Torres v. Madrid et al
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY by Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa. Defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. 33) is granted. Discovery in this case is stayed pending resolution of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on Plaintiff's Complaint on the Basis of Qualified Immunity and Other Grounds (Doc. 32), or until further order of the Court. (kmt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
Civ. No. 16-1163 LF/KK
JANICE MADRID et al.,
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Janice Madrid’s and Richard
Williamson’s Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. 33) (“Motion to Stay”), filed May 4, 2017. The
Court, having reviewed the parties’ submissions and the relevant law, FINDS that the motion is
well taken and should be GRANTED.
In their Motion to Stay, Defendants seek a stay of discovery pending resolution of their
Motion to Dismiss or Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on Plaintiff’s Complaint on the
Basis of Qualified Immunity and Other Grounds (Doc. 32) (“Motion to Dismiss”), in which they
raise the defense of qualified immunity. (Doc. 33 at 1.) The Supreme Court has repeatedly
highlighted the broad protection that the qualified immunity defense provides and has stressed
that it protects officials not only from having to stand trial, but also from having to bear the
burdens associated with litigation, including pretrial discovery. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
685-86 (2009); Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 231-32 (2009). Because qualified immunity
protects against the burdens of discovery as well as trial, the Supreme Court has also emphasized
that trial courts should resolve the issue at the earliest possible stage in litigation and before
discovery if possible. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232; Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 231-33 (1991);
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818-19 (1982) (“Until this threshold immunity question is
resolved, discovery should not be allowed.”); accord Jones v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 854 F.2d
1206, 1211 (10th Cir. 1988). As such, the Tenth Circuit has held that when a defendant files a
dispositive motion based on qualified immunity, she is ordinarily entitled to a stay of discovery.
See Jiron v. City of Lakewood, 392 F.3d 410, 414 (10th Cir. 2004); Workman v. Jordan, 958 F.2d
332, 336 (10th Cir. 1992).
Nevertheless, “[q]ualified immunity does not shield government officials from all
discovery[,] but only from discovery which is either avoidable or overly broad.” Garrett v.
Stratman, 254 F.3d 946, 953 (10th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). To be entitled to limited
discovery after a qualified immunity defense has been raised, a plaintiff must demonstrate
how discovery will enable [the plaintiff] to rebut a defendant’s showing of
objective reasonableness or, stated alternatively, demonstrate a connection
between the information he would seek in discovery and the validity of the
defendant’s qualified immunity assertion. To that end, it is insufficient for the
party opposing the motion to merely assert that additional discovery is required to
demonstrate a factual dispute or that evidence supporting a party’s allegation is in
the opposing party’s hands.
Lewis v. City of Fort Collins, 903 F.2d 752, 758 (10th Cir. 1990) (emphasis in original) (internal
citations and punctuation marks omitted).
Plaintiff asserts two arguments in opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Stay. First,
Plaintiff argues that, because a “large amount of discovery. . . has already taken place in this
case, including the depositions of the defendants, the policy behind staying all discovery while
the Court rules on the qualified immunity issue is not served.” (Doc. 35 at 2-3.) This argument,
however, ignores Defendants’ right to rely on the defense of qualified immunity at any point in
these proceedings. Maestas v. Lujan, 351 F.3d 1001, 1010 (10th Cir. 2003) (“A defendant who
has appropriately pleaded the affirmative defense of qualified immunity may establish his right
to immunity at any point in the proceeding, including at trial.” (quoting Guffey v. Wyatt, 18 F.3d
869, 873 (10th Cir. 1994)); (Doc. 9 at 5). Thus, in Herrera v. Santa Fe Public Schools, the court
rejected the same argument Plaintiff makes here, even though the defendant in that case sought a
stay of discovery much later in the proceedings than Defendants have.
While qualified immunity is often times and probably best raised and decided
before the initiation of discovery, the protection of qualified immunity is for the
defendant’s benefit so that the defendant is not further subjected to the litigation’s
burdens. That [the defendant] has already been subjected to the burdens of
litigation for eighteen months does not lessen the protection to which she is
entitled under the law.
2012 WL 6846393, at *7 (D.N.M. Dec. 20, 2012). Plaintiff has presented
no sound reason to create a rule that the protections of a discovery stay are waived
at some point, or to dictate when the defense [of qualified immunity] has to be
raised. In the end, such a rule could penalize [P]laintiff . . . more than anyone.
Here, for example, [Defendants’] delay in raising the qualified immunity defense .
. . allowed [Plaintiff] to get almost all of [her] discovery done before the qualified
immunity defense was raised and the discovery stay ordered.
Id. at *8. The Court therefore finds that Defendants are entitled to a stay of discovery at this
time, even though the parties have already had more than five months in which to take discovery.
Plaintiff also argues that the Court should allow her to take limited additional discovery,
specifically, the depositions of witnesses Jeff Smith and Ray White. 1 (Doc. 35 at 3.) However,
in her response in opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Stay, Plaintiff does not even attempt to
demonstrate how this discovery “will enable [her] to rebut [Defendants’] showing of objective
reasonableness” in their Motion to Dismiss. Lewis, 903 F.2d at 758. Indeed, it is somewhat
difficult to imagine how she could, when Defendants have accepted the allegations in Plaintiff’s
complaint as true for purposes of the Motion to Dismiss. (See Doc. 32 at 3.) Plaintiff’s concern
that Mr. Smith’s and Mr. White’s memories will “further fade” during the pendency of a
The depositions of Mr. Smith and Mr. White were scheduled for May 3, 2017, but were not taken then because
Plaintiff arrived very late for her deposition earlier the same day. (Doc. 35 at 1-2; Doc. 38 at 3.)
discovery stay does not address Lewis’ requirements, and also is not compelling in light of the
fact that these witnesses have already “given reports” about the incident forming the basis of
Plaintiff’s complaint, which can be used to refresh their recollection. (Doc. 35 at 2-3.) In short,
at present, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that she is entitled to the limited additional
discovery she seeks.
For the reasons described above, the Court will stay discovery in this matter at this time.
If, later in these proceedings, Plaintiff identifies any particularized discoverable information she
needs, but does not have, to rebut Defendants’ qualified immunity defense, she may then file a
motion to reopen discovery.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. 33) is
GRANTED. All discovery in this case is stayed pending resolution of Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss or Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on Plaintiff’s Complaint on the Basis of
Qualified Immunity and Other Grounds (Doc. 32), or until further order of this Court.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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