Poel v. State of New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge Kenneth J. Gonzales granting 17 Motion to Stay Pending Resolution of State of New Mexico's Motion to Dismiss. (tah)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
MARTIN H. POEL, D.M.D., J.D.,
Civ. No. 17-185 KG/CG
THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant’s Motion to Stay Pending Resolution
of State of New Mexico’s Motion to Dismiss (Motion to Stay), filed March 2, 2017. (Doc. 17).
Pro se Plaintiff filed a response on March 7, 2017, and Defendant filed a reply on March 8,
2017. (Docs. 20 and 21). Having reviewed the Motion to Stay and the accompanying briefing,
the Court grants the Motion to Stay.
Defendant seeks to stay this action pending the Court’s ruling on Defendant State of New
Mexico’s Amended Motion to Dismiss (Amended Motion to Dismiss) (Doc. 16), filed on March
1, 2017. 1 Defendant raises the following grounds for dismissal: lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, sovereign immunity, lack of standing as to certain claims, estoppel, and failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant seeks the stay so that the Court can
determine the threshold issues raised in the Amended Motion to Dismiss before it potentially and
unnecessarily “expend[s] judicial resources on discovery and subject[s] the State to the burdens
of discovery.” (Doc. 21) at 1. Plaintiff contends that a stay will prejudice him by not allowing
the case to proceed in an expeditious manner. Plaintiff also seems to contend that “Defendant is
The Court notes that Defendant is not merely seeking to stay discovery pending resolution of
the Amended Motion to Dismiss.
asking the Court again to summarily prejudge Plaintiff’s claims before he has had a chance to
present his case.” (Doc. 20) at 2.
The Court has “broad discretion to stay proceedings as an incident to its power to control
its own docket.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997). Furthermore, “[i]t is well settled
that the district court has the power to stay proceedings pending before it and to control its
docket for the purpose of economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.”
Pet Milk Co. v. Ritter, 323 F.2d 586, 588 (10th Cir.1963) (internal quotation marks omitted). In
exercising its discretion, the Court “must weigh competing interests and maintain an even
balance.” Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 255 (1936). The party requesting a stay “must
make out a clear case of hardship or inequity, in being required to go forward, if there is even a
fair possibility that the stay for which he prays will work damage to some one else.” Id. “In
deciding whether to enter a stay under the Court's inherent power to control its docket, the Court
considers two factors: (1) the parties’ competing interests; and (2) judicial economy.” Capitol
Specialty Ins. Corp. v. Sw. Clubs, Inc., 2015 WL 11117308, at *3 (D.N.M.).
Here, the interests of both parties favor a stay of this action pending resolution of the
Amended Motion to Dismiss. If the Court indeed lacks subject matter jurisdiction and
Defendant enjoys sovereign immunity, the Court does not have the power to adjudicate the case
and cannot proceed with its adjudication. Fed. Mar. Comm'n v. S.C. State Ports Auth., 535 U.S.
743, 766 (2002) (sovereign immunity “provides an immunity from suit.”); Ex parte McCardle,
74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 506, 514 (1868) (“Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any
cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases to exist, the only function
remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause.”). Because of the
dispositive nature of the Amended Motion to Dismiss, a ruling on the Amended Motion to
Dismiss prior to allowing discovery could save the parties time and resources by avoiding what
could be unnecessary and costly discovery. Likewise, a stay of this action pending resolution of
the Amended Motion to Dismiss could conserve judicial resources. These interests outweigh any
potential delay in the prosecution of this lawsuit. Finally, as Defendant observes, a stay to
decide dispositive issues like subject matter jurisdiction and immunity does not mean that the
Court is prejudging Plaintiff’s claims. Regardless of a stay, the Court would still first decide the
issues raised in the Amended Motion to Dismiss to determine the viability of this lawsuit and
whether it can proceed. For the aforementioned reasons, the Court grants the Motion to Stay.
IT IS ORDERED that
1. the Motion to Stay Pending Resolution of State of New Mexico’s Motion to Dismiss
(Doc. 17) is granted; and
2. this action is stayed pending resolution of Defendant State of New Mexico’s Amended
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 16).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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