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Williams v. Khan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 20, 2019

Elizabeth Williams, Plaintiff,
Levi Khan, et al., Defendants.


          Eric J. Markovich United States Magistrate Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Campas' Motion to Stay the Deadline to File a Joint Proposed Pretrial Order. (Doc. 141). Defendants Rosebeck and Davis joined in the motion, while Plaintiff opposed. For the following reasons the Court will grant the Defendants' motion to stay and not bifurcate any claims.

         I. Background

         This case was removed from Pima County Superior Court to the Federal District Court for the District of Arizona on January 18, 2017. (Doc. 1). After discovery, Plaintiff filed two motions for Partial Summary Judgment: one against Defendant Erika Campas (Doc. 100) and another against Defendants Rosebeck and Davis. (Doc. 101). Defendant Campas also filed a Partial Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment regarding the issue of qualified immunity. (Doc. 106). This Court denied all three motions for summary judgment on March 26, 2019. (Doc. 140). Defendant Campas subsequently provided notice to the Court on April 23, 2019 of her interlocutory appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the denial of her cross-motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 142). Because of that appeal, Defendant Campas filed a Motion to Stay the Deadline to File a Joint Proposed Pretrial Order (Doc. 141), which Defendants Davis and Rosebeck joined. (Doc. 144). Plaintiff filed her Response to the Motion to Stay on May 3, 2019, arguing that no stay was necessary as to the claims against Defendants Davis and Rosebeck and that the Court could bifurcate the claims against Defendant Campas and proceed to trial. (Doc. 147). Both Defendants Davis and Rosebeck and Defendant Campas filed Replies on May 10, 2019 (Doc. 149; Doc. 150).

         II. Law

         In this jurisdiction, the filing of an interlocutory appeal regarding qualified immunity automatically divests a district court of jurisdiction to proceed with trial, unless the district court finds the claim frivolous or that it has been waived. Chuman v. Wright, 960 F.2d 104, 105 (9th Cir. 1992). However, in situations involving interlocutory appeals, the district court “retains jurisdiction to address aspects of the case that are not the subject of the appeal.” United States v. Pitner, 397 F.3d 1178, 1183 n.5 (9th Cir. 2002). Even though the district court retains jurisdiction on matters not subject of the appeal, it may decide, at the district court judge's discretion, to grant a stay of proceedings after the filing of an interlocutory appeal. See 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b)(2018) (“application for an appeal hereunder shall not stay proceedings in the district court unless the district judge or the Court of Appeals or a judge thereof shall so order”).

         A district court “possesses the inherent power to control its docket and promote efficient use of judicial resources.” Dependable Highway Exp., Inc. v. Navigators Ins. Co., 498 F.3d 1059, 1066 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936) and Leyva v. Certified Grocers of California, Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863-64 (9th Cir. 1979)). However, “case management standing alone is not necessarily a sufficient ground to stay proceedings.” Id. “A stay is an intrusion into the ordinary processes of administration and judicial review, and accordingly is not a matter of right, even if irreparable injury might otherwise result to the appellant.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 427 (2009) (citations and internal quotations omitted).

         The Supreme Court in Nken v. Holder reiterated the traditional factors in determining whether to grant a motion to stay: “‘(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.'” Id. at 434 (quoting Hilton v. Braunskll, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)). In analyzing these factors, the first two are the most critical. Id. However, each case must be decided upon its own particular circumstances, Virginian R. Co. v. United States, 272 U.S. 658, 672-73 (1926), and the burden is on the party requesting the stay to show that these particular circumstances justify a stay. Nken, 556 U.S. at 433-34 (citing Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 708 (1997) and Landis, 299 U.S. at 255).

         Regarding whether the applicant has made a strong showing of the likelihood of success of the appeal, it is “not enough that the chance of success on the merits be better than negligible.” Id. at 434 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). But this does not mean that an applicant need show that success is “more likely than not.” Leiva-Perez v. Holder, 640 F.3d 962, 968 (9th Cir. 2011). Instead, the applicant has to show that there is a “substantial case for relief on the merits.” Id.[1] This has to be the standard because to require a greater showing would make the Court “attempt[] to predict with accuracy the resolution of often-thorny legal issues without adequate briefing and argument.” Id. at 967. Concerning the other critical factor, irreparable harm to the applicant, more than a mere possibility of harm is required. Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. However, in many ways it is “easier to anticipate what would happen as a practical matter following the denial of a stay” than it is to determine the likelihood of success. Leiva-Perez, 640 F.3d at 968.

         A federal court may bifurcate claims and order a separate trial “for convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). However, a court may order a separate trial only for separate issues, id., and its decision on whether to do so is within the court's sound discretion. Hangarter v. Provident Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 373 F.3d 998, 1021 (9th Cir. 2004).

         III. Analysis

         The filing of Defendant Campas' appeal as to her qualified immunity claim automatically divests this Court of jurisdiction to proceed to trial on any of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Campas. The qualified immunity claim was not deemed “frivolous” when this Court denied Defendant Campas' motion for summary judgment nor was it waived. Therefore, this Court may not proceed to trial on the claims against Defendant Campas until the resolution of the appeal. While it is true that the Court could proceed with aspects of the case unrelated to the appeal, Defendant Campas' involvement in codefendants Davis and Rosebeck's case leads this Court to determine that a stay is warranted as to all Defendants given the four factors outlined in Nken. To decide otherwise and bifurcate the claims, as suggested by Plaintiff, would lead to the same issues being tried twice.[2] This concern also informs the Court's decision to grant the motion to stay as to all Defendants.

         A. Strong Showing of Likelihood of Success on the Merits

         This first factor is neutral. The standard Defendants must meet to satisfy this factor is that there is a “substantial case for relief based on the merits, ” but they need not show that success is more likely than not. See Leiva-Perez, 640 F.3d at 968. The Court stands by its ruling that Defendant Campas is not entitled to summary judgment on her claim for qualified immunity. However, the Court also did not deem the claim to be frivolous. The Court determined that there were genuine issues of material fact that precluded it from deciding whether warrantless removal of the children was reasonable as a matter of law. (Doc. 140 at 9:28-10:1). Defendant Campas has claimed that this Court failed to consider more of the undisputed facts that would have justified warrantless removal (i.e. unaccompanied children after arrest of a parent). (Doc. 150 at 2:13-17). Given this claim, the Court cannot say that Defendant Campas has merely shown a greater than negligible likelihood of success on appeal. Nor can the Court say ...

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