United States District Court, D. New Mexico
A.N. by and through her next friend, KATHERINE PONDER, and KATHERINE PONDER, Plaintiffs,
ALAMOGORDO POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STAY
HONORABLE GREGORY J. FOURATT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon the City of Alamogordo ex
rel. Alamogordo Police Department, Keith Daron Syling,
Michael Lawrence, Roger Schoolcraft, David Kunihiro, and
Audra Smith's (“Defendants'”) Opposed
Motion for Stay (“Motion”), filed April 6, 2018.
ECF No. 24. Plaintiffs responded on April 23, 2018 [ECF No.
and Defendants replied on May 2, 2018 [ECF No. 50]. Having
reviewed the Motion and accompanying briefing, and being
otherwise fully advised, the Court will
GRANT the Motion.
filed their unredacted Complaint on March 2, 2018. ECF No. 6.
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated Plaintiff
A.N.'s constitutional rights under both the U.S.
Constitution and the New Mexico Constitution by publishing
her full name, information about the allegations against her,
and her photograph via a news release and social media.
Pls.' Compl. 7-13, 21-37, 43-44, ECF No. 6. In lieu of an
Answer, Defendants filed an unredacted Motion to Dismiss
based on qualified immunity and governmental immunity under
the New Mexico Tort Claims Act on April 6, 2018. ECF No. 22.
In relevant part, Defendants argue that their release of
A.N.'s information did not violate her constitutional
rights because the information itself was not highly personal
or intimate. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 11, ECF
No. 23. Because Plaintiffs cannot show that the law was
clearly established, Defendants assert that they are entitled
to qualified immunity with respect to the Section 1983
claims. See id. at 11-13. As is often done in civil
rights cases, Defendants have separately moved to stay all
proceedings in this case until the motion to dismiss has been
decided. See Defs.' Mot. to Stay, ECF No. 24.
STATUS OF THE LAW
immunity balances two important interests - the need to hold
public officials accountable when they exercise power
irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from
harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform
their duties reasonably.” Pearson v. Callahan,
555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). The Supreme Court has repeatedly
highlighted the broad protection that this defense provides
and has stressed that it protects officials not only from
having to stand trial, but from having to bear the burdens
attendant to litigation, including pretrial discovery.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 685 (2009);
see also Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001).
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 before
discovery if at all possible. See 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 and Cnty. of
Denver, 854 F.2d 1206, 1211 (10th Cir. 1988).
consequence, the Tenth Circuit holds that when defendants
file a dispositive motion based on qualified immunity, they
are ordinarily entitled to a stay of discovery. Jiron v.
City of Lakewood, 392 F.3d 410, 414 (10th Cir. 2004);
Workman v. Jordan, 958 F.2d 332, 336 (10th Cir.
1992). Moreover, once a single defendant raises the issue of
qualified immunity in a dispositive motion, discovery for all
defendants should generally be stayed. See Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 685-86.
Court finds that a stay of proceedings as to all defendants
is appropriate. Defendants have raised a qualified immunity
defense. The Court is unpersuaded that this case should be
excluded from the general rule that, when a defendant files a
motion asserting the defense of qualified immunity, he is
entitled to a stay of discovery.
argue that because they requested prospective injunctive
relief in their Complaint, and because qualified immunity
does not apply to claims against state officials for
injunctive relief, they should be permitted to engage in
limited discovery regarding the prospective injunctive relief
they seek. Pls.' Mot. 3-6, ECF No. 38. That prospective
injunctive relief is a permanent injunction against the City
of Alamogordo and the Alamogordo Police Department
“from further disclosing confidential juvenile arrest,
detainment, and delinquency records protected by New Mexico
state statutes, regulations, and rules.” Pls.'
Compl. 45. However, Plaintiffs do not explain what kind of
discovery is needed with respect to this prospective
injunctive relief. Plaintiffs do not allege that the
municipal Defendants disclosed the confidential information
of other juveniles, and even if they had, Plaintiffs are not
suing on behalf of other juveniles. Plaintiffs also do not
address why discovery related to the prospective injunctive
relief they seek cannot be pursued after the stay is lifted.
also argue that because the City of Alamogordo cannot benefit
from qualified immunity, and because Defendants moved only to
partially dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, the City should
be required to file an Answer. Id. at 4-5. The only
count in Plaintiffs' Complaint that Defendants did not
move to dismiss is Count IX, which alleges violations of the
New Mexico Constitution's equal protection clause.
Pls.' Compl. 43-44. Count IX is pled against the
individual Defendants and the Alamogordo Police Department.
Id. at 43. Despite Defendants' failure to
include Count IX in their Motion to Dismiss, if their Motion
to Dismiss is granted on qualified immunity grounds, Count IX
will be dismissed with respect to the individual Defendants.
Even if Count IX is not entirely resolved if the Court grants
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, since it would still be
pending against the City of Alamogordo, Plaintiffs still do
not explain what kind of discovery they wish to engage in
with respect to the City's alleged violations of the New
assert that “[d]iscovery does not occur in a vacuum,
” and that “the individual Defendants who have
asserted qualified immunity would necessarily have to
participate in that discovery[.]” Defs.' Reply 2-3,
ECF No. 50. Defendants also point out that “[i]f the
Court were to grant the Motion to Dismiss on the basis that
there was no constitutional violation, such a ruling would
effective[ly] dispose of any Monell municipal
liability claim and any [Section] 1983 claim for equitable
relief, and there would be no need to conduct discovery
related to these claims.” Id. at 3; see
also Graves v. Thomas, 450 F.3d 1215, 1218 (10th Cir.
2006) (holding that to establish municipal liability under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that an officer
committed an underlying constitutional violation, that a
municipal policy or custom exists, and that there is a direct
causal link between the policy or custom and the injury
Court finds these arguments to be persuasive. In order for
Plaintiffs to conduct discovery on their prospective
injunctive relief, their discovery requests would necessarily
require the individual Defendants to participate in that
discovery. And if there is no constitutional violation, the
City of Alamogordo cannot be liable under Section 1983, and
there is no need to conduct discovery with respect to the
City, Count IX, or Plaintiffs' prospective injunctive
relief. Case law from this District has recognized that
“after Iqbal, the law is clear that discovery
should be stayed upon assertion of qualified immunity, even
for those defendants not asserting the defense.”
Tenorio v. Pitzer, No. CIV 12-1295 JCH/KBM, 2013 WL
12178001 at *3 (D.N.M. July 27, 2013). Plaintiffs have not
persuaded the Court that it should deviate from
Iqbal 's rule that once one defendant
has asserted qualified immunity, discovery for all defendants
should be stayed. See 556 U.S. at 685-86.