United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER PARTIALLY LIFTING TEMPORARY STAY Re: Dkt. No.
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge
filed this action on April 24, 2015. Dkt. No. 1. The
operative complaint asserts § 1983 claims against
Defendant officers Craig Tiffe and Eric Reboli (together,
“Officers”), for excessive force and unreasonable
seizure under the Fourth Amendment, a municipal liability
claim under § 1983 against Defendants San Francisco and
the San Francisco Police Department (“SFPD”) for
unconstitutional customs and practices, a supervisory
liability claim under § 1983 against Defendant Suhr (the
former Chief of the SFPD) for ratification of the
Officers' shooting and for the failure to train,
supervise and discipline the Officers, and a § 1983
claim against all Defendants for interference with familial
integrity in violation of substantive due process, assault
and battery, and survivorship. Id.
beginning of the case, the parties notified the Court of an
ongoing criminal investigation regarding the shooting of Mr.
Perez Lopez. See Dkt. Nos. 19, 20. On November 9,
2015, the Court stayed all disclosures and discovery in this
matter for 60 days. Dkt. No. 34. On December 9, 2015, the
Court extended that stay of discovery until January 12, 2016,
when the parties were scheduled to appear for a status
conference. Dkt. No. 39. During that conference, the parties
stipulated to extend the discovery stay until March 22, 2016,
when the parties again were scheduled to appear for a status
conference. Dkt. No. 44. On March 22, 2016, the Court
directed the parties to file a discovery plan by April 19,
2016, produce non-Monell initial disclosures by
April 26, 2016, and appear on the latter date for a status
hearing. Dkt. No. 47.
the April hearing, the Court issued an order staying all
discovery directed at the Officers, including written
discovery and depositions, until June 1, 2016. Dkt. No. 50.
In addition, the Court bifurcated the trial of the individual
liability claims against the Officers (for excessive force,
assault and battery, interference with familial integrity,
wrongful death, and survivorship) from the Monell
and supervisory liability claims against San Francisco, Chief
Suhr, and the SFPD, and therefore stayed all discovery on any
issues that pertain exclusively to the Monell and
supervisory liability claims. Id. On June 1, 2016,
the Court issued an order maintaining the April 2016 stay.
Dkt. No. 56. On November 15, 2016, the parties appeared for a
status conference, and the Court ordered that the case remain
stayed for an additional sixty (60) days. Dkt. No. 63. On
January 17, 2017, the Court again ordered that the case
remain stayed until the end of February 2017, and the matter
was set for a further status conference on March 7, 2017.
Dkt. No. 69.
that no charging decisions have yet been made by the San
Francisco District Attorney's office with regard to the
Officers, the Court must decide whether any further stay of
discovery and disclosures is warranted. See Dkt. No.
71. In their two most recent case management conference
statements, Defendants requested an extension of the stay
while Plaintiffs requested that the stay be lifted. Dkt. Nos.
65, 71. The parties reiterated their positions at the status
hearing held on March 7, 2017, and the Court has carefully
considered their arguments. Dkt. No. 74. For the reasons set
forth below, the Court partially LIFTS the
temporary stay on discovery.
district court's “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 (1936). Using this power, one case may be stayed in
favor of another. Leyva v. Certified Grocers of Cal.,
Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863-64 (9th Cir. 1997) (“A
trial court may, with propriety, find it is efficient for its
own docket and the fairest course for the parties to enter a
stay of an action before it, pending resolution of
independent proceedings which bear upon the case. This rule
applies whether the separate proceedings are judicial,
administrative, or arbitral in character, and does not
require that the issues in such proceedings are necessarily
controlling of the action before the court.”).
“The Constitution does not ordinarily require a stay of
civil proceedings pending the outcome of criminal
proceedings.” Keating v. Office of Thrift
Supervision, 45 F.3d 322, 324 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing
Fed. Sav. & Loan Ins. Corp. v. Molinaro, 889
F.2d 899, 902 (9th Cir. 1989)). “In the absence of
substantial prejudice to the rights of the parties involved,
[simultaneous] parallel [civil and criminal] proceedings are
unobjectionable under our jurisprudence.” Id.
(brackets in original). “Nevertheless, a court may
decide in its discretion to stay civil proceedings . . . when
the interests of justice seem  to require such
action.” Id. (brackets in original).
decision whether to stay civil proceedings in the face of a
parallel criminal proceeding should be made in light of the
particular circumstances and competing interests involved in
the case. This means the decisionmaker should consider the
extent to which the defendant's fifth amendment rights
are implicated.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). “In addition, the decisionmaker should
generally consider the following factors: (1) the interest of
the plaintiffs in proceeding expeditiously with this
litigation or any particular aspect of it, and the potential
prejudice to plaintiffs of a delay; (2) the burden which any
particular aspect of the proceedings may impose on
defendants; (3) the convenience of the court in the
management of its cases, and the efficient use of judicial
resources; (4) the interests of persons not parties to the
civil litigation; and (5) the interest of the public in the
pending civil and criminal litigation.” Id. at
324-25 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
party moves to stay only discovery and not the entire
proceeding, the “good cause” standard of the
protective order provision of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(c) controls. Gray v. First Winthrop Corp., 133
F.R.D. 39, 40 (N.D. Cal. 1990); see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 26(c) (“The court may, for good cause, issue an
order to protect a party . . . forbidding inquiry into
certain matters, or limiting the scope of disclosure or
discovery to certain matters[.]”). “A party
seeking a stay of discovery carries the heavy burden of
making a ‘strong showing' why discovery should be
denied.” Id. (quoting Blankenship v.
Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975)). When a
discovery stay is sought in light of an actual or potential
parallel criminal proceeding, the Court frames its analysis
of whether Defendants have met their “heavy
burden” under Rule 26(c) using the framework set forth
in Keating. See, e.g., Square 1 Bank v. Lo, No.
12-cv-05595, 2014 WL 7206874, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2014)
(applying Keating analysis to find that a discovery
stay was appropriate pending resolution of a parallel and
ongoing criminal proceeding).
the factors set forth in Keating, the Court finds
that good cause no longer exists under Rule 26(c) to continue
the entire temporary stay on discovery in this case. While
the Court previously found that on balance the
Keating factors weighed in favor of granting and
extending a stay, the first and fifth Keating
factors regarding the Plaintiffs' and the public's
interest in the expeditious resolution of this litigation now
tip the balance in the opposite direction. In particular, the
Court finds that further extension of the stay, which has now
been in place for well over a year, would unreasonably delay
the resolution of a case in which the public has a strong
interest, particularly in light of the fact that no criminal
litigation is pending. See Molinaro, 889 F.2d at 903
(finding no abuse of discretion by the district court in
concluding that “the public would be frustrated by
further delay” where there was no indictment pending).
Given the passage of time, the Court cannot predict with any
certainty when the District Attorney will make a charging
decision in the criminal investigation.
the Court hereby LIFTS the stay of discovery
directed at the Officers under its Rule 26(c) authority. The
stay as to all discovery on any issues that pertain
exclusively to the Monell and supervisory liability
claims remains in place, for the reasons explained in the