United States District Court, D. Colorado
KATHLEEN M. TAFOYA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the court is Defendant's “Motion to Stay
Discovery.” ([“Motion”], Doc. No. 27.) In
his Motion, Defendant asks that discovery be stayed, pending
resolution of his Motion to Dismiss the Amended Prisoner
Complaint, in its entirety, under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e).
(Id. at 1; see Doc. No. 26.) Plaintiff has
not responded to Defendant's motion to stay
8, 2019, Plaintiff Colvin Thomas, a pretrial detainee at the
El Paso County Criminal Justice Center [“CJC”],
filed this pro se civil rights lawsuit, in Colorado
state court, against a CJC employee, Defendant Deputy Rogers
#16004. (Doc. No. 1 Ex. 2.) Defendant thereafter
removed the case to federal court, on June 5, 2019. (Doc. No.
1 at 1.)
removal, on June 27, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended
Prisoner Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
asserting claims for violations of his First, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Doc. No. 13
[“Complaint”], at 3-4.) Specifically, Plaintiff
alleges that, while in CJC custody, Defendant unlawfully
retaliated against him for filing a grievance complaint, and
used excessive force, by “forcefully shov[ing]”
him into a cell, “pulling” his arm, and
“punch[ing]” him “repeatedly” in the
face. (Id. at 4.) In the Amended Prisoner Complaint,
Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, but requests no other form
of relief. (Id. at 6.)
September 20, 2019, Defendant responded to the Amended
Prisoner Complaint by filing a motion to dismiss, as well as
a motion to stay discovery, pending resolution of the motion
to dismiss. (See Mot. 1; Doc. No. 26.) Defendant
argues that a discovery stay is appropriate in this case,
because his motion to dismiss invokes a qualified immunity
defense to Plaintiff's claims. (Mot. 3.) In addition,
Defendant argues that, unless a stay is granted, he will be
forced to incur “real hardship” and
“inequity” from the discovery process.
(Id. at 4.)
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly provide for
a stay of proceedings. Rule 26(c), however, permits a court
to “make an order which justice requires to protect a
party . . . from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or
undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c). Further,
“[t]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the
power inherent in every court to control the disposition of
the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for
itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v.
N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936) (citing Kan.
City S. Ry. Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 760, 763
District, a stay of discovery is generally disfavored.
See, e.g., Rocha v. CCF Admin., No.
09-cv-01432, 2010 WL 291966, at *1 (D. Colo. Jan. 20, 2010);
Jackson v. Denver Water Bd., No. 08-cv-01984, at *1
(D. Colo. Dec. 15, 2008); Chavez v. Young Am. Ins.
Co., No. 06-cv-02419, at *2 (D. Colo. Mar. 2, 2007).
Nevertheless, the decision whether to stay discovery rests
firmly within the sound discretion of the court. United
Steelworkers of Am. v. Or. Steel Mills, Inc., 322 F.3d
1222, 1227 (10th Cir. 2003) (quoting Landis, 299
U.S. at 254).
ruling on a motion to stay discovery, five factors are
generally considered: “(1) [the] plaintiff's
interests in proceeding expeditiously with the civil action
and the potential prejudice to [the] plaintiff of a delay;
(2) the burden on the defendants; (3) the convenience to the
court; (4) the interests of persons not parties to the civil
litigation; and (5) the public interest.” String
Cheese Incident, LLC v. Stylus Shows, Inc., No.
02-cv-01934, 2006 WL 8949955, at *2 (D. Colo. Mar. 30, 2006);
see United Steelworkers, 322 F.3d at 1227. Further,
“a court may decide that in a particular case it would
be wise to stay discovery on the merits until [certain
challenges] have been resolved.” 8A Charles Alan Wright
& Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §
2040, at 198 (3d ed. 2010). “[A] stay may be
appropriate if resolution of a preliminary motion may dispose
of the entire action.” Serv. First Permits, LLC v.
Lightmaker Vancouver (Internet) Inc., No. 18-cv-02089,
2019 WL 109335, at *3 (D. Colo. Jan. 4, 2019) (quoting
Elec. Payment Sols. of Am., Inc., No. 14-cv-02624,
2015 WL 3940615, at *1 (D. Colo. June 25, 2015)).
case, as to the first factor, there is no evidence to suggest
that Plaintiff will be prejudiced by a discovery stay.
Indeed, Plaintiff has not responded, or otherwise expressed
opposition, to Defendant's motion. The first factor,
therefore, weighs in favor of the imposition of a stay.
See Frasier v. Evans, No. 15-cv-01759, 2015 WL
6751136, at *2 (D. Colo. Nov. 5, 2015) (finding the first
factor to weigh in favor of a stay, because the plaintiff did
not oppose the requested relief).
the second factor, Defendant argues that he would be unduly
burdened by moving forward with discovery, because he has
asserted a qualified immunity defense to all of
Plaintiff's claims. (Mot. 3.) Qualified immunity
“give[s] government officials a right, not merely to
avoid standing trial, but also to avoid the burdens of such
pretrial matters as discovery.” Behrens v.
Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 308 (1996) (alterations
omitted) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511,
526 (1985)). The Tenth Circuit has made clear that
“qualified immunity questions should be resolved at the
earliest possible stage in litigation.” Schwartz v.
Booker, 702 F.3d 573, 579 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991) (per
curiam) (alterations omitted). In addition, “discovery
generally should be avoided once qualified immunity is
raised, ” unless the plaintiff demonstrates “how
[such] discovery will raise a genuine fact issue as to the
defendant['s] qualified immunity claim.” Martin
v. Cnty. of Santa Fe, 626 Fed. App'x 736, 740 (10th
Cir. 2015) (citing Cole v. Ruidoso Mun. Sch., 43
F.3d 1373, 1387 (10th Cir. 1994)). Here, Plaintiff has made
no such demonstration. See Raven v. Williams, 2019
WL 4954640, at *2 (D. Colo. Oct. 8, 2019) (finding the second
factor weighed in favor of a stay, because the plaintiff did
not address how discovery would pertain to the
defendant's qualified immunity defense).
importantly, all of Plaintiff's claims appear to be
subject to a qualified immunity defense. See Rome v.
Romero, 225 F.R.D. 640, 643 (D. Colo. 2004) (explaining
that a qualified immunity defense is available only to claims
for monetary damages, made against an individual government
official, in his or her individual capacity). In this case,
Defendant is a government official, Plaintiff seeks only
monetary damages, and the claims are asserted against
Defendant in his individual capacity only. (Compl. 3-4, 6.)
Accordingly, the second factor also weighs in favor of a
stay. See Samuels v. Baldwin, No.
14-cv-02588-LTB-KLM, 2015 WL 232121, at *2 (D. Colo. Jan. 16,
2015) (finding the second factor weighed in favor of a stay,
because the plaintiff's claims were all subject to a
qualified immunity defense).
to the remaining String Cheese factors, the third
“court convenience” factor weighs in favor of
stay. Indeed, it is certainly more convenient for the court
to enter a stay until it is clear which of Plaintiff's
claims, if any, will move forward. The fourth factor bears no
weight, as there are no non-parties with significant,
particularized interests in this case. As to the fifth
factor, the general public's primary interest in this
case is an efficient and just resolution. Avoiding wasteful
efforts by the court and the litigants serves that purpose.
considering the String Cheese factors together, as
well as the strong interest of resolving immunity questions
before subjecting government officials to the vicissitudes of