United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ARMOND BROWN, ET AL.
KENNER POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
S. VANCE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is defendants' motion to stay proceedings
pending the completion of a criminal
investigation. For the following reasons, the Court
grants a stay of 45 days.
case arises out of the death of Armond Jairon Chauncey Brown
on January 23, 2017. Mr. Brown, who had been diagnosed with
schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was shot and killed by
Kenner police officers allegedly enforcing a coroner's
emergency commitment order. On April 13, 2017, Mr.
Brown's parents, Armond Brown, Sr. and Jaronet Whitaker,
and brothers, Joshua Brown and James Whitaker, Jr., filed a
complaint for damages asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and state tort law. Plaintiffs named as defendants Kenner
Police Department Chief Michael Glaser, the City of Kenner,
and certain unknown and as-yet-unnamed Kenner police
Plaintiffs assert that Armond Jairon Chauncey Brown was
unarmed at the time of the shooting and was shot and killed
without just cause.Plaintiffs further allege that the City of
Kenner, through Chief of Police Glaser and Mayor E.
“Ben” Zahn, adopted policies and practices that
deprived Mr. Brown of his civil rights. Defendants Glaser
and the City of Kenner now move to stay these proceedings
pending a criminal investigation of Mr. Brown's
represent that Mr. Brown's shooting is the subject of a
pending investigation and review by the district attorney for
possible criminal charges. The Court may stay a civil case pending
the resolution of a parallel criminal proceeding. See
United States v. Little Al, 712 F.2d 133, 136 (5th Cir.
1983) (noting that “[s]uch a stay contemplates special
circumstances and the need to avoid substantial and
irreparable prejudice”). In determining whether to
grant a stay, district courts in the Fifth Circuit consider
(1) the extent of overlap between the criminal case and the
civil case; (2) the status of the criminal case; (3) the
plaintiff's interests; (4) the interests of and burden on
the defendant; (5) the interests of the courts; and (6) the
public interest. Alcala v. Tex. Webb Cty., 625
F.Supp.2d 391, 398-99 (S.D. Tex. 2009) (collecting cases).
Although the Court has “general discretionary power to
stay proceedings before it in the control of its docket and
in the interests of justice, ” a stay may not be
“immoderate or of an indefinite duration.”
McKnight v. Blanchard, 667 F.2d 477, 479 (5th Cir.
most important threshold issue in determining whether to
grant a stay is the extent of overlap between the civil and
criminal actions. See Dominguez v. Hartford Fin. Servs.
Grp., Inc., 530 F.Supp.2d 902, 906-07 (S.D. Tex. 2008).
Here, the criminal investigation into Mr. Brown's death
arises out of the same set of facts as this lawsuit. The
factual issues relevant to the potential criminal liability
of the police officers involved in this shooting are also
central to plaintiffs' theory of civil liability.
Although plaintiffs also pursue claims against the City of
Kenner and Chief Glaser, these claims cannot be easily
separated from the circumstances of Mr. Brown's death.
The Court therefore finds that the civil and criminal
proceedings involve substantially similar issues.
status of the criminal investigation supports a short stay.
Defendants represent that the district attorney is
investigating the shooting for possible criminal charges, and
that this review is not expected to be of long
duration. Although no officer has yet been
indicted in connection with Mr. Brown's death, this does
not necessarily weigh against a stay when a criminal
investigation is active and likely to be resolved swiftly.
See SEC v. Offill, No. 07-1643, 2008 WL 958072, at
*3 (N.D. Tex. 2008) (noting that the government expected to
bring charges within a few months).
argue that they have an interest in the expeditious
resolution of this case, and are likely to suffer prejudice
from a stay because witness memories fade and evidence tends
to dissipate over time. Defendants assert that witness
memories are not a significant factor because of the
anticipated short duration of the criminal
investigation. The Court recognizes plaintiffs'
substantial interests in proceeding with this case and
obtaining evidence in a timely manner, but finds that a short
stay of 45 days will not prejudice plaintiffs.
the Court finds that defendants' interests support a
stay. A defendant facing simultaneous civil and criminal
proceedings may be burdened by the choice between
“invoking his Fifth Amendment rights [and]
jeopardiz[ing] his defense in the civil suit, where an
adverse inference may be drawn from the defendant's
silence.” SEC v. AmeriFirst Funding, Inc., No.
07-1188, 2008 WL 866065, at *4 (N.D. Tex. 2008). The police
officers involved in Mr. Brown's shooting have an
interest in protecting their Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination while they are facing possible criminal
Court's interests and the public interest will not be
substantially affected by a short stay of these proceedings.
The Court has interests in judicial economy and expediency.
Alcala, 625 F.Supp.2d at 406-07. The Court is
obligated “to move its docket, and not let cases
languish before it.” Id. at 407 (internal
quotation omitted). The public also has an interest in
resolving disputes “with minimal delay, but only to the
extent that the integrity of the defendant's rights can
be maintained.” Id. A stay of 45 days will not
unduly interfere with the Court's ability to manage its
docket or the public's interest in quickly resolving
the Court finds that a stay of 45 days appropriately balances
the interests of the parties in this matter ...