United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY BASED UPON
ABSOLUTE IMMUNITY AND QUALIFIED IMMUNITY
GREGORY B. WORMUTH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendants' Opposed
Motion to Stay Discovery Based Upon Absolute and Qualified
Immunity (doc. 15). Having reviewed the briefing and
considered oral argument from counsel, the Court is fully
advised. See docs. 20, 26, 34. The Motion will be
respect to the constitutional claims brought against him,
Defendant Officer Jonathan Butler has filed a motion for
summary judgment based on the doctrine of absolute
quasi-judicial immunity. See doc. 16. Defendants
seek a stay of discovery pending a ruling on that motion.
Plaintiff has responded to the summary judgment motion in
part seeking “limited discovery on the issue of the
immunity.” Doc. 19 at 6. To that end,
Plaintiff's counsel has filed an affidavit pursuant to
Rule 56(d). See doc. 19, Ex. 1. Relatedly,
his opposition to the motion to stay is based on his claim
that “the Court should allow limited discovery as to
the issues of qualified immunity and quasi-judicial
immunity.” Doc. 20 at 2. Moreover, at the
hearing he argued that, if a stay were granted, it should be
limited to defendants bringing the immunity motion. Doc.
34 at 2; see also doc. 19, Ex. 1 at 2.
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, 685-86 (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 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 & County of
Denver, 854 F.2d 1206, 1211 (10th Cir. 1988). As a
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.
respect to Plaintiff's argument that discovery should be
permitted to continue as to the Defendants not raising an
immunity defense, it flies directly in the face of the
Supreme Court's admonition in Iqbal. As the
Court explained, it
is no answer to these concerns to say that discovery for
petitioners can be deferred while pretrial proceedings
continue for other defendants. It is quite likely that, when
discovery as to the other parties proceeds, it would prove
necessary for petitioners and their counsel to participate in
the process to ensure the case does not develop in a
misleading or slanted way that causes prejudice to their
position. Even if petitioners are not yet themselves subject
to discovery orders, then, they would not be free from the
burdens of discovery.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 685-86. Thus, even where some
defendants are not protected by qualified immunity, a stay of
all discovery is generally appropriate.
respect to Plaintiff's argument regarding the need for
targeted discovery pursuant to Rule 56(d), it does not
justify denial of the stay. A general stay will not prevent
the Court from granting Plaintiff's pending Rule 56(d)
request should he find the affidavit adequate under the rule
and the discovery sought is “essential to justify [the]
opposition” to the summary judgment motion. FED. R.
CIV. P. 56(d). If the Court agrees, the limited discovery
would be permitted notwithstanding a general stay of
Defendants' Opposed Motion to Stay Discovery Based Upon
Absolute and Qualified Immunity (doc. 15) is
GRANTED. Discovery and all attendant deadlines are hereby
STAYED pending a ruling on Defendant Officer Jonathan J.
Butler's Opposed Motion for Summary Judgment (doc.
 The affidavit is titled “Rule 54
Affidavit.” Doc. 19, Ex. 1. However, as the
motion indicates that it is brought “pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure No. 56” and as
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) is the obvious source of the authority to
file such an affidavit, the Court will refer to it as a Rule
 The parties interchangeably refer to
the immunity defense raised as “qualified, ”
“quasi-judicial, ” and “absolute.”
No. party argues that the standards for a stay are impacted
by any possible distinctions between such immunities. As
such, the Court will apply the law as it has developed in the
qualified immunity context.
 Similarly, Plaintiff will be free to
file additional Rule 56(d) affidavits for any future motions
for summary judgment filed during the ...