United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY
KHALSA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Janice Madrid's
and Richard Williamson's Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc.
33) (“Motion to Stay”), filed May 4, 2017. The
Court, having reviewed the parties' submissions and the
relevant law, FINDS that the motion is well taken and should
their Motion to Stay, Defendants seek a stay of discovery
pending resolution of their Motion to Dismiss or Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings on Plaintiff's Complaint on the
Basis of Qualified Immunity and Other Grounds (Doc. 32)
(“Motion to Dismiss”), in which they raise the
defense of qualified immunity. (Doc. 33 at 1.) The Supreme
Court has repeatedly highlighted the broad protection that
the qualified immunity defense provides and has stressed that
it protects officials not only from having to stand trial,
but also from having to bear the burdens associated with
litigation, including pretrial discovery. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 685-86 (2009); Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 231-32 (2009). Because qualified
immunity protects against the burdens of discovery as well as
trial, the Supreme Court has also emphasized that trial
courts should resolve the issue at the earliest possible
stage in litigation and before discovery if possible.
Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232; Siegert v.
Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 231-33 (1991); Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818-19 (1982) (“Until
this threshold immunity question is resolved, discovery
should not be allowed.”); accord Jones v. City
& Cnty. of Denver, 854 F.2d 1206, 1211
(10th Cir. 1988). As such, the Tenth Circuit has
held that when a defendant files a dispositive motion based
on qualified immunity, she is ordinarily entitled to a stay
of discovery. See Jiron v. City of Lakewood, 392
F.3d 410, 414 (10th Cir. 2004); Workman v.
Jordan, 958 F.2d 332, 336 (10th Cir. 1992).
“[q]ualified immunity does not shield government
officials from all discovery[, ] but only from discovery
which is either avoidable or overly broad.” Garrett
v. Stratman, 254 F.3d 946, 953 (10th Cir.
2001) (citation omitted). To be entitled to limited discovery
after a qualified immunity defense has been raised, a
plaintiff must demonstrate
how discovery will enable [the plaintiff] to rebut a
defendant's showing of objective reasonableness or,
stated alternatively, demonstrate a connection between the
information he would seek in discovery and the validity of
the defendant's qualified immunity assertion. To that
end, it is insufficient for the party opposing the motion to
merely assert that additional discovery is required to
demonstrate a factual dispute or that evidence supporting a
party's allegation is in the opposing party's hands.
Lewis v. City of Fort Collins, 903 F.2d 752, 758
(10th Cir. 1990) (emphasis in original) (internal
citations and punctuation marks omitted).
asserts two arguments in opposition to Defendants' Motion
to Stay. First, Plaintiff argues that, because a “large
amount of discovery. . . has already taken place in this
case, including the depositions of the defendants, the policy
behind staying all discovery while the Court rules on the
qualified immunity issue is not served.” (Doc. 35 at
2-3.) This argument, however, ignores Defendants' right
to rely on the defense of qualified immunity at any point in
these proceedings. Maestas v. Lujan, 351 F.3d 1001,
1010 (10th Cir. 2003) (“A defendant who has
appropriately pleaded the affirmative defense of qualified
immunity may establish his right to immunity at any point in
the proceeding, including at trial.” (quoting
Guffey v. Wyatt, 18 F.3d 869, 873 (10th
Cir. 1994)); (Doc. 9 at 5). Thus, in Herrera v. Santa Fe
Public Schools, the court rejected the same argument
Plaintiff makes here, even though the defendant in that case
sought a stay of discovery much later in the proceedings than
While qualified immunity is often times and probably best
raised and decided before the initiation of discovery, the
protection of qualified immunity is for the defendant's
benefit so that the defendant is not further subjected to the
litigation's burdens. That [the defendant] has already
been subjected to the burdens of litigation for eighteen
months does not lessen the protection to which she is
entitled under the law.
2012 WL 6846393, at *7 (D.N.M. Dec. 20, 2012). Plaintiff has
no sound reason to create a rule that the protections of a
discovery stay are waived at some point, or to dictate when
the defense [of qualified immunity] has to be raised. In the
end, such a rule could penalize [P]laintiff . . . more than
anyone. Here, for example, [Defendants'] delay in raising
the qualified immunity defense . . . allowed [Plaintiff] to
get almost all of [her] discovery done before the qualified
immunity defense was raised and the discovery stay ordered.
Id. at *8. The Court therefore finds that Defendants
are entitled to a stay of discovery at this time, even though
the parties have already had more than five months in which
to take discovery.
also argues that the Court should allow her to take limited
additional discovery, specifically, the depositions of
witnesses Jeff Smith and Ray White. (Doc. 35 at 3.) However, in
her response in opposition to Defendants' Motion to Stay,
Plaintiff does not even attempt to demonstrate how this
discovery “will enable [her] to rebut [Defendants']
showing of objective reasonableness” in their Motion to
Dismiss. Lewis, 903 F.2d at 758. Indeed, it is
somewhat difficult to imagine how she could, when Defendants
have accepted the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint as
true for purposes of the Motion to Dismiss. (See
Doc. 32 at 3.) Plaintiff's concern that Mr. Smith's
and Mr. White's memories will “further fade”
during the pendency of a discovery stay does not address
Lewis' requirements, and also is not compelling
in light of the fact that these witnesses have already
“given reports” about the incident forming the
basis of Plaintiffs complaint, which can be used to refresh
their recollection. (Doc. 35 at 2-3.) In short, at present,
Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that she is entitled to
the limited additional discovery she seeks.
reasons described above, the Court will stay discovery in
this matter at this time. If, later in these proceedings,
Plaintiff identifies any particularized discoverable
information she needs, but does not have, to rebut
Defendants' qualified immunity defense, she may then file
a motion to reopen discovery.
THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Stay
Discovery (Doc. 33) is GRANTED. All discovery in this case is
stayed pending resolution of Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss or Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on Plaintiffs
Complaint on the Basis of ...