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Garcia v. City of Leavenworth

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 23, 2019

HEATHER GARCIA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS HEIR TO ANTONIO GARCIA, JR., AND MIDWEST TRUST COMPANY AS THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ANTONIO GARCIA, JR. AND ON BEHALF OF ALL HEIRS OF ANTONIO GARCIA, JR. Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS, And MATTHEW HARRINGTON Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO STAY CIVIL PROCEEDINGS

          HON. KENNETH G. GALE U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is Defendant Harrington's Amended Motion in which he requests "an Order staying the above-styled case until the closure of his pending criminal case in Leavenworth District Court.” (Doc. 17, at 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES this motion.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The present Motion arises from a civil claim in relation to the shooting death of Antonio Garcia, Jr. by Defendant Harrington. (Doc. 7, at 20-21.) Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant Harrington “acting in the course and scope of his employment with the City and acting under color of state law, unjustifiably shot and killed Garcia under circumstance where no reasonable police Officer would have done so.” (Doc. 7, at 1-2.) Defendants allege liability on behalf of both Harrington and the City of Leavenworth, Kansas. (Doc. 7.) On August 13, 2018, Defendant Harrison was indicted by a grand jury in Leavenworth County on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in relation to the death of Antonio Garcia, Jr. (Doc. 14, at 2.)

         Defendant City of Leavenworth, Kansas answered Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint separately, requesting a trial by jury on all issues and claims against it. (Doc. 8, at 10.) Defendant Harrison has not yet responded to Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint but has filed this Amended Motion to Stay Civil Proceedings until the pending criminal case against him in Leavenworth District Court is resolved. (Doc. 17.) Defendant City of Leavenworth, Kansas has filed a response in support of Defendant Harrington's Motion, stating that it does not object to the requested stay. (Doc. 19.) Defendant City of Leavenworth, Kansas later supplemented its motion, addressing the veracity of a number of statements Plaintiff presented as fact. (Doc. 27.) However, most of the arguments made by Defendant City of Leavenworth, Kansas in its supplemental response were not relevant in the Court's analysis of this motion.

         Plaintiffs filed a response to the Defendant's Motion, asking the Court to deny the requested stay. (Doc. 22, at 4.) Alternatively, Plaintiffs ask the Court to “consider a less drastic measure than stay and in the alternative consider alternate tools including such things as the imposition of protective orders, sealed interrogatories, a stay for a finite period of time, or a stay limited to a specific subject matter.” (Doc. 22, at 3-4.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. Legal Standard.

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not necessarily provide for a stay of proceedings. A court may, however, “make any order which justice requires to protect a party . . . from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c). While the rule does not specifically state that pending criminal charges are a basis for imposing a stay, the Court will assume for the sake of this motion that this could arguably fall under the “annoyance” or “embarrassment” factors.

         The Tenth Circuit has provided the following guidance as to when a civil case should be stayed due to pending criminal charges:

The Constitution does not generally require a stay of civil proceedings pending the outcome of criminal proceedings, absent substantial prejudice to a party's rights. When deciding whether the interests of justice seem to require a stay, the court must consider the extent to which a party's Fifth Amendment rights are implicated. However, a defendant has no absolute right not to be forced to choose between testifying in a civil matter and asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege. A district court may also stay a civil proceeding in deference to a parallel criminal proceeding for other reasons, such as to prevent either party from taking advantage of broader civil discovery rights or to prevent the exposure of the criminal defense strategy to the prosecution.

Creative Consumer Concepts, Inc. v. Kreisler, 563 F.3d 1070, 1080 (10th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         II. Six Factor Test.

         Courts have utilized a six factor test in the past to determine whether to stay civil proceedings in a case where criminal ...


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