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Zepeda v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 13, 2019

Damien Miguel Zepeda, Movant/Defendant
v.
United States of America, Respondent/Plaintiff.

          ORDER

          JAMES F. METCALF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Under consideration is Movant's Unopposed Motion to Continue Stay, filed February 12, 2019 (Doc. 28).

         Movant, who is represented by counsel, seeks a continuation of a stay of the briefing schedule pending the Ninth Circuit's anticipated decision in United States v. Begay, No. 14-10080.[1] The parties report that on January 10, 2019, the Ninth Circuit issued an order in Begay deferring “submission pending the Supreme Court's disposition of United States v. Davis, No. 18- 431.” United States v. Begay, No. 14-10080, Dkt. 107. Movant argues that the decisions in this case could be dispositive of some of the issues in this case. Movant represents that Respondent does not oppose the stay. Indeed, Respondent has already filed a Report in Support of Continued Stay (Doc. 27) asserting the same arguments.

         Movant's Motion to Vacate (Doc. 1) was filed on April 25, 2017.[2] Movant argues that his convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and resulting 85 year sentences must be vacated based on the reasoning and holding of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), as construed by Dimaya v. Lynch, 803 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2015).[3] A Response (Doc. 13) to the Motion to Vacate was filed on July 12, 2017. Movant has requested several extensions to reply (Docs. 14, 16) which were granted (Docs. 15, 17). Movant has not yet replied in support of his Motion to Vacate.

         Movant previously filed similar motions to stay (Docs. 18, 20, 22). On August 14, 2018, the Court adopted the reports and recommendations (Docs. 19, 21, 24) on those motions, stayed the case, and directed status reports regarding the continuance of the stay on the sooner of a decision in Begay or February 8, 2019.

         Necessity of Order - The Court's Order stayed this case by granting Movant's various motions. No. explicit term of the stay was adopted, and the terms requested in the motions varied. Accordingly, in recognition of the already protracted stay in these proceedings, and the potential that it will likely continue for six months or more, the undersigned adopts the parties' position that a further order is required. The recommendation, however, will be to clearly adopt a stay pending further order to obviate the need for periodic motions, and instead require periodic reports on the status of the stay.

         Magistrate Judge Authority - The grant of a motion to stay may be deemed dispositive of a habeas petitioner's claims because it arguably effectively precludes some of the relief sought (e.g. the potential of immediate - or at least sooner - release from custody). See S.E.C. v. CMKM Diamonds, Inc., 729 F.3d 1248, 1260 (9th Cir. 2013) (denial of stay that did not effectively deny any ultimate relief sought was non-dispostive) and PowerShare, Inc. v. Syntel, Inc., 597 F.3d 10, 14 (1st Cir. 2010) (ruling on a motion to stay civil litigation pending arbitration is not dispositive of either the case or any claim or defense within it). But see Mitchell v. Valenzuela, 791 F.3d 1166, 1167 (9th Cir. 2015) (denial of stay to exhaust state remedies effectively dispositive of claims); and Bastidas v. Chappell, 791 F.3d 1155, 1157 (9th Cir. 2015) (same). Dispositive matters may not be heard directly by a magistrate judge in a case heard on referral, but must be addressed by way of a report and recommendation. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).

         Here, the fact that Movant has requested the stay diminishes concerns that the motion could be considered dispositive. Nonetheless, in an abundance of caution, the undersigned addresses the matter by way of this Report and Recommendation.

         Applicable Law - Generally, this court has authority to stay consideration of a case. A court's power to stay proceedings pending the resolution of another case is “incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). See also Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 276 (2005) (“District courts do ordinarily have authority to issue stays, where such a stay would be a proper exercise of discretion.”) (citing Landis). “A district court has inherent power to control the disposition of the causes on its docket in a manner which will promote economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir. 1962)

         Ordinarily, the propriety of a requested stay is determined by the weighing of “the competing interests which will be affected by the granting or refusal to grant a stay.” Lockyer v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1109 (9th Cir. 2005). “Among these competing interests are the possible damage which may result from the granting of a stay, the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go forward, and the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the simplifying or complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law which could be expected to result from a stay.” CMAX, 300 F.2d at 268.

         And, ordinarily, judicial economy is a legitimate consideration in determining the need for a stay. For example, 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.” Leyva v. Certified Grocers of California, 593 F.2d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 1979).

         However, in the context of habeas cases, “special considerations” are implicated “that place unique limits on a district court's authority to stay a case in the interests of judicial economy.” See Yong v. INS, 208 F.3d 1116, 1120 (9th Cir. 2000). This is because a habeas proceeding is intended to be a swift remedy to illegal confinement, and the statutes mandate that the courts give habeas petitions special preference on their calendars. Id.

Consequently, although a short stay may be appropriate in a habeas case to await a determination in a parallel case in the same court, or to allow a state to prepare for a retrial of a successful petitioner, we have never authorized, in the interests of judicial economy, an indefinite, potentially lengthy stay in a habeas case.
Nor do we now. “The writ of habeas corpus, challenging illegality of detention, is reduced to a sham if ... trial courts do not act within a reasonable time.” A long stay also threatens to create the perception that courts are more concerned with efficient ...

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