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Arnold v. City of Olathe

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 8, 2019

MARK ARNOLD, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF OLATHE, KANSAS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          James P. O'Hara, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Defendants Johnson County, Kansas; the Board of Commissioners of the County of Johnson, Kansas; Nate Denton; Thomas Chaulk; Tamara Sparks; and Calvin Hayden (collectively, the “Johnson County defendants”) and defendants City of Olathe, Kansas; Michael Butaud; Chad Mellick; Wade Lanphear; Tim Sweany; Ian Mills; Brian Wessling; Steve Menke; and Jameson Miller (collectively, the “Olathe defendants”) move the court to stay discovery (ECF Nos. 39, 40) pending a ruling on the Johnson County defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 37) and the Olathe defendants' motion to dismiss and/or motion for judgment on the pleadings (ECF No. 47). Plaintiff opposes the motion to stay discovery, moves the court to require production of certain documents and recordings, and asks the court for an extension to respond to all dispositive motions until thirty days after the parties' Rule 26 disclosures.[1]

         For the reasons discussed below, the undersigned U.S. Magistrate Judge, James P. O'Hara, grants the defendants' motions to stay discovery. Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time to respond to dispositive motions is moot, as the presiding U.S. District Judge, Carlos Murguia, will resolve this issue in ruling on plaintiff's separately-filed motion for extension of time to file responses to defendants' motions to dismiss (ECF No. 42). Plaintiff's motion to produce records is deferred pending any lifting of the stay.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed this case on December 19, 2018, alleging Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations arising from the shooting death of Ciara Howard during defendant officers' attempt to serve an arrest warrant.[2] Plaintiff brings Monell claims based on defendants' policies, practices, customs, and procedures, as well as failures to train and supervise.[3] Plaintiff further alleges supplemental state-law claims based on assault, battery, wrongful death, and survival.[4]

         On February 6, 2019, the Johnson County defendants filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 37), arguing, among other defenses to the federal claims, that plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, that all individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, and that Sheriff Hayden is entitled to complete immunity under the Eleventh Amendment as to the official-capacity claims. As to the state-law claims, the Johnson County defendants assert state-law immunity under the discretionary-function exception in the Kansas Tort Claims Act. The same day, the Johnson County defendants filed their motion to stay discovery (ECF No. 39), stating they had asserted the defenses of official capacity and qualified immunity in the motion to dismiss, and therefore the court should stay discovery pending the court's ruling on the dispositive motion.

         The Olathe defendants filed a motion to stay (ECF No. 40) on February 12, incorporating by reference the Johnson County defendants' arguments and representing that their forthcoming motion for judgment on the pleadings would assert, in part, the defense of qualified immunity. The Olathe defendants filed a motion to dismiss and/or motion for judgment on the pleadings on March 4, 2019 (ECF No. 47), asserting, among other defenses, qualified immunity.

         Plaintiff opposes the motions to stay discovery (ECF No. 41), arguing that defendants have not met their burden to justify a stay and that any stay would be prejudicial to plaintiff. Specifically, plaintiff claims that defendants have refused to produce certain police reports, audiotapes, and videotapes that are necessary to resolve the dispositive motions. In his opposition, plaintiff also requests an extension to respond to dispositive motions until thirty days after the parties have exchanged Rule 26 disclosures.

         II. Analysis

         Standard to Stay Discovery

         It has long been the general policy in the District of Kansas not to stay discovery merely because a dispositive motion has been filed.[5] However, there are four recognized exceptions to this policy. That is, a discovery stay may be appropriate if: (1) the case is likely to be finally concluded via the dispositive motion; (2) the facts sought through discovery would not affect the resolution of the dispositive motion; (3) discovery on all issues posed by the complaint would be wasteful and burdensome; or (4) the dispositive motion raises issues as to a defendant's immunity from suit.[6] The decision whether to stay discovery rests in the sound discretion of the court.[7]

         Generally, a defendant is entitled to have questions of immunity resolved before being required to engage in “the burdens of such pretrial matters as discovery.”[8]“[B]ecause qualified immunity protects against the burdens of discovery as well as trial, a district court may stay discovery upon the filing of a dispositive motion based on qualified immunity.”[9] The Supreme Court has made it clear that until the threshold question of immunity is resolved, discovery should not be allowed.[10] One reason for this is to allow courts to “weed out” lawsuits “without requiring a defendant who rightly claims qualified immunity to engage in expensive and time consuming preparation to defend the suit on the merits.”[11]

         Discovery Is Not Needed to Determine Qualified Immunity

         The undersigned magistrate judge concludes that a brief stay of all pretrial proceedings-including discovery and the scheduling of deadlines-is warranted until Judge Murguia resolves the pending dispositive motions. As mentioned earlier, all of the individual defendants assert qualified immunity defenses in their motions to dismiss and motion for judgments on the pleadings.[12] Courts evaluate a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings under the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.[13]Generally, in deciding a motion to dismiss, the “court should consider no evidence beyond the pleadings.”[14] In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court generally considers only the adequacy of the pleadings themselves, and will not look to evidence outside the complaint, as it would at the summary judgment stage.[15] Although the court may allow limited discovery ...


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