United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge
before the Court is Movant United Effort Plan Trust
(“UEP”)’s Renewed Motion for Order to Show
Cause, (Doc. 749), in which UEP argues that the Court need
not abstain from holding an evidentiary hearing to determine
whether Colorado City has “continu[ed] religious
discrimination in violation” of the injunction issued
on November 26, 2014. (Doc. 723). UEP’s renewed filing
follows the Court’s February 16, 2016, denial of
UEP’s motion without prejudice in light of questions
over whether abstention doctrines applied. (Id. at
8-9). Having considered the parties’ filings, the Court
now rules on the motion.
Court did in its February 16, 2016, Order, the recitation of
facts is restricted to those pertinent to UEP’s pending
motion. Interested parties will find a full recounting of the
matter’s factual background in the Court’s
February 13, 2013, and September 4, 2015, Orders.
(See Doc. 318 at 2-10, Doc. 703).
a jury trial in which Plaintiffs Ron and Jinjer Cooke
(collectively, the “Cookes”) and
Plaintiff-Intervenor the State of Arizona (the
“State”) prevailed over Defendants,
Court entered the Amended Judgment and Permanent Injunction
(hereafter the “injunction”). (Doc. 724 at 1).
The injunction, in part, enjoined the following:
During the ten-year period beginning from the date of this
Judgment, Defendants and their agents shall not (1)
discriminate because of religion against any person in the
terms, conditions, or privileges of the provision of services
or facilities in connection with the sale or rental of a
dwelling; or (2) coerce, intimidate, threaten, interfere
with, or retaliate against any person in the enjoyment of his
or her dwelling because of religion or because that person
has asserted rights, or encouraged others to assert their
rights, protected by the federal Fair Housing Act or the
Arizona Fair Housing Act.
(Doc. 724 at 2). The injunction shall “remain in place
for ten years from the date of th[e] Judgment, ” and
the Court “retain[ed] jurisdiction to enforce
it.” (Id. at 2-3).
December 14, 2015, UEP, “on behalf of itself and its
beneficiaries who possess occupancy agreements to reside on
UEP property, ” moved this Court to find Colorado City
in contempt of the aforementioned injunction “for
continuing religious discrimination.” (Doc. 738 at 1).
UEP sought a “limited period of discovery, ” and
an evidentiary hearing to establish that: (1) Colorado City
passed a 2007 Land Division Ordinance (hereafter the
“Subdivision Ordinance”) with the “express
intent” of discriminating against individuals who do
not belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints (FLDS); (2) the passage and application of
the Subdivision Ordinance resulted in religious
discrimination against UEP and its beneficiaries; and (3)
Colorado City “has engaged in disparate treatment in
applying the Subdivision Ordinance to residents of the
city” on the basis of their affiliation with the FLDS.
(Id. at 7-8).
Court denied UEP’s motion, without prejudice, on
February 16, 2016. (Doc. 748). The Court was unable to
determine, based on the record before it, whether any of a
number of abstention doctrines precluded this Court from
hearing UEP’s claim, on account of ongoing litigation
in both state and federal court. (Id. at 8-9). On
May 5, 2016, UEP renewed its motion, arguing that the
Younger, Pullman, Burford, and
Colorado River abstention doctrines did not apply,
and that this Court was “clearly in the best position
to determine the limited issues presented here.” (Doc.
749 at 3-10). Colorado City raised several arguments in
opposition. (Doc. 750).
district court has the inherent power to stay proceedings
before it. See Landis v. North Am. Co., 299 U.S.
248, 254 (1936); see also Leyva v. Certified Grocers of
Cal., Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 1979)
(“A trial court may, with propriety, find it is
efficient for its own docket and the fairest course for the
parties to enter a stay of an action before it, pending
resolution of independent proceedings which bear upon the
case.”). The power to stay proceedings “is
incidental to the power inherent in every court to control
disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time
and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.”
Landis, 299 U.S. at 254. “This rule applies
whether the separate proceedings are judicial,
administrative, or arbitral in character, and does not
require that the issues in such proceedings are necessarily
controlling of the action before the court.”
Leyva, 593 F.2d at 863 (citing Kerotest Mfg. Co.
v. C-O-Two Fire Equipment Co., 342 U.S. 180 (1952)).
Staying an action “may be appropriate to avoid
duplicative litigation and inconsistent results, even when
the stay requires one litigant to stand aside while a
litigant in another case settles the rule of law that will
define the rights of both.” Williams v.
Godinez, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23115, at *2 (D. Nev.
Feb. 25, 2016) (citing Landis, 299 U.S. at 254).
light of ongoing litigation before Judge Holland in
United States v. Town of Colorado City et al, No.
3:12-CV-08123-HRH, the Court finds that a temporary stay in
this action is appropriate. On April 29, 2016, in the case
before Judge Holland, the United States filed a post-trial
brief seeking, among other injunctive relief, an order that
would require Colorado City to approve the United Effort Plan
(“UEP”) Trust’s subdivision
proposal.” (Doc. 750-1 at 11). In support of its
proposed injunctive relief, the United States alleged that
“Colorado City continues to oppose subdivision, ”
and that their “continued rejection of the UEP’s
subdivision proposal comes despite the significant
expenditures the UEP made to comply with what can only be
described as an onerous and ill-suited subdivision ordinance,
the Land Division Ordinance, which Colorado City adopted
following the UEP’s submission of its
subdivision application.” (Id. at 25 (emphasis
the United States seeks more robust injunctive relief in its
case, on the issue of Colorado City’s utilization of
the Subdivision Ordinance and UEP’s efforts to propose
and enact a subdivision ordinance, there is complete overlap
between the two actions. A favorable ruling for the United
States in No. 3:12-CV-08123-HRH on this issue will moot
UEP’s action. Colorado City would be ordered to abandon
its Subdivision Ordinance-the tool which it has allegedly
used to discriminate against citizens-and would be required
to adopt UEP’s proposed subdivision ordinance.
The Court, were it justified, could not fashion a more
favorable remedy for UEP in the instant action.
the litigation in No. 3:12-CV-08123-HRH is at a significantly
advanced stage. A jury verdict was delivered on March 7,
2016. On April 29, 2016, the United States submitted its
proposed injunctive relief. An evidentiary hearing, expected
to last between three and four days, is set for October 24,
2016. After that, Judge Holland will deliver his findings of
fact and conclusions of law. Staying the instant action will
impose a minimal burden on the parties, will be relatively
short in length, and may resolve the issue without any
further expenditure of time and resources by the parties.
CMAX, Inc. v. Hall,300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir.
1962) (citation omitted) (noting that in evaluating whether a
stay is appropriate, courts should consider (1) the possible
damage which may result, (2) the hardship imposed on ...