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Carlisle v. Normand

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 19, 2018


         SECTION: “H” (1)




         Before the Court are the Motions to Stay Discovery filed by Patricia Klees and Sheriff Joseph Lopinto, in his official capacity as Sheriff for the Parish of Jefferson (the “Sheriff”). (Rec. Docs. 316, 322). For the followings reasons, the Motions are GRANTED. Discovery is hereby stayed pending resolution of the Motions to Dismiss (Rec. Docs. 307, 308, 309).


         Plaintiffs Taylor Carlisle and Emile Heron were convicted of the possession of various controlled substances and, as a part of their sentences, enrolled in the Drug Court Program of the 24th Judicial District Court (“Drug Court Program”). The remaining claims in this lawsuit include Plaintiffs' putative class action claims against the Sheriff[1] and Klees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the imposition of jail time for alleged probation violations while participating in the Drug Court Program. Plaintiffs' proposed class includes those probationers participating in the Drug Court Program who were sentenced to “flat time, ” or who were sentenced to jail time without a hearing or opportunity to defend, or without a record from which to appeal. Additionally, Plaintiffs have a state law claim for legal malpractice pending against Joseph Merino, and plaintiff Carlisle has a negligence claim against Joe McNair and McNair & McNair, LLC, arising out counseling services provided through the Drug Court Program.

         On January 19, 2017, the District Judge granted Plaintiffs 60 days following the Court's rulings on the Motions to Dismiss to seek discovery relevant to their class action claim. (Rec. Doc. 108). Those rulings were issued on December 19, 2017. (Rec. Doc. 231). On February 19, 2018, Plaintiffs sought an extension of the deadline in light of issues that had arisen in obtaining discovery. The District Judge referred the issue of setting a new deadline for class certification discovery to the undersigned. The parties have participated in seven telephone status conferences and one oral argument with the undersigned on discovery related issues.

         On May 25, 2018, Officer Klees and the Sheriff filed motions to dismiss. Klees argues she is immune from suit under principals of sovereign immunity, absolute immunity, and qualified immunity. She also alleges that Plaintiffs' class claims against her must be dismissed because Plaintiffs have not shown common issues of law and fact among the class. In a separate motion to dismiss, she argues that Plaintiffs' claims are prescribed because Klees was not added to the suit until June 13, 2017, more than one year after the conduct Plaintiffs challenge. The Sheriff argues that Plaintiffs' claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey because they are challenging their incarceration, but their convictions have not been invalidated. The Sheriff also argues that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim because the Sheriff has no authority to alter or amend a sentence imposed by a Judge. Plaintiffs requested and obtained a continuance of the submission date on the Motions to Dismiss, which are now set for submission on July 25, 2018.

         Plaintiffs were proceeding with class certification discovery, but Klees and the Sheriff refused to appear for deposition in light of their motions to dismiss. On June 29, 2018, Klees filed a Motion to Stay Discovery pending resolution of her Motions to Dismiss. The Sheriff filed a Motion to Stay Discovery or, Alternatively for a Protective Order, on July 5, 2018.

         Law and Analysis

         1. Delay of Discovery

         Rule 26(c) provides that the Court “may, for good cause, ” protect a party from “undue burden or expense” by issuing an order “forbidding the disclosure or discovery” or “specifying terms, including time . . . for the disclosure or discovery.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 26(c)(1)(D). Thus, the “Court may issue a protective order to stay discovery pending the disposition of a motion to dismiss and or motion for summary judgment when the party seeking such protection proves its necessity.” Whitener v. PLIVA, Inc., No. CIV.A. 10-1552, 2013 WL 6086005, at *3 (E.D. La. Nov. 19, 2013). “A trial court has broad discretion and inherent power to stay discovery until preliminary questions that may dispose of the case are determined.” Petrus v. Bowen, 833 F.2d 581, 583 (5th Cir. 1987).

         2. Officer Klees' Motion to Stay

         Officer Klees insists that all pre-trial discovery regarding Klees should be stayed pending the District Judge's ruling on her motions to dismiss and a final determination of her claims for absolute and/or qualified immunity. She points out that qualified immunity is an immunity from suit, rather than a mere defense to liability. See Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 597-98 (1998). Indeed, where a defendant pleads qualified immunity, “a district court must first find that the plaintiff's pleadings assert facts which, if true, would overcome the defense of qualified immunity.” Backe v. LeBlanc, 691 F.3d 645, 648 (5th Cir. 2012) (quotation omitted). “After the district court finds a plaintiff has so pled, if the court remains unable to rule on the immunity defense without further clarification of the facts, it may issue a discovery order narrowly tailored to uncover only those facts needed to rule on ...

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