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Eustice v. State

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

January 14, 2020

CHRISTOPHER D. EUSTICE
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA THROUGH THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTRAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE, ET AL.

          ORDER

          SHELLY D. DICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Proceedings, [1]wherein Plaintiff moves the Court to stay this litigation pending the outcome of his cyberstalking charges in state court. This charge was ultimately dismissed because the alleged victim is employed out of the country and would not have been available to attend Plaintiff's October 2019 criminal trial in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.[2] However, since this dismissal, the District Attorney has re-filed the charge as a stalking charge, and that criminal matter remains pending.[3] Plaintiff claims he “cannot proceed in a meaningful way until he is cleared of this new charge.”[4]

         LSU maintains that “[n]ot a single one of the arguments made by the LSU Defendants in their Motion To Dismiss depends on the outcome of Mr. Eustice's criminal trial” based primarily on Plaintiff's own allegations and admissions in his Complaint and its attached exhibits.[5]LSU also contends, and the Court agrees, that the majority of the numerous claims asserted by Plaintiff are unrelated to his arrest:

• He alleges he was damaged by LSU's failure to prevent the suicide of one roommate and the attempted suicide of another roommate. Both the suicide and the attempted suicide took place in 2015 and are completely unrelated to the Plaintiffs arrest in November 2017.
• He alleges co-defendant Ryan Barsa defamed him and attempted to steal his intellectual property in 2015, which claims are completely unrelated to the Plaintiffs arrest in November 2017.
• He alleges numerous claims related to LSU having instituted multiple disciplinary proceedings against him during 2015 and 2016, including claims under the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. These claims are completely unrelated to his arrest in November 2017.
• He alleges LSU police officers harassed him November 2016 by showing up at his apartment and asking to look inside a safe to see whether the Plaintiff might have a firearm. This claim is completely unrelated to his arrest in November 2017.
• He alleges LSU unlawfully instituted a disciplinary hearing against him in November 2017 for threatening to sue several LSU professors, which claim is completely unrelated to his arrest in November 2017.
• He alleges LSU discriminated against him on the basis of his alleged disability and denied him requested accommodations. These claims are completely unrelated to his arrest in November 2017.[6]

         As LSU notes, “the false-arrest and malicious prosecution claims are significantly outnumbered by all of the other claims asserted by the Plaintiff, and the Court should not stay the suit because of these two related claims.”[7]

         LSU also maintains that, should the Court choose to stay this matter, it should do so after resolving the pending Rule 12(b)(6) motions, as LSU contends the majority of Plaintiff's claims are prescribed, and such claims are entirely unrelated to Plaintiff's criminal charge. Further, LSU maintains several of Plaintiff's claims are frivolous or facially implausible as a matter of law, and the Court should at least address the 12(b)(6) motions before considering a stay.

         A district court has inherent power to control the disposition of the cases on its docket, [8] and this includes wide discretion to grant a stay in a pending matter.[9] “The district court has a general discretionary power to stay proceedings before it ... in the interests of justice.”[10] The United States Supreme Court has confirmed the district courts' power to stay “any ... claim related to rulings that will likely be made in a pending or anticipated criminal trial.”[11] Thus, while it is not required to do so, a district court may stay a civil proceeding during the pendency of a parallel criminal proceeding[12] or “until the criminal case or the likelihood of a criminal case is ended.”[13] Granting a stay requires consideration of special circumstances and the need to avoid substantial and irreparable prejudice.[14] The burden to show that a stay is warranted rests on the movant, [15] and “the granting of a stay of civil proceedings due to pending criminal investigation is an extraordinary remedy, not to be granted lightly.”[16] Thus, although “[t]he simultaneous prosecution of civil and criminal actions is generally unobjectionable, ”[17] the stay of a pending civil action may be appropriate “when there is a real and appreciable risk of self-incrimination.”[18]

         The Fifth Circuit has provided the following guidance for deciding whether a civil case should be stayed pending the resolution of related criminal proceedings:

Judicial discretion and procedural flexibility should be utilized to harmonize the conflicting rules and to prevent the rules and policies applicable to one suit from doing violence to those pertaining to the other. In some situations it may be appropriate to stay the civil proceeding. In others it may be preferable for the civil suit to proceed-unstayed. In the ...

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