United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ROBERT B. PADILLA and TINA M. PADILLA, as Co-Personal Representatives of the ESTATE OF ISAAC PADILLA, Deceased, Plaintiffs,
JOSHUA MORA, in his individual capacity, and BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF BERNALILLO COUNTY and MANUEL GONZALES, in his individual and official capacities as BERNALILLO COUNTY SHERIFF, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. BALDOCK, UNITED STATE CIRCUIT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on the County Defendants'
Motion for Protective Order Staying Discovery Pending the
Court's Disposition of County Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 56), filed November 5, 2018.
Having reviewed the parties' submissions and all
pertinent authority, the Court determines that a reply brief
is unnecessary for its ruling. Because the Court finds
Defendants' Motion to Stay has merit, discovery will be
stayed pending a ruling on the on Defendants' pending
motion for summary judgment.
as the personal representatives of the estate of Isaac
Padilla, bring this action for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for alleged violations of decedent's
constitutional rights in connection with a November 17, 2017
vehicle chase between Mr. Padilla and Bernalillo County
Sheriffs that resulted in Mr. Padilla's death. Defendants
have countered with a motion for summary judgment (Doc.
54) in which Defendant Mora asserts he is entitled to
qualified immunity. Defendants have now filed the instant
motion to stay discovery until the Court issues a decision on
the motion for summary judgment.
immunity is not only a defense to liability but also
entitlement to immunity from suit and other demands of
litigation. Discovery should not be allowed until the court
resolves the threshold question whether the law was clearly
established at the time the allegedly unlawful action
occurred.” Workman v. Jordan, 958 F.2d 332,
336 (10th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). Accordingly, in
cases where qualified immunity is asserted in a dispositive
motion, the movant is ordinarily entitled to a stay of
discovery until the qualified immunity question is resolved.
See Jiron v. City of Lakewood, 392 F.3d 410, 414
(10th Cir. 2004); Workman, 958 F.2d at 336.
reaffirming its long-held view that discovery should be
stayed when qualified immunity is asserted, the United States
Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, reasoned as
The basic thrust of the qualified-immunity doctrine is to
free officials from the concerns of litigation, including
“avoidance of disruptive discovery” . . . There
are serious and legitimate reasons for this. If a government
official is to devote time to his or her duties, and to the
formulation of sound and responsible policies, it is
counterproductive to require the substantial diversion that
is attendant to participating in litigation and making
informed decisions as to how it should proceed. Litigation,
though necessary to ensure that officials comply with the
law, exacts heavy costs in terms of efficiency and
expenditure of valuable time and resources that might
otherwise be directed to the proper execution of the work of
the government . . . .
556 U.S. 662, 685 (2009). The Court concludes that
long-standing law establishes that generally Defendants are
entitled to a qualified immunity determination before
undertaking the burdens of discovery and litigation.
nonetheless maintain that the Court should not stay
discovery. Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges six
claims against the named defendants, including three state
law claims and three Section 1983 claims: excessive force
against Defendant Mora, municipal liability against Defendant
Board of County Commissioners of Bernalillo County, and
supervisory liability against Defendant Gonzales. In the
Motion for Summary Judgment, only Defendant Mora asserts
entitlement to qualified immunity and Plaintiffs agree, in
theory, that discovery should be stayed as to the Section
1983 claim against Defendant Mora. However, Plaintiffs
further assert that because qualified immunity is not a
defense to Plaintiffs' other claims and because all of
Plaintiffs' claims involve the same facts and witnesses,
the Court should allow continuing discovery on all claims.
The Court disagrees. While only Defendant Mora is asserting
qualified immunity, Iqbal holds that all discovery
should be stayed upon the assertion of qualified immunity,
even for those defendants not asserting the defense.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 685.
the Court sees no reason to depart from the general rule that
once a defendant files a dispositive motion asserting
qualified immunity, discovery must be stayed. See
Jiron, 392 F.3d at 414 (reasoning that because qualified
immunity is an entitlement not to face the burdens of
litigation, “[e]ven pretrial matters such as discovery
are to be avoided if possible”); Workman, 985
F.2d at 336 (concluding that discovery “should not be
allowed” until the court makes a requested qualified
immunity determination). Additionally, the Court sees no
reasons to allow the previously scheduled depositions, as
Plaintiffs request, because it is permissible for a defendant
to raise qualified immunity at various stages of litigation,
including after the commencement of discovery. See
Tenorio v. Pitzer, No. CIV 12-1295 MCA/KBM, 2013 WL
12178001, at *2-3 (D.N.M. July 27, 2013) (rejecting the
plaintiff's argument that the defendants raised qualified
immunity immediately before their expert deadline to obtain a
tactical advantage and explaining that “once a
defendant files a dispositive motion asserting qualified
immunity, a court must generally stay discovery.”) The
tactical advantage, as alleged by Plaintiffs, which
Defendants may have gained from waiting to raise qualified
immunity also “benefitted Plaintiff[s] in that it
allowed [them] an opportunity to obtain much of [their]
desired discovery.” Id. at *3.
however, Plaintiffs believe that certain additional discovery
on the issue of qualified immunity is necessary in order for
them to adequately respond to the pending summary judgment
motion, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do provide an
avenue for such limited additional discovery. Such discovery
will not be permitted unless Plaintiffs identify in an
affidavit specific discovery it deems necessary and
demonstrate how that discovery will assist them in overcoming
Defendants' prima facie showings. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(d).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the County
Defendants' Motion for Protective Order Staying Discovery
Pending the Court's Disposition of County Defendant'
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 56) is
IS FURTHER ORDERED that discovery in this matter is
stayed pending resolution of County Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. 54).
IS FINALLY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion to
Compel (Doc. 51) is denied at this
time and can be refiled, if ...