Sheehan v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Granting 12 Motion By The United States to Stay Discovery And Pretrial Planning Pending Decision On Dispositive Motion. Signed by Senior Judge Frederick P. Stamp, Jr on 4/4/12. (mji)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
MARTIN P. SHEEHAN, individually
and on behalf of all other persons
Civil Action No. 5:11CV170
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GRANTING MOTION BY THE UNITED STATES
TO STAY DISCOVERY AND PRETRIAL PLANNING
PENDING DECISION ON DISPOSITIVE MOTION
On November 21, 2011, the plaintiff commenced the above-styled
civil action on his own behalf, and on behalf of a class similarly
situated, to recover fees allegedly owed to him as a result of his
work as a member of the panel of private trustees in bankruptcy
On February 3, 2012, the United States filed a motion to
dismiss on the bases of lack of subject matter jurisdiction,
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
Subsequently, the plaintiff filed an
amended complaint, which adds a breach of contract claim and a
Fifth Amendment violation claim.
On March 2, 2012, the government filed a motion to dismiss the
first amended complaint.
In support of this motion, the United
States argues: (1) no federal question jurisdiction exists for the
asserted claims; (2) the first amended complaint asserts claims
under the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346, for which sovereign
immunity has not been waived; and (3) the plaintiff’s requested
relief is defective.
This Court entered a first order and notice
regarding discovery and scheduling on March 5, 2012.
On March 14, 2012, the United States filed a motion to stay
In support of the motion to stay, the United
States argues that it would be highly inefficient and burdensome to
require discovery preparations and planning to proceed when the
entire case may be decided on purely legal issues now pending
before this Court. The plaintiff filed a response in opposition to
the motion to stay on April 2, 2012.
In his response, the
plaintiff argues that the United States has offered no good reason
to divert from the normal course of litigation under the Federal
On April 4, 2012, the United States filed a reply arguing
that the reasons asserted by the plaintiff as to why the stay
should not issue lack merit.
Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states, in
A party must make the initial disclosures at or within 14
days after the parties’ Rule 26(f) conference unless a
different time is set by stipulation or court order, or
unless a party objects during the conference that initial
disclosures are not appropriate in this action and states
the objection in the proposed discovery plan. In ruling
on the objections, the court must determine what
disclosures, if any, are to be made and must set the time
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c).
It is well-settled that “[a] protective
order under Rule 26(c) to stay discovery pending determination of
a dispositive motion is an appropriate exercise of the court’s
Tilley v. United States, 270 F. Supp. 2d 731, 734
(M.D. N.C. 2003). Absent an abuse of discretion, the United States
Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will uphold a decision to
issue a protective order or to otherwise limit the timing or scope
Chaudhry v. Mobil Oil Corp., 186 F.3d 502, 505 (4th
Cir. 1999) (holding that the district court did not abuse its
discretion by staying discovery); M&M Med. Supplies & Serv., Inc.
v. Pleasant Valley Hosp., Inc., 981 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1992)
(stating that an order under Rule 26(c) is committed to the
discretion of the trial court).
In this case, the United States argues that it would be
inefficient and burdensome to require discovery preparations and
planning to proceed when the entire case may be decided on the
purely legal issues presented in the motion to dismiss.
the United States claims that staying the process until the
sufficiency of the first amended complaint is determined will not
prejudice the plaintiff because the resolution of the pending
motion to dismiss does not depend upon any facts or discovery.
This Court agrees. The issues presented in the government’s motion
to dismiss -- lack of subject matter jurisdiction and sovereign
immunity -- are purely legal matters. While this Court agrees that
the mere filing of a dispositive motion does not entitle the moving
party to a stay of discovery, in balancing the harm produced by a
stay of discovery against the possibility that the motion to
dismiss will be granted and entirely eliminate the need for such
discovery, this Court concludes that the motion to stay discovery
and pretrial planning should be granted. See Feldman v. Flood, 176
F.R.D. 651, 652 (M.D. Fla. 1997).
For the reasons stated above, the motion by the United States
to stay discovery and pretrial planning pending a decision on the
dispositive motion (ECF No. 12) is GRANTED.
This Court further
orders that discovery in this case be STAYED until resolution of
the pending motion to dismiss the first amended complaint.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
The Clerk is directed to transmit a copy of this memorandum
opinion and order to counsel of record herein.
April 4, 2012
/s/ Frederick P. Stamp, Jr.
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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