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Davis v. United States Army Reserve Through 321st Sustainment Brigade

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 5, 2019

KENNETH S. DAVIS
v.
UNITED STATES ARMY RESERVE THROUGH THE 321ST SUSTAINMENT BRIGADE, ET AL.

          RULING

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Stay Discovery[1] filed by defendants, the United States Army Reserve, through the 321st Sustainment Brigade (the “321st Sustainment Brigade”); Colonel William Norris (“Norris”); and Elizabeth Bohannon (“Bohannon”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff, Kenneth S. Davis (“Plaintiff”) has filed an opposition[2] and Defendants have filed a Reply.[3]

         For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion to Stay[4] is granted and discovery in this matter is stayed pending resolution of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.[5] The parties are ordered to file a Joint Motion to Lift Stay upon resolution of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.[6]

         I. Background

         On April 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction and Permanent Injunction (the “Petition”) against Defendants in state court. Plaintiff contends that Defendants have retaliated against him for filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging harassment[7] and that he was discriminated against based on his military service in violation of La. R.S. § 29:404.[8]

         On May 13, 2019, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1).[9] The following day, Defendants filed a Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (the “Motion to Dismiss”).[10] Therein, Defendants assert that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction based on the United States' sovereign immunity. Plaintiff has not filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. On June 11, 2019, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Stay.[11] Defendants ask this Court to stay discovery pending disposition of the Motion to Dismiss and Plaintiff's Motion to Remand.[12]

         II. There is Good Cause to Stay of Discovery in this Suit Pending Resolution of the Issues Raised in the Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 26(c) 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.”[13] 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.”[14] A district court has the inherent power to regulate the flow of cases and “control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.”[15]The Fifth Circuit has explained that “[t]he stay of a pending matter is ordinarily within the trial court's wide discretion to control the course of litigation, which includes authority to control the scope and pace of discovery.”[16] “This authority has been held to provide the court the ‘general discretionary power to stay proceedings before it in control of its docket and in the interests of justice.'”[17] Accordingly, when “the interests of justice seem[ ] to require such action, ” a court may exercise its discretion to stay civil proceedings, postpone discovery, or impose protective orders and conditions.[18] “Even discretionary stays, however, will be reversed when they are ‘immoderate or of an indefinite duration.'”[19]

         “It is well settled that governmental immunity is not only a defense against the burdens of liability, but also a defense to the burdens of litigation.”[20] This Court has recently stayed discovery pending resolution of a Motion to Dismiss raising the defense of qualified immunity, [21] and finds a similar approach is warranted here.[22] Defendants' Motion to Dismiss raises the defense of sovereign immunity, which is a threshold issue that could be dispositive of this action.[23] Plaintiff has not filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. Although Plaintiff has opposed the instant Motion to Stay and argues that proceeding with discovery now would “allow for an expedient answering of the questions offered in both the Motions to Remand and Dismiss, ”[24] Plaintiff does not explain how the general merits discovery to which he refers is necessary to resolving the Motion to Dismiss, which is based on a legal question.[25] Accordingly, considering the jurisdictional nature of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, good cause exists to stay discovery in this suit pending resolution of that Motion to Dismiss.[26]

         III. Conclusion

         For the reasons set forth herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion to Stay Discovery[27] is granted and discovery in this matter is stayed pending resolution of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.[28]

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the parties shall file a Joint Motion to Lift Stay upon resolution of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.[29]

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