United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STAY
DISCOVERY (DOC. NO. 51)
BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court is a motion to stay discovery filed by
Defendants United States Department of Fish and Wildlife
Service, Margaret Everson in her official capacity as the
Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, and Charlton Bonham in his official capacity as the
Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
(“Defendants”). (Doc. No. 51.) Plaintiffs Peter
Stavrianoudakis, Katherine Stavrianoudakis, Eric Ariyoshi,
Scott Timmons, and American Falconry Conservancy
(“Plaintiffs”) filed an opposition on November
27, 2019, and Defendants replied on December 13, 2019. (Doc.
Nos. 52, 56.)
Court found the matter suitable for decision without the need
for oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g) and vacated
the hearing on the motion set for December 20, 2019. (Doc.
No. 57.) Having considered the motion, the opposition, the
reply, the parties' arguments, as well as the entire
record in this case, the Court grants Defendants' motion.
originally filed this action on October 30, 2018. (Doc. No.
1.) In the First Amended Complaint, filed on January 18,
2019, Plaintiffs allege that certain federal and California
regulations applicable to the practice of falconry are
unconstitutional and violate the Administrative Procedures
Act. (Doc. No. 16.)
January 28, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary
injunction. (Doc. No. 17.) Defendants filed motions to
dismiss and an opposition to the motion for preliminary
injunction on March 15, 2019. (Doc. Nos. 24-26.) The Court
took the motion for preliminary injunction and motions to
dismiss under submission on April 9, 2019. (Doc. No. 43.) Due
to the judicial emergency in this District, the Court has not
yet issued a written decision on the pending motions.
October 30, 2018, when the case was first filed, the Court
set an Initial Scheduling Conference for February 5, 2019.
(Doc. No. 4.) The parties subsequently submitted five
separate stipulations to continue the Initial Scheduling
Conference due to the pending motions, and the Initial
Scheduling Conference was ultimately scheduled for December
12, 2019. (Doc. Nos. 15, 19, 46, 48, 50.) On November 22,
2019, after Plaintiffs indicated that they were not willing
to stipulate to any further continuances of the Initial
Scheduling Conference, Defendants filed the instant motion to
stay. (Doc. No. 51-1 at 2, 4.) On December 5, 2019, the Court
converted the Initial Scheduling Conference to a Telephonic
Status Conference. (Doc. No. 54.) At the conference on
December 12, 2019, the Court and the parties discussed the
status of the action, including the pending motion to stay
discovery, and the judicial emergency in the Fresno Division
of the Eastern District of California. (Doc. No. 55.) No.
scheduling deadlines were set. (Id.)
district court “has broad discretion to stay
proceedings as an incident to its power to control its own
docket” and may stay discovery while a dispositive
motion is pending. Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681,
706 (1997) (citing Landis v. North American Co., 299
U.S. 248, 254 (1936)); Orchid Biosciences, Inc. v. St.
Louis Univ., 198 F.R.D. 670, 672 (S.D. Cal. 2001)
(citing Data Disc, Inc. v. Sys. Tech. Associates,
Inc., 557 F.2d 1280 (9th Cir. 1977)). The party seeking
the stay bears the burden of establishing the need for a
stay. Clinton, 520 U.S. at 708.
seek to stay all discovery in this case until thirty (30)
days after the Court issues an order resolving the pending
motions to dismiss in order to avoid “potentially
unnecessary, expensive discovery.” (Doc. No. 51 at 4.)
Defendants further seek to continue the Initial Scheduling
Conference until after the pending motions are resolved.
(Id.) Plaintiffs oppose a stay on the grounds that
Defendants have failed to carry their burden to establish
that a stay of discovery is warranted. (Doc. No. 52.)
parties disagree regarding the applicable standard governing
Defendants' motion to stay. Defendants contend that a
two-part test applies, wherein the Court must determine: 1)
whether the pending motion is potentially dispositive of the
entire case or dispositive of the issue at which discovery is
aimed; and 2) whether the pending motion can be decided
without additional discovery. (Doc. No. 51-1 at 3.) Citing to
Mlejnecky v. Olympus Imaging America, Inc., 2011 WL
489743, at *7 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2011), Plaintiffs argue that
Defendants “must make a ‘clear and convincing
showing' or demonstrate the ‘immediate and clear
possibility' that they will prevail on the merits of
their dispositive motions.” (Doc. No. 52 at 2.) On
reply, Defendants note that Mlejnecky acknowledged
that the Ninth Circuit has not articulated a controlling
standard for issuance of a stay of discovery, that the
decision to stay is within the discretion of the trial court,
and several variations of the two-part test have emerged.
(Doc. No. 56 at 2.) Defendants further argue that, regardless
of which standard applies, it has been satisfied here.
Mlejnecky, the defendant filed a motion for a
protective order seeking to stay the exchange of initial
disclosures and discovery in the case due to a pending motion
to dismiss. Mlejnecky, 2011 WL 489743, at *1. The
parties, as here, disagreed regarding the applicable standard
used to evaluate motions to stay discovery while a
dispositive motion is pending, which the court recognized was
“a not uncommon dispute” in the context of such
motions. Id. at *5, 7 n. 10. The Mlejnecky
court reviewed the standards used by other courts in the
Ninth Circuit in determining motions to stay discovery.
Id. at *5-8. Specifically, the Court recognized
“[t]he Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has not announced
a clear standard against which to evaluate a request or
motion to stay discovery in the face of a pending,
potentially dispositive motion. However, federal district
courts in California, including this court, have applied a
two-part test when evaluating such a request for a stay.
First, the pending motion must be potentially dispositive of
the entire case, or at least dispositive on the issue at
which discovery is aimed. Second, the court must determine
whether the pending, potentially dispositive motion can be
decided absent additional discovery. . . . Discovery should
proceed if either prong of the test is not met.”
Id. at *7. As to the first prong, the defendant
argued that it need only demonstrate that there is a
“clear possibility” that the potentially
dispositive motion would be granted. Id. The
plaintiff, in turn, argued that the defendant was required to
show “by clear and convincing evidence” that it
would prevail on the merits of the dispositive motion.
Id. Without deciding which standard should apply,
the Mlejnecky court concluded that neither had been
met and declined to stay discovery. Id. In doing so,
the court “recognize[d] the awkward nature” of
reviewing the merits of the potentially dispositive motion in
evaluating whether a stay should issue. Id. at *8.