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Bowden v. Contract Callers, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 5, 2017

KEITH BOWDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CONTRACT CALLERS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STAY RE: DKT. NO. 27

          MAXINE M. CHESNEY United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is defendant Contract Callers, Inc.'s (“Contract Callers”) “Motion to Stay, ” filed February 3, 2017. Plaintiff Keith Bowden (“Bowden”) has filed opposition, to which Contract Callers has replied. Having read and considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the motions, the Court rules as follows.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         In his complaint, Bowden alleges that, in June 2016, Contract Callers “called [him] at least 8 times on his cellular telephone using an autodialer and/or an artificial or prerecorded voice in an attempt to collect a consumer debt that [he] did not owe” and that such calls “continued despite several requests by [Bowden] to stop calling him.” (See Compl. ¶ 1.) Bowden further alleges that he “did not give [Contract Callers] prior express consent to make these calls” and had previously “had no contact or relationship with” Contract Callers. (See id.)

         Based thereon, Bowden asserts claims, on behalf of himself and a number of subclasses, under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), and California's Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“Rosenthal Act”).

         By the instant motion, Contract Callers seeks a stay of the above-titled action pending the outcome of ACA Int'l v. Fed. Commc'n Comm'n, No. 15-1211 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (hereinafter ACA International), in which the D.C. Circuit has been asked to review various aspects of an order issued by the Federal Communications Commission (“F.C.C.”) as to the TCPA, see In the Matter of Rules & Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 30 F.C.C. Recd. 7961 (July 10, 2015). As relevant to the instant motion, the D.C. Circuit has been asked to decide whether the F.C.C.'s holding that the statutory definition of an “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”)[2] “is not limited to its current configuration” but, instead, also “includes its potential functionalities, ” see 30 F.C.C. Recd. at 7974, constitutes an abuse of discretion or violates callers' constitutional rights. (See Amended Petition for Review, Def.'s Request for Judicial Notice (“RJN”), Ex. 6, at 3).[3]

         Contract Callers also points out that the Ninth Circuit has stayed its review of Marks v. Crunch San Diego, 55 F.Supp.3d 1288 (S.D. Cal. 2014), a case concerning the definition of an ATDS, pending the D.C. Circuit's decision in ACA International (see Def.'s RJN, Ex. 1, at 7), and asks the Court to extend any stay it may grant to “the possible decision of the Ninth Circuit in Marks” (see Mot. at 3:27).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “[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 (1936). A court may “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, ” even if the “issues in such proceedings” are not “necessarily controlling of the action before the court.” See Leyva v. Certified Grocers of Cal., Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863-64 (9th Cir. 1979).

         “The proponent of a stay bears the burden of establishing its need.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 708 (1997). In deciding whether to stay proceedings pending resolution of an appeal in another action, a district court must weigh “the competing interests which will be affected by the granting or refusal to grant a stay, ” including “the possible damage which may result from the granting of a stay, the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go forward, and the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the simplifying or complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law which could be expected to result from a stay.” See Lockyer v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1110 (9th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         Contract Callers argues a stay is appropriate here because the D.C. Circuit's decision in ACA International will narrow the issues and conserve judicial resources in the instant action, reduce Contract Callers' discovery burdens, and pose no harm to Bowden. Bowden disagrees with each of Contract Callers' arguments and, in addition, contends a stay is inappropriate given Bowden's FDCPA and Rosenthal Act claims. Although the Court recognizes that district courts in the Ninth Circuit have disagreed as to the propriety of a stay pending the D.C. Circuit's decision in ACA International, see, e.g., Clayton v. Synchony Bank, -- F.Supp.3d --, 2016 WL 7106018, at *3-4 (E.D. Cal., Nov. 7, 2016) (collecting cases), the Court finds, for the reasons set forth below, a stay is, in this instance, appropriate.

         One of the competing interests the Court must consider is whether a stay would promote “the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the simplifying . . . of issues, proof, and questions of law.” See Lockyer, 398 F.3d at 1110. In that regard, Contract Callers asserts, the equipment it used to call Bowden has already been found by two district courts to not be an ATDS because it lacks the present capacity to generate or dial random or sequential numbers (see Reply at 1:21-27 (citing Smith v. Stellar Recovery, No. 15-cv-11717 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 7, 2017); Pozo v. Stellar Recovery, No. 8:15-cv-00929-AEP (M.D. Fla. Sept. 2, 2016))), and that, consequently, Bowden's “only possible argument” as to its TCPA claim is “that the concept of capacity or ‘potential capacity' is broadly construed” to include both present and potential capacity (see Reply at 1:24-25), which issue the D.C. Circuit will decide in ACA International.

         In response Bowden argues that the D.C. Circuit's decision would not be binding on this Court, an issue the Court does not resolve herein, as, irrespective of any precedential effect, ACA International will at least provide substantial guidance on a key issue in the case, [4] and a stay in the interim would thus serve to conserve judicial resources. See, e.g., Fontes v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., No. CV 14-2060-CAS (CSW), 2015 WL 9272790, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2015) (finding stay appropriate where decision may otherwise “render moot substantial efforts by the parties as well as many of the Court's rulings”); see also Gustavson v. Mars, Inc., No. 13-CV-04537-LHK, 2014 WL 6986421, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 10, 2014) (finding stay appropriate where decision may change “the applicable law or the landscape ...


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