United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Jimmie Randle's Motion to Limit
Discovery to the Issue of Jimmie Randle's Qualified
Immunity (R. Doc. 7) filed on August 23, 2018. The motion is
opposed. (R. Doc. 9). Mr. Randle has filed a Reply. (R. Doc.
11, 2018, Sheila Migliacio (“Plaintiff”)
initiated this civil rights action in state court, naming as
defendants City of Plaquemine, Louisiana and Jimmie Randle,
individually and in his official capacity as Board of
Selectman. (R. Doc. 1-5). Defendants removed the action on
June 11, 2018. (R. Doc. 1). Plaintiff has filed an Amended
Complaint, which adds Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company as
an additional defendant. (R. Doc. 12).
15, 2018, City of Plaquemine and Mr. Randle filed an Answer
to the Complaint, in which Mr. Randle alleged “that he
is entitled to qualified immunity from suit for any claims
asserted against him in his individual capacity.” (R.
Doc. 2 at 4).
August 23, 2018, Mr. Randle filed the instant motion, which
seeks to limit discovery to the issue of his defense of
qualified immunity. (R. Doc. 7). In opposition, Plaintiff
asserts that discovery should not be limited to the issue of
qualified immunity because Mr. Randle has not sought any
relief regarding his alleged defense in a dispositive motion.
(R. Doc. 9). In reply, Mr. Randle argues that the limitation
of discovery to the issue of qualified immunity is
appropriate even in the absence of a dispositive motion. (R.
Law and Analysis
26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows the
court to issue a protective order after a showing of good
cause “to protect a party or person from annoyance,
embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Rule 26(c)'s “good
cause” requirement indicates that the party seeking a
protective order has the burden “to show the necessity
of its issuance, which contemplates a particular and specific
demonstration of fact as distinguished from stereotyped and
conclusory statements.” In re Terra Int'l,
Inc., 134 F.3d 302, 306 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting
United States v. Garrett, 571 F.2d 1323, 1326 n.3
(5th Cir. 1978)).
courts possess broad discretion to supervise
discovery.” Landry v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n
Int'l AFL-CIO, 901 F.2d 404, 436 n.114 (5th Cir.
1990) (citation omitted). “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).
qualified immunity defense affords government officials not
just immunity from liability, but immunity from suit.”
Vander Zee v. Reno, 73 F.3d 1365, 1368 (5th Cir.
1996) (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511,
525-26 (1985)). Qualified immunity shields government
officials from individual liability for performing
discretionary functions, unless their conduct violates
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known. Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).
of the most salient benefits of qualified immunity is
protection from pretrial discovery, which is costly,
time-consuming, and intrusive[.]” Backe v.
LeBlanc, 691 F.3d 645, 648 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing
Helton v. Clements, 787 F.2d 1016, 1017 (5th Cir.
1986)). Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit “has established
a careful procedure under which a district court may defer
its qualified immunity ruling if further factual development
is necessary to ascertain the availability of that
defense.” Backe, 691 F.3d at 648. Under this
procedure, “a district court must first find
‘that the plaintiff's pleadings assert facts which,
if true, would overcome the defense of qualified
immunity.'” Id. (citing Wicks v. Miss.
State Emp't Servs., 41 F.3d 991, 994- 95 (5th Cir.
1995); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79,
(2009) (directing that a plaintiff must “state a claim
for relief that is plausible on its face”-excluding
statements that are “no more than conclusions”
which are “not entitled to the assumption of
truth”)). “Thus, a plaintiff seeking to overcome
qualified immunity must plead specific facts that both allow
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the harm he has alleged and that defeat a
qualified immunity defense with equal specificity.”
Backe, 691 F.3d at 648. “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 the immunity claim.'”
Id. (citing Lion Boulos v. Wilson, 834 F.2d
504, 507-08 (5th Cir. 1987).
Mr. Randle seeks a protective order limiting discovery to the
issue of his qualified immunity, conceding that certain
“factual questions” must be addressed prior to a
ruling on the qualified immunity defense. (R. Doc. 14 at 3).
He has not, however, filed a motion seeking dismissal of any
of Plaintiff's claims based upon that defense or
otherwise presented any arguments addressing the merits of
his qualified immunity defense in light of the parties'
allegations. In the absence of briefing on the actual
allegations in this action, the Court finds it inappropriate
to issue any order addressing the limits of discovery with
respect to Mr. Randle's qualified immunity. Issuing such
a ruling without the benefit of an actual dispositive motion
(and associated briefing) addressing the allegations in this
action would, in effect, require the district court to reach
certain dispositive conclusions regarding the parties'
allegations without the benefit of argument. While the Court
has the power to review the pleadings in the absence of a
motion, it will not risk running afoul of the Fifth
Circuit's procedure for determining the scope of
discovery, if any, to be conducted with regard to a qualified
least one district court has expressly denied a motion to
stay discovery until after the filing of a dispositive motion
addressing the issue of qualified immunity. See
Scherbarth v. Woods, No. 16-2391, 2018 WL 851344, at
*5-6 (D. Colo. Feb. 13, 2018) (“If there is no pending
motion to resolve whether qualified immunity applies, the
Plaintiff's interest in proceeding expeditiously and the
convenience of the court outweigh the burden to Defendants.
The court therefore denies without prejudice Defendants'
motion to stay discovery based on their qualified immunity
defense. If Defendants file a dispositive motion raising
qualified immunity, they may renew their motion to stay
discovery pending its resolution.”). While Mr. Randle
does not seek a stay of all discovery in this action, the
Court finds it appropriate to reserve any resolution on the
scope of discovery with regard to Mr. Randle's qualified
immunity defense until after a review of the pleadings in
light of an appropriate dispositive motion (or motion for a
Rule 7 reply). Following this procedure will ensure that the
Court properly tailors any discovery allowed regarding Mr.
Randle's qualified immunity defense. The Court will
entertain any motion seeking to limit or stay discovery at