United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT
UNITED STATES' MOTION TO STAY ENTIRE CIVIL ACTION PENDING
CONCLUSION OF CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS (DOC. NO. 11)
Anthony J. Battaglia United States District Judge.
before the Court is Defendant United States' motion to
stay entire civil action pending conclusion of criminal
proceedings. (Doc. No. 11.) As explained below, the Court
GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART
Defendant's motion to stay.
action arises out of an accident involving an employee of the
United States Postal Service and Sergio Mora Hernandez
(“Decedent”). (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 1.) As alleged
in the complaint, Ericka Marie Dotson “drove her
vehicle into Decedent's lane of travel and directly into
the path of Decedent's plainly visible oncoming
vehicle.” (Id. ¶ 2.) On May 20, 2019,
Dotson was charged with one count of vehicular manslaughter.
(Id. ¶ 3.) The criminal action is currently
pending in the Superior Court in the matter captioned The
People of the State of California v. Ericka Marie
Dotson, No. CN400344. (Doc. No. 11 at 3.) The matter is
set for trial on January 13, 2020. (Doc. No. 19 at 4.) On
October 4, 2019, Defendant filed the present motion to stay
the entire civil action pending conclusion of criminal
proceedings. (Doc. No. 11.) This Order follows.
Constitution does not require a stay of civil proceedings
until the conclusion of criminal proceedings. Keating v.
Office of Thrift Supervision, 45 F.3d 322, 324 (9th Cir.
1995) (citing Federal Sav. & Loan Ins. Corp. v.
Molinaro, 889 F.2d 889, 902 (9th Cir. 1989)). A court
must consider the specific circumstances and competing
interest in the case in determining whether to stay a civil
case pending the outcome of the parallel criminal
proceedings. Molinaro, 889 F.2d at 902. Courts must
consider “the extent to which the defendant's fifth
amendment rights are implicated” and should also
consider the following factors:
(1) the interest of the plaintiffs in proceeding
expeditiously with [the] 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.
Keating, 45 F.3d at 324-25 (citing
Molinaro, 889 F.2d at 902-03). “A defendant
has no absolute right not to be forced to choose between
testifying in a civil matter and asserting his Fifth
Amendment privilege.” Keating, 45 F.3d at 326.
motion is based on the following four grounds: (1)
Plaintiffs' interest in moving forward with their case
will not be prejudiced by the stay; (2) Defendant's
interest in staying this case is substantial because
discovery in this matter may provide the prosecution in the
pending criminal litigation with information it would
otherwise not be entitled to; (3) a stay would conserve
judicial resources; and (4) a stay would protect the
integrity of the criminal justice system. (See
generally Doc. No. 11.)
the issue of the extent to which Dotson's Fifth Amendment
rights are substantially implicated must be decided by the
Court. Here, Defendant argues that Dotson's Fifth
Amendment rights are substantially implicated because she
would be subject to, among other things, written discovery
and deposition. (Doc. No. 11 at 5.) Plaintiffs assert that
Dotson's admissions to her supervisors and the CHP at the
scene of the accident reveal the truth. (Doc. No. 18 at 9.)
Accordingly, Plaintiffs argue that there can be no further
incrimination because there is no basis for the assertion of
the privilege. See Mitchell v. U.S., 526 U.S. 314,
326 (1998). Further, Plaintiffs assert that even if Dotson is
required to provide testimony it does not substantially
implicate her Fifth Amendment privilege. (Doc. No. 18 at 10.)
Plaintiffs state that they do not currently seek testimony or
other discovery from Dotson at this time. (Id.)
However, Dotson's former attorney declared that she will
be advised to assert her Fifth Amendment rights to avoid
prejudicing herself in her pending criminal case. (Doc. No.
19 at 4.) Given the fact that the criminal trial is still
pending and Dotson would be subject to discovery, the Court
finds that Dotson's Fifth Amendment right is in fact
Court now considers the first of the Molinaro
factors. Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs will not be
prejudiced by a short stay and that the evidence is
preserved. Plaintiffs argue that the stay will be prejudicial
since Dotson has successfully continued her trial date and
there is no guarantee that her current trial date will not be
continued in the future. Further, Plaintiffs assert that
Dotson may delay the final disposition of her case for years
to come with an appeal. However, this is all simply
speculative. Currently, Dotson's criminal trial is set
for January 13, 2020. This is less than a month away from the
date of this Order. Accordingly, any prejudice Plaintiffs
would suffer for a short time is minimal.
second Molinaro factor is the burden of the
proceedings that may be imposed on defendants. See
Molinaro, 889 F.2d at 903. Here, Defendant argues that
its interest in obtaining a stay is significant because
discovery may convey Dotson's strategy for defending her
criminal proceeding and would provide information to the
prosecution it would otherwise not be entitled to.
Furthermore, Defendant argues that a stay would protect the
integrity of the criminal process and ensure Dotson's
Fifth Amendment rights were not burdened. Plaintiffs argue it
is merely a possibility that Dotson will assert her Fifth
Amendment rights. However, Dotson's former counsel
specifically declared that she would be instructed to assert
her Fifth Amendment right. (Doc. No. 11 at 4.) This would
prevent Defendant from having its own account of the
accident, and thus, prevent Defendants from being able to
properly argue its defense. The Court finds that Defendant
would suffer prejudice if a stay was not obtained.
third Molinaro factor is the convenience of the
Court in management of its cases and the efficient use of
judicial resources. See Molinaro, 889 F.2d at 903.
Here, a stay would allow for the conservation of judicial
resources since the ...