United States District Court, D. New Mexico
LISA A. KENNICOTT, LISA A. GARCIA, SUE C. PHELPS, and JUDI DOOLITTLE, on behalf of themselves and a class of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
SANDIA CORPORATION d/b/a SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STAY
GREGORY J. FOURATT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Sandia
Corporation's (“Sandia's”) “Motion
to Stay Discovery Pending Ruling on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Class Claims” (“Motion to Stay”)
[ECF No. 156]. The Motion to Stay is fully briefed.
See ECF Nos. 158 (Plaintiffs' Response) and 166
(Sandia's Reply). Because Sandia has not met its difficult
burden of justifying the suspension of the discovery process
that has been ongoing for more than a year, the Court will
DENY the motion and require that discovery
proceed as ordered.
SUMMARY OF PARTIES' ARGUMENTS
Motion to Stay, Sandia asserts that the temporary stay it
requests will advance three principal purposes: (1) promoting
judicial economy, (2) minimizing potentially unnecessary
litigation costs, and (3) increasing the possibility of
settlement. Def.'s Mot. to Stay 1, ECF No. 156. Sandia
contends that a temporary stay pending a decision on its
“Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Class Claims”
(“Motion to Dismiss”) [ECF No. 155] is justified
because Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint “abandons
Plaintiffs' original class claims and fails to plausibly
assert any new claims that can satisfy the requirements for
proceeding as a class action.” Id. at 3.
Sandia also argues that the amount of documentary and digital
discovery it already has produced will ensure that Plaintiffs
are not prejudiced by the granting of the stay. Id.
at 5. In sum, Sandia posits that granting a temporary stay
for the purposes it has identified will “further the
‘just, speedy and inexpensive determination' of
this matter in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 1.” Id. at 4.
object to the stay for several reasons. First, they predict
that Sandia is not likely to prevail on its Motion to
Dismiss. Pls.' Resp. to Mot. to Stay (“Pls.'
Resp.”) 1, ECF No. 158. They also assert that
Sandia's Motion to Dismiss does not seek dismissal of
Plaintiffs' disparate treatment class claim, but only the
disparate impact class claim, a circumstance that will
require class discovery to proceed irrespective of the
decision on the Motion to Dismiss. Id. Plaintiffs
next contend that Sandia has not claimed nor demonstrated any
undue burden associated with ongoing class discovery.
Id. Rather, according to Plaintiffs, the requested
stay is merely the latest salvo in Sandia's long-running
campaign of delaying disclosure. Id. Finally and
overall, Plaintiffs contend that the requested stay will
actually frustrate the three purposes proffered by Sandia as
reasons for granting the stay. Id., passim.
reply, Sandia argues that Plaintiffs are misconstruing its
Motion to Dismiss, insisting that its motion seeks dismissal
of all class claims in the Amended Complaint.
Def.'s Reply to Pls.' Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to
Stay 2 (“Def.'s Reply”), ECF No. 166. In
addition, Sandia repeats that Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint jettisoned the principal legal theory on which this
putative class action was originally based. Id. at
4. This turn of events, according to Sandia, warrants a
temporary stay of discovery until the Court can decide
whether Plaintiffs' change in legal theory is fatal to
their class claims. Id.
LEGAL STANDARD FOR PROTECTIVE ORDERS
parties do not quarrel with the axiom that federal trial
courts have broad discretion to regulate discovery. See,
e.g., Morales v. E.D. Etnyre & Co., 229
F.R.D. 661, 662 (D.N.M. 2005) (Browning, J.). Rule 26(c) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, upon a
showing of good cause, a court may “issue an order to
protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment,
oppression, or undue burden or expense, ” which may
include forbidding or suspending disclosure or discovery.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1)(A). Accord Miller v.
Regents of the Univ. of Colo., No. 98-1012,
1999 WL 506520, at *12 (10th Cir. July 19, 1999) (unpublished
table decision) (reasoning that “[t]he district court
is in the best position to weigh these variables and
determine the appropriate limits because, unlike an appellate
court, the district court has the ability to view firsthand
the progression of the case, the litigants, and the impact of
discovery on parties and nonparties”).
is the party seeking the protective order who has the burden
to show good cause for a protective order.”
Velasquez v. Frontier Med. Inc., 229 F.R.D. 197, 200
(D.N.M. 2005) (Browning, J.); accord Anderson Living Tr.
v. WPX Energy Prod., LLC, No. CIV 12-0040 JB/KBM, 2013
WL 5934394, at *3 (D.N.M. Oct. 17, 2013) (unpublished)
(Browning, J.). The party seeking the protective order must
submit “a particular and specific demonstration of
fact, as distinguished from stereotyped and conclusory
statements.” Gulf Oil Co. v. Bernard, 452 U.S.
89, 102 n.16 (internal quotation marks omitted).
LEGAL STANDARD FOR STAYS OF DISCOVERY
has broad discretion in managing its docket, which includes
staying all or portions of a civil case. Pueblo of
Pojoaque v. New Mexico, 214 F.Supp.3d 1028, 1084 (D.N.M.
2016) (Browning, J.) (citing Clinton v. Jones, 520
U.S. 681, 706 (1997) (citing Landis v. N. Am.
Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936)).
[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power
inherent in every court to control the disposition of the
causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for
itself, for counsel, and for litigants. How this can best be
done calls for the exercise of judgment, which must weigh
competing interests and maintain an even balance.
Landis, 299 U.S. at 254-55. Whether to stay
discovery depends to a substantial degree on the facts and
procedural progress of each individual case.
Anderson, 2013 WL 5934394 at *5; Swepi, LP v.
Mora County, No. CIV 14-0035 JB/SCY, 2014 WL 7474084 at
*16 (D.N.M. Dec. 19, 2014) (Browning, J.).
party seeking a stay faces a “difficult burden.”
Pueblo of Pojoaque, 214 F.Supp.3d at 1084 (citing
Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. at 708 (“The
proponent of a stay bears the burden of establishing its
need.”)). “In particular, where a movant seeks
relief that would delay court proceedings by other litigants
he must make a strong showing of necessity because the relief
would severely affect the rights of others.”
Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Chilcott
Portfolio Mgmt., Inc.,713 F.2d 1477, 1484 (10th Cir.
1983). “The underlying principle clearly is
that ‘[t]he right to ...