parallel Civil & Criminal Proceedings, 129 F.R.D. 201, 203
(1989)). “When there is a significant overlap between the civil and criminal matters selfincrimination is more likely. But ‘[i]f there is no overlap, there would be no danger of selfincrimination and accordingly no need for a stay.’” Strategic Env’t Partners, LLC v. N.J. Dep’t
of Env’t Prot., Civ. No. 12-3252, 2016 WL 3267285, at *3 (D.N.J. June 8, 2016) (alteration in
original) (quoting Transworld Mech., Inc., 886 F. Supp. at 1139).
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Here, the civil and criminal proceedings at issue do not arise from the same occurrence.
See, e.g., Walker v. Cnty. of Gloucester, Civ. No. 15-7073, 2016 WL 1725942, at *2 (D.N.J. Apr.
28, 2016); Castellani v. Atlantic City, Civ. No. 13-5848, 2014 WL 201955, at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 15,
2014). Defendant Bridges nevertheless contends that the issues in this case and her New Jersey
Superior Court criminal matter significantly overlap because (1) both stem from corrections
officers’ alleged use of excessive force against an inmate; (2) the altercations involved multiple
corrections officers; (3) Defendant Bridges “was a witness/bystander for much of the altercations
at issue;” and (4) “both cases involve a claim that Defendant Bridges had the opportunity and
obligation to intervene in the altercation and prevent harm to the inmate but failed to do so.”
Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at pp. 9-10.
Plaintiff responds that the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint and the criminal
matter are entirely distinct. Plaintiff emphasizes that they involve two separate incidents that
occurred more than three years apart, do not involve the same parties other than Defendant
Bridges, and do not involve the same facts. Pl.’s Br., D.E. 87, at pp. 4-5. Plaintiff also avers that
the Second Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant Bridges personally used excessive force
and assaulted him, while the Criminal Complaint makes no such assertion. Id. at p. 5; see also
Second Am. Compl., D.E. 36, at ¶ 37; Criminal Compl., D.E. 85-1, at pp. 4-7.
It is true that this action and the criminal proceedings both assert wrongdoing by
Defendant Bridges in her capacity as a corrections officer. Beyond that, however, there is little,
if any, overlap. 2 The Second Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant Bridges not only failed
Plaintiff acknowledges that the criminal charges are not relevant to this matter. See Pl.’s Br.,
D.E. 87, at p. 8 (“Her criminal indictment has no factual relation to Plaintiff’s case having occurred
several years after.”). Presumably, then, there is no reason that Plaintiff’s counsel would inquire
about the criminal charges, or the allegations underlying them, at Defendant Bridges’s deposition.
As set forth in paragraph six of the Pretrial Scheduling Order, if there is any dispute arising at the
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to intervene, but also acted affirmatively to violate Plaintiff's civil rights in November 2017.
Second Am. Compl., D.E. 36, at pp. 9-14. The Criminal Complaint, on the other hand, accuses
Bridges of violating New Jersey State criminal law by omission following an altercation
involving different officers, a different inmate, at a different facility more than three years later.
Criminal Compl., D.E. 85-1, at pp. 4-7. In short, the elements of the claims in this case and the
charges in the criminal case are distinct, the underlying facts are distinct, and the witnesses do
not overlap other than Defendant Bridges herself. Consequently, the proofs necessary to
establish Bridges’s role in each incident and, potentially, her civil and/or criminal liability will
differ. The Court therefore concludes the first Walsh Securities factor weighs strongly against
granting a stay.
Defendant Bridges relies on two cases, but neither is particularly applicable here. In
Colombo v. Board of Education, the court entered a stay of civil proceedings against a former
public-school principal because the facts, evidence, and issues in the parallel criminal case
against him significantly overlapped. Civ. No. 11-0785, 2011 WL 5416058, at *3 (D.N.J. Nov.
4, 2011). Both cases arose from that defendant’s alleged inappropriate sexual conduct toward
plaintiff. Id. The same is not true here. A stay was also entered in Haas v. Burlington County,
but that case did not involve parallel criminal proceedings or an application of the Walsh
Securities factors. Civ. No. 08-1102, 2009 WL 4250037, at *1-2 (D.N.J. Nov. 24, 2009). The
proceedings were stayed because the Third Circuit was in the process of considering a
dispositive legal issue. Id. at *2. Neither of these cases persuade the Court that the issues in this
matter and the criminal proceedings against Defendant Bridges significantly overlap.
deposition, the parties shall contact the Undersigned to intervene before adjourning the deposition.
Pretrial Scheduling Order, June 10, 2019, D.E. 24, at ¶ 6.
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2. The Status of the Criminal Case
The argument for a stay of discovery in a civil case is strongest “during a criminal
prosecution after an indictment is returned, as it is then that the potential for self-incrimination is
greatest.” Castellani, 2014 WL 201955, at *2 (quoting United States v. All Articles of OtherSonic Gneric Ultrasound Transmission Gel, Civ. No. 12-2264, 2013 WL 1285413, at *2 (D.N.J.
March 27, 2013)). “However, each case must be evaluated individually.” Strategic Env’t
Partners, 2016 WL 3267285, at *4 (citing Walsh Sec., 7 F. Supp. 2d at 527). Defendant Bridges
has not been indicted, and neither party has indicated a criminal trial against her will soon
commence. Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at p. 4. Even if a grand jury returned an indictment against
Defendant Bridges, the risk of self-incrimination would likely remain minimal because the civil
and criminal proceedings against her concern entirely different factual and legal issues. The
Court also notes that Defendant Bridges retains the ability to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights
and any other applicable privilege in response to certain deposition questions. Nat’l life Ins. Co.
v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 615 F.2d 595, 600 (3d Cir. 1980); see also Colony Ins. Co. v.
Kwasnik, Civ. No. 12-722, 2013 WL 12147612, at *3 (D.N.J. May 7, 2013). This factor
therefore weighs against granting a stay.
3. Plaintiff’s Interest
The Court next weighs Plaintiff’s interest in proceeding expeditiously against the
prejudice Plaintiff will experience if a stay is granted. Walsh Sec., 7 F. Supp. 2d at 527. “The
mere fact that additional time will pass does not establish prejudice to the [p]laintiff. To
establish prejudice, the plaintiff must show a unique injury such as fading memories, asset
dissipation, or an attempt to gain an unfair advantage from the stay.” Colombo, 2011 WL
5416058, at *4 (citations omitted).
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In support of the motion, Defendant Bridges argues that a stay will not prevent a timely
resolution in this matter, because Plaintiff’s counsel already possesses discovery concerning
Defendant Bridges's role in the alleged assault. Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at p. 12. That discovery
purportedly includes video footage of the incident, and a copy of Defendant Bridges’s recorded
statement to internal investigators. Id. Plaintiff contends that discovery is not as valuable as an
adversarial deposition, and notes that Defendant Bridges has failed to cite any cases excusing a
named defendant from a deposition merely because their opponent possesses relevant discovery.
Pl.’s Br., D.E. 87, at p. 10. Plaintiff further argues that Bridges’s failure to provide the Court a
timeline means she is seeking, in essence, an indefinite stay that is especially prejudicial to
Plaintiff, given the three-year age of this matter. Id. at pp. 9-11.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30 gives Plaintiff the right to question Defendant Bridges
by oral deposition, and Plaintiff’s possession of relevant discovery does not diminish that right or
serve as a basis for Defendant Bridges to indefinitely delay or avoid her deposition. That said,
the Court recognizes that Plaintiff has an interest in the speedy resolution of this case, but finds
that Plaintiff “has asserted no injury that is particularly unique.” Walsh Sec., 7 F. Supp. 2d at
528. This factor therefore weighs in favor of granting a stay, albeit to a limited degree.
4. The Private Interests of and Burden on Defendant
With respect to the fourth Walsh Securities factor, Defendant Bridges argues she will face
substantial prejudice if she is not granted a stay because she will be forced to choose between
waiving her Fifth Amendment rights to defend herself or risk suffering an adverse inference in
this matter. Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at pp. 13-15. Plaintiff contends Defendant Bridges has not
demonstrated any legitimate burden, as the civil and criminal proceedings against her do not
arise from the same set of facts. Pl.’s Br., D.E. 87, at pp. 12-13.
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The Fifth Amendment “not only protects the individual against being involuntarily called
as a witness against himself in a criminal prosecution but also privileges him not to answer official
questions put to him in any other proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the
answers might incriminate him in future criminal proceedings.” Lefkowitz v. Turley, 414 U.S. 70,
77 (1973). This right protects against disclosures “which the witness reasonably believes could be
used in a criminal prosecution or could lead to other evidence that might be so used.” Kastigar v.
United States, 406 U.S. 441, 444-45 (1972). Further, the Fifth Amendment protects against not
only the direct admissions of crimes, but also against disclosures that might “furnish a link in the
chain of evidence needed to prosecute the claimant . . . .” Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479,
486 (1951). However, the protection afforded by the Fifth Amendment "must be confined to
instances where the witness has reasonable cause to apprehend danger from a direct answer.” Id.
A witness is not relieved from answering relevant questions "merely because he declares that in
so doing he would incriminate himself – his say-so does not of itself establish the hazard of [self]
incrimination. It is for the court to say whether his silence is justified.” Id.
To determine that a Fifth Amendment privilege applies, a court must find that it is “evident
from the implications of the question, in the setting in which it is asked, that a responsive answer
to the question or an explanation of why it cannot be answered might be dangerous because
injurious disclosure could result.” Id. at 486-87. In this case, as Defendant Bridges seeks a
protective order on the basis that submitting to her deposition might incriminate her, she bears the
burden of establishing that there exists a legitimate risk that her deposition testimony in this case
might incriminate her in the New Jersey Superior Court criminal case. Brock v. Gerace, 110
F.R.D. 58, 63 (D.N.J. 1986). That requires Defendant Bridges to provide information “sufficient
to demonstrate that a responsive answer could furnish a link in the chain of evidence needed to
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prosecute [her], or which might lead to other evidence that could possibly be used in a criminal
prosecution against [her].” Id. at 65. In short, Defendant Bridges must show how her answers
“could have a real and appreciable tendency to incriminate [her], and not one that is remote or
Defendant Bridges has failed to carry her burden. She has failed to explain with any
specificity or clarity how her testimony concerning the November 29, 2017 incident and her
involvement in it would furnish a "link in a chain of evidence" in her criminal action. As noted
earlier, the two incidents occurred more than three years apart, and involved entirely separate
acts, alleged victims, and potential witnesses. Accordingly, any possibility that Defendant
Bridges's deposition testimony might compromise her Fifth Amendment privilege and prejudice
her ability to defend herself in the criminal action is remote. Accordingly, this factor weighs
against a stay.
5. The Interests of the Court
The Court must also consider its own interests in determining whether to grant a stay.
Walsh Sec., 7 F. Supp. 2d at 527. The Court “has an interest in resolving individual cases
efficiently” and in effectively managing its caseload. Id. at 528. “[I]n many cases granting a
stay to allow the criminal matter to proceed first streamlines the proceedings and helps
expeditiously resolve the civil matter” by clarifying issues or establishing liability. Strategic
Env’t Partners, 2016 WL 3267285, at *5 (citing Colombo, 2010 WL 5416058, at *6). In this
matter, however, the Court’s interests would not be furthered by a stay of Defendant Bridges’s
deposition. The criminal proceedings against Defendant Bridges will not clarify the parties’
factual disputes or answer any legal questions in this case because the criminal proceedings
concern a separate, dissimilar incident. Additionally, as there is no indictment or trial date in the
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criminal action, Defendant Bridges’s deposition would be stayed indefinitely and in tension with
the Court’s interest in judicial efficiency. Castellani, 2014 WL 201955, at *3; Cress v. City of
Ventnor, Civ. No. 08-1873, 2009 WL 750193, at *3 (D.N.J. Mar. 18, 2009). The Court therefore
concludes that this factor weighs against granting a stay.
6. The Public’s Interest
The Court lastly considers the public’s interest. Walsh Sec., 7 F. Supp. 2d at 527.
Normally, “[t]here is no harm to the public interest in granting a stay.” Id. at 529. A stay may
“benefit the public by allowing the Government to conduct a complete, unimpeded investigation
into potential criminal activity.” Id. Defendant Bridges argues a stay of her deposition will
benefit the public by clarifying the issues and allowing an unencumbered, cost-effective
resolution of this case. Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at pp. 16-17. Plaintiff counters a stay will harm the
public’s interest “in remedying the [alleged] violation of his civil rights.” Pl.’s Br., D.E. 87, at
The Court agrees with Plaintiff’s position. Plaintiff’s allegations raise issues of serious
public concern, see Castellani, 2014 WL 201955, at *2-3 (describing excessive force allegations
against law enforcement officers as “issues of significant public concern”), and “the public has a
vital interest in promptly getting to the bottom of what happened,” Forrest, 757 F. Supp. 2d at
479. The Court is not persuaded by Defendant Bridges’s contention that “discovery will be
inefficient because of a constant stream of privilege issues,” given that fact discovery in this
matter, apart from Defendant Bridges’s deposition, was ordered to conclude on October 11,
2021. Def.’s Br., D.E. 85-2, at p. 17; see Am. Scheduling Order, Aug. 11, 2021, D.E. 81, at ¶ 1.
The Court holds this Walsh Securities factor weighs against granting a stay.
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The Walsh Securities factors weigh decisively against granting a stay of Defendant
Bridges’s deposition. Accordingly, the Court finds Defendant Bridges has not established good
cause for the issuance of a protective order and the motion is denied. An appropriate Order
accompanies this Opinion.
/s Michael A. Hammer
Hon. Michael A. Hammer,
United States Magistrate Judge
Dated: November 18, 2021
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