United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division
H.L. Perez-Montes United States Magistrate Judge.
lawsuit arises from a fatal officer-involved shooting which
occurred on November 3, 2015 in Marksville, Louisiana.
Plaintiffs Christopher Few, Catherine Mardis, and Candace Few
assert civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as
well as supplemental claims under Louisiana law.
Derrick Stafford (“Stafford”) and Norris
Greenhouse, Jr. (“Greenhouse”) were the officers
involved in the shooting. Stafford and Greenhouse are both
charged with Second Degree Murder under La. R.S. 14:30.1 and
Attempted Second Degree Murder under La. R.S. 14:30.1 and La.
R.S. 14:27. Stafford's trial began on March 13, 2017.
Greenhouse's trial is scheduled to begin on June 12,
to this Court's instructions, Plaintiffs filed a Motion
to Stay Proceedings (Doc. 50), which includes a summary of
each Defendants' position regarding the stay and the
pendency of dispositive motions.
control their dockets and “in the interests of justice,
” federal courts possess wide and inherent discretion
to stay pending civil matters. In re Ramu Corp., 903
F.2d 312, 318 (5th Cir. 1990) (quoting McKnight v.
Blanchard, 667 F.2d 477, 479 (5th Cir. 1982)).
“Certainly, a district court may stay a civil
proceeding during the pendency of a parallel criminal
proceeding.” United States v. Little Al, 712
F.2d 133, 136 (5th Cir. 1983); accord Wallace v.
Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 393-94 (2007) (“[I]t is within
the power of the district court, and in accord with common
practice, to stay [a] civil action until the [underlying]
criminal case or the likelihood of a criminal case is
ended.”) (citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477 (1994)). While the pendency of parallel criminal and
civil suits is not per se objectionable, “a
stay contemplates ‘special circumstances' and the
need to avoid ‘substantial and irreparable
prejudice.'” Id. (quoting SEC v. First
Fin. Group of Texas, Inc., 659 F.2d 660, 668 (5th Cir.
instance, a stay may be warranted “to preserve a
defendant's Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination and to resolve the conflict he would face
between asserting this right and defending the civil
action.” See Alcala v. Texas Webb Cty., 625
F.Supp.2d 391, 397 (S.D. Tex. 2009) (citing SEC v.
Dresser Industries, Inc., 628 F.2d 1368, 1376
(D.C.Cir.1980) (en banc), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 993, 101
S.Ct. 529, 66 L.Ed.2d 289 (1980)). Accordingly, a stay may be
warranted in a federal civil case during the pendency of
state criminal proceedings. See, e.g., St.
Martin v. Jones, CIV.A. 08-1047, 2008 WL 4534398, at *1
(E.D. La. Oct. 2, 2008).
mere relationship between civil and criminal proceedings and
the prospect that discovery in the civil case could prejudice
the criminal proceeding does not necessarily warrant a
stay.” U.S. ex rel. Gonzalez v. Fresenius Med. Care
N. Am., 571 F.Supp.2d 758, 762 (W.D. Tex. 2008) (citing
In re Ramu Corp., 903 F.2d at 320). “The court
considers the following factors when considering whether the
civil action should be stayed: (1) the extent to which the
issues in the criminal and civil cases overlap; (2) the
status of the case, including whether the defendant has been
indicted; (3) the plaintiff's interest in proceeding
expeditiously weighed against the prejudice to the plaintiff
caused by a delay; (4) the private interest of and burden on
the defendant; (5) the interest of the court; and (6) the
public interest.” Atkins v. Se. Cmty. Health
Sys., CIV.A. 11-47-DLD, 2012 WL 370218, at *1 (M.D. La.
Feb. 3, 2012). And even when a stay is warranted,
“immoderate” or “indefinite” stays
are not. McKnight v. Blanchard, 667 F.2d 477, 479
stay is plainly appropriate. First, there is substantial
overlap in the criminal and civil proceedings. See Doe v.
Morris, CIV.A. 11-1532, 2012 WL 359315, at *1 (E.D. La.
Feb. 2, 2012). The predicate facts are basically identical.
And many of the central questions to be resolved - including
Stafford's and Greenhouse's motivations for allegedly
firing their weapons - will bear upon the elements of proof
in both proceedings. Under these circumstances, the overlap
between the two proceedings strongly favors a stay.
because Stafford and Greenhouse have been indicted and are
therefore more likely to incriminate themselves if this civil
lawsuit proceeds, the “status of the case” favors
a stay. See id. at *2; see also Modern Am.
Recycling Servs., Inc. v. Dunavant, CIV.A. 10-3153, 2012
WL 1357720, at *3 (E.D. La. Apr. 19, 2012) (“Generally,
a stay of a civil case is ‘most appropriate' when a
party to the civil action has already been indicted for the
same conduct.”) (internal citation omitted).
Plaintiffs do not claim they will be prejudiced by a
temporary stay of this lawsuit.
no Defendant will be meaningfully burdened by a temporary
stay. Discovery and other pretrial steps can resume once the
prosecutions are completed. The outcome of those prosecutions
may expand, or reduce, the issues presented in this lawsuit.
Thus, all parties, including Defendants, have an interest in
allowing resolution of the criminal proceedings before
pursuing this lawsuit.
“[t]he Court has interests in judicial economy and
expediency.” Morris, CIV.A. 11-1532, 2012 WL
359315, at *2. Again, judicial economy and expediency would
be best served by allowing the criminal proceedings - and any
ramifications that those proceedings may have upon the issues
in this case or the rights of Stafford and Greenhouse - to be
“the ‘public has an interest in the resolution of
disputes with minimal delay, but only to the extent that the
integrity of the defendant's rights can be
maintained.'” Id. (quoting
Alcala, 625 F.Supp.2d at 397). Given the current