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Monroe v. City of Lawrence

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

November 21, 2013

MICHAEL MONROE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS, et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

David J. Waxse U.S. Magistrate Judge

The Court has before it Defendants’ Motion to Stay Discovery (ECF No. 34). Defendants City of Lawrence, Kansas (“City”) and Tarik Khatib request an order staying discovery in this case until their pending Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 23) is resolved. Plaintiff Michael Monroe opposes the Motion to Stay Discovery as to both Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Motion to Stay Discovery should be granted as to both Defendants.

I. Nature of the Matter Before the Court

Monroe brings this lawsuit against Defendants based on alleged violations of his constitutional rights related to his termination from employment as a police officer. Monroe was employed by the City in the Lawrence Police Department (“LPD”), where Khatib is the Chief of Police. Monroe asserts claims against the City for racial discrimination under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and for violation of his property and liberty interests without due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Monroe also asserts a claim against Khatib for racial discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss based partly upon Khatib’s asserted affirmative defense of qualified immunity. Defendants then filed the instant Motion, requesting a stay of discovery as to both Defendants. They argue that all discovery related to the claims against Khatib should be stayed until the Court determines whether he is immune from suit. They further argue that the claims against the City are inexorably intertwined with the claims against Khatib. Thus, they assert that allowing discovery to proceed against the City while the issue of Khatib’s immunity is pending would prejudice Khatib.

In his response, Monroe argues that Khatib is not entitled to a stay of discovery because Khatib will be a key witness in this matter and will participate in discovery regardless of whether he is a named Defendant. Monroe also argues that the City is not entitled to a stay of discovery because the City has not alleged that any prejudice would arise from permitting discovery to continue regarding the claims against it.

In their reply, Defendants argue first that Khatib is entitled to a stay of discovery as a matter of law, regardless of whether he may be a witness. They also argue that discovery should be stayed as to the City because the claims against the City and Khatib share a common nucleus of facts which would make bifurcated discovery impractical and prejudicial to Khatib.

Monroe sur-replied that Defendants have unclean hands, because they served written discovery to Monroe after raising the qualified immunity defense. Defendants sur-replied that there is no authority for the argument raised by Monroe in his sur-reply, that the discovery was limited, and that they filed their motion to dismiss following clarification from Monroe that he was asserting claims against Khatib in his individual capacity.

II. Legal Standard for Motion to Stay Discovery

The decision to stay discovery and other pretrial proceedings is firmly vested in the sound discretion of the trial court.[1] The Tenth Circuit, however, has held that “the right to proceed in court should not be denied except under the most extreme circumstances.”[2] Therefore, as a general rule, the District of Kansas does not favor staying pretrial proceedings even though dispositive motions are pending.[3] An exception is made however when the party requesting the stay has filed a dispositive motion asserting absolute or qualified immunity.[4]

It is well settled that a defendant is entitled to have a question of immunity resolved before being required to engage in discovery and other pretrial proceedings.[5] Qualified immunity “spare[s] a defendant not only unwarranted liability, but unwarranted demands customarily imposed upon those defending a long drawn out lawsuit.”[6] Further it is “an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability[, ] and like an absolute immunity, it is effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.”[7]

III. Application of the Standard to Facts of this Case

A. Stay as to Khatib

Khatib argues that he is entitled to a stay of discovery as a matter of law until the motion to dismiss asserting a qualified immunity defense on his behalf is resolved. Monroe argues that discovery should not be stayed as to Khatib, because he must participate in discovery regardless of whether he is dismissed as a Defendant. Monroe further argues that ...


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