United States District Court, E.D. California
The NATIONAL GRANGE OF THE ORDER OF PATRONS OF HUSBANDRY and the CALIFORNIA STATE GRANGE, Plaintiffs,
CALIFORNIA GUILD, formerly doing business as “California State Grange, ” and ROBERT MCFARLAND, Defendants.
ORDER RE: EX PARTE APPLICATION TO STAY
WILLIAM B. SHUBB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
On March 13, 2017, plaintiffs the National Grange of the
Order of Patrons of Husbandry (“National Grange”)
and the California State Grange filed a motion to disqualify
counsel for defendant Robert McFarland, the Ellis Law Group.
(Docket No. 114.) According to plaintiffs, the Ellis Law
Group employs an attorney, Anthony Valenti, who worked at
Porter Scott, a firm that represented the National Grange on
a prior related matter. (Pls.' Mem. at 2 (Docket No.
115-1).) Defendants do not deny that Valenti worked at Porter
Scott, and further concede that Valenti worked specifically
on the National Grange's case while at Porter Scott. (See
McFarland's Opp'n at 3 n.3 (Docket No. 117).)
Defendants dispute whether disqualification of the Ellis Law
Group is necessary in light of Valenti's alleged
non-participation in this case. (Id. at 4.)
Plaintiffs' motion to disqualify the Ellis Law Group is
currently set for hearing on May 1, 2017.
the court now is plaintiffs' ex parte application to stay
discovery in this case until resolution of their motion to
disqualify. (Docket No. 115.) Defendants have each filed an
opposition to plaintiffs' application. (Docket Nos.
court has inherent authority to manage the cases before it.
Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-255 (1936)
(“[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.”). It
“may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party
or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue
burden or expense, ” including “specifying [the]
time and place . . . for . . . discovery.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(c)(1). “The burden is upon the party seeking the
[protective] order to show good cause by demonstrating harm
or prejudice that will result from the discovery.”
Rivera v. NIBCO, Inc., 364 F.3d 1057, 1063 (9th Cir.
2004). Stays of discovery are committed to the discretion of
the court. See Little v. City of Seattle, 863 F.2d
681, 685 (9th Cir. 1988) (noting that a district court's
stay of discovery “will not be overturned unless there
is a clear abuse of discretion”); Jarvis v.
Regan, 833 F.2d 149, 155 (9th Cir. 1987) (reviewing
district court's stay of discovery for abuse of
argue that requiring them to proceed with discovery while
their motion to disqualify is pending poses the risk that
they will be prejudiced by the Ellis Law Group's use of
privileged information obtained by Valenti in conducting such
discovery. (Pls.' Mem. at 3.) So long as their motion is
pending, plaintiffs represent, there will likely be
“substantial disputes” between the parties as to
how discovery should be conducted. (Id.) Such
disputes, according to plaintiffs, would make it
“likely impossible for the parties to [engage in any]
meaningful discovery.” (Id.)
court finds that plaintiffs have shown good cause to stay
discovery until resolution of their motion to disqualify.
There is evidence before the court indicating that Valenti
worked on a case involving the National Grange while at
Porter Scott, (see Decl. of Mark Ellis ¶ 11 (Docket No.
117-1)), and that he was, at one point, counsel of record for
defendant McFarland in this case, (see Docket No. 112
(referring to Valenti as “attorney of record for
Defendant Robert McFarland”)). Such evidence suggests
that the Ellis Law Group may have used Valenti in a
conflicting fashion in this case, and there is a risk
plaintiffs will be prejudiced by the Ellis Law Group's
continued involvement in this case. Staying discovery will
help avoid that risk. The court is not aware of any prejudice
that would result to defendants from granting plaintiffs'
requested stay, which is not likely to last longer than one
month. To the extent the stay makes it difficult
for defendants to complete discovery prior to the discovery
deadline in this case,  defendants may seek leave of court to
extend that deadline.
THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiffs' ex parte application
to stay discovery until the resolution of their motion to
disqualify the Ellis Law Group be, and the same hereby is,
 Defendants note that they recently
propounded discovery on plaintiffs which plaintiffs have yet
to respond to. (Cal. Guild's Opp'n at 3 (Docket No.
116).) Defendants provide no explanation, however, as to why
a delay in plaintiffs' response to such discovery would
result in detriment to them.
The discovery deadline in this case is
currently set for May 29, 2017. (Dec. 13, 2016 Order at 2