United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
LISA CAUSER, ET AL.
SHERIFF JASON ARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS HEAD OF THE LIVINGSTON PARISH, ET AL.
RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery (R.
Doc. 19) filed on November 14, 2018. The motion is opposed.
(R. Doc. 34). Defendants filed a Reply. (R. Doc. 37).
August 20, 2018, Lisa Causer, Glenn Clauser, and Bradi Causer
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”) commenced this civil
rights action against Sheriff Jason Ard, individually and as
head of the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office, Deputy
Dakota Naquin, and Deputy (First Name Unknown) Winburn
(collectively, “Defendants”). (R. Doc. 1).
Plaintiffs raise various federal and state law claims arising
from a 911 call placed by Glenn and Lisa Causer, including
alleged injuries sustained as a result of the arrest of Lisa
November 2, 2018, Sheriff Ard and Deputy Winburn filed
motions to dismiss pursuant Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure asserting the defense of qualified
immunity. (R. Docs. 17, 18). That same day, Deputy Naquin
filed an answer. (R. Doc. 16).
November 14, 2018, Defendants filed the instant Motion
seeking a stay of discovery because (1) Sheriff Ard and
Deputy Winburn have filed motions to dismiss on the basis of
qualified immunity and (2) criminal charges remained pending
against Lisa Causer arising out of the subject incident. (R.
November 29, 2018, the Court held a scheduling conference
with counsel for the parties, stayed discovery pending
resolution of the instant Motion, and extended the deadline
for opposing the Motion until after Lisa Causer's
criminal trial. (R. Doc. 25).
December 21, 2018, Plaintiffs filed an Opposition, arguing
that the Court should not stay discovery in light of the
defenses of qualified immunity raised in the motions to
dismiss, and that a stay of discovery is not otherwise
warranted because Lisa Causer's criminal case has been
resolved. (R. Doc. 34).
January 15, 2019, Defendants filed a Reply, reasserting that
a stay of all discovery is appropriate in light of the
pending motions to dismiss. (R. Doc. 37).
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)).
reviewed the pleadings, the pending motions to dismiss, and
the arguments of the parties, the Court finds it appropriate
to maintain its stay of discovery until resolution of the
pending motions to dismiss. Discovery is inappropriate with
respect to Sheriff Ard and Deputy Winburn until the district
judge has determined that the Complaint asserts facts which,
if true, would overcome the defense of qualified immunity
raised by these defendants. See Backe, 691 F.3d at
648. Furthermore, considering the underlying factual
allegations in the Complaint, allowing discovery to proceed
against Deputy Naquin would inappropriately subject Sheriff
Ard and Deputy Winburn to the burdens of discovery. See
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 685-86 (“It is no answer to
these concerns to say that discovery for petitioners can be
deferred while pretrial proceedings continue for other
defendants. It is quite likely that, when discovery as to the
other parties proceeds, it would prove necessary for
petitioners and their counsel to participate in the process
to ensure the case does not develop in a misleading or
slanted way that causes prejudice to their position. Even if
petitioners are not yet themselves subject to discovery
orders, then, they would not be free from the burdens of
IS ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Stay
Discovery (R. Doc. 19) is GRANTED. Discovery
shall remain STAYED in this action until the
resolution of Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (R. Docs.
17, 18). Should rulings be issued on the pending Motions to
Dismiss, counsel ...