United States District Court, D. New Mexico
KARRI DALTON as the Personal Representative of the Estate of NIKKI BASCOM, deceased, and Next Friend to M.B., a minor child, and A.C., a minor child, Plaintiffs,
TOWN OF SILVER CITY, ex rel. SILVER CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING OPPOSED MOTION TO STAY PENDING
RESOLUTION OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY APPEAL
HONORABLE GREGORY J. FOURATT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is the “Opposed Motion to Stay Pending
Resolution of Qualified Immunity Appeal”
(“Motion”) [ECF 113], filed by Defendants Town of
Silver City, Ed Reynolds, and Ricky Villalobos. The Motion is
fully briefed. See ECFs 119 (response), 120 (reply).
Because the general rule is that a district court stays all
proceedings in a case in which any defendant has taken an
interlocutory appeal of the denial of qualified immunity, and
there being no sufficiently persuasive reason to deviate from
that rule in the instant case, the Court will GRANT the
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF 110] filed March 7, 2019,
Chief Judge Johnson granted in part and denied in part the
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Town
of Silver City, Ed Reynolds, and Ricky Villalobos [ECF 59].
As part of the motion, Defendants Reynolds and Villalobos
sought the dismissal of certain equal protection and due
process claims against them on the basis of qualified
immunity. See ECF 59 at 28-31. The Memorandum
Opinion and Order denied dismissal with respect to the equal
protection claim and in so doing rejected the qualified
immunity defense. See ECF 110 at 20-22.
March 20, 2019, Defendants Reynolds and Villalobos filed a
Notice of Appeal [ECF 112] of the Memorandum Opinion and
Order to the extent it denied them qualified immunity on the
equal protection claim. On the same day, Defendants Town of
Silver City, Reynolds, and Villalobos filed the instant
Motion, in which they seek an order staying all proceedings
as against all defendants in this case.
their Motion, the Silver City Defendants (hereafter
“Defendants”) remind the reader that the denial
of qualified immunity is an immediately appealable order.
See Mot. to Stay 1-2. Defendants then contend that
their appeal “relates to the entire action. .
. and divests the District Court of jurisdiction to proceed
with any part of the action until the qualified
immunity appeal is resolved.” Id. at 2 (citing
Stewart v. Donges, 915 F.2d 572, 576 (10th Cir.
1990)) (internal quotations omitted) (emphasis added).
Defendants conclude with a request global in scope:
“Given the nature of the qualified immunity defense,
these Defendants are entitled to take an immediate
interlocutory appeal, and as such, the Silver City Defendants
request that this case be stayed while that appeal
is pending.” Id. at 3 (emphasis added).
opposing the Motion, Plaintiff makes three principal
arguments. First, she asserts that the interlocutory appeal
is frivolous, an infirmity that should result in the district
court retaining rather than losing jurisdiction over the
particular claim being appealed. Pl.'s Resp. 1-2. Second,
Plaintiff emphasizes that the only defendants who are even
eligible to appeal are the individual defendants - Reynolds
and Villalobos - whose qualified immunity invocations were
denied. Consequently, the remaining claims against all
remaining defendants, particularly the Town of Silver City,
remain pending and are and will be unaffected by the ongoing
appeal or its eventual result. Id. at 2-4. Finally,
Plaintiff contends that the Court should deny the stay on the
basis of judicial estoppel because Defendants' counsel
agreed to litigate an unrelated discovery issue during the
originally-imposed stay in these proceedings. Id. at
heavily on Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)
and its progeny, Defendants argue that the great weight of
authority in this district is that an entire case should be
stayed when an issue of qualified immunity is pending before
this Court or on interlocutory appeal. Defs.' Reply 2-5.
Defendants point out that the vast majority of cases cited in
Plaintiff's opposition predate the Iqbal
decision and its clear instruction that issues of qualified
immunity are important enough such that discovery should be
stayed until the issues are resolved. Id. at 2-5. In
addition, Defendants specifically deny that the interlocutory
appeal is frivolous, id. at 5-11, or that they are
barred by judicial estoppel from requesting the stay.
Id. at 11-12.
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 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 685; 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 ...