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Eduardo Enrique Alegrett v. City and County of San Francisco

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT Northern District of California

March 15, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maria-Elena James United States Magistrate Judge


This is an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and supplemental state law claims to recover For the Northern District of California For the Northern District of California COURT 13 damages arising out of an alleged incident of improper conduct by a police officer. The matter 16 bifurcate trial and to stay discovery on Plaintiff Eduardo Enrique Alegrett's claims under Monell v.

14 comes before the Court upon consideration of Defendants City and County of San Francisco, San 15 Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, and San Francisco Police Officer Matthew Sullivan's motion to Dept. of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition 18 without oral argument and hereby VACATES the April 4, 2013 hearing. 19 The question of whether to bifurcate a trial is a matter committed to this Court's discretion.

20 Danjaq LLC v. Sony Corp., 263 F.3d 942, 961 (9th Cir. 2001). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 42(b) grants district courts the discretion to bifurcate claims in a single action. It provides that: 22 The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conducive to expedition and economy, may order a separate trial of any claim, 23 cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party claim, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party claims or issues, always 24 preserving the right of trial by jury as declared by the Seventh Amendment of the

Constitution or as given by a statute of the United States.

25 26 Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b); see also Arthur Young & Co. v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 549 F.2d 686, 697 (9th Cir. 27 1977). As set forth in Rule 42(b), when exercising its discretion, a court may consider such factors 28 as convenience, the need to avoid prejudice and confusion, and judicial economy. Spectra-Physics 1 Lasers, Inc. v. Uniphase Corp., 144 F.R.D. 99, 101 (N.D.Cal. 1992). However, absent some 2 experience demonstrating the worth of bifurcation, "separation of issues for trial is not to be 3 routinely ordered." Advisory Committee Notes to the 1966 Amendment to Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b). 4 According to Defendants, Plaintiff's claims against Officer Sullivan are straightforward, 5 while the claims against the City and Chief Suhr are more complicated and require significantly 6 more discovery. Defendants argue that adjudication of the Monell claims would be unnecessary if a 7 jury finds that Sullivan did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Defendants further contend 8 that Sullivan may be unfairly prejudiced if the claims against him are tried simultaneously with the 9 claims against the City and Chief Suhr, because evidence irrelevant to the claims against him, such 10 as evidence of unrelated instances of excessive force by other officers, would be admitted at trial for 11 the Monell claims. 12 At this point in the litigation, it is not yet clear whether Plaintiff will be successful on any of

13 efficient to move forward on all of Plaintiff's 14

his claims. The Court finds that it would be most

Chief Suhr separately. Further, the Court is not persuaded at this time that bifurcation is required to claims simultaneously. Therefore, at this time, the Court does not believe that judicial economy 15 would be served by hearing the claims against Officer Sullivan and the claims against the City and avoid prejudice to Officer Sullivan. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendants' Motion to

18 Bifurcate. This ruling is without prejudice to Defendants renewing their motion to bifurcate trial 19 after the summary judgment stage. By that time it will be clear whether Plaintiff's claims against

20 Officer Sullivan and his claims against the City and Chief Suhr will be tried, and the parties should 21 have more information regarding the evidence that supports their respective cases. Because the 22 Court finds that bifurcation is unwarranted, the Court also finds that staying discovery on Plaintiff's 23 claims against the City and Chief Suhr is unnecessary, and therefore DENIES Defendants' motion to 24 stay discovery as well. 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26


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