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Moseley v. Sessions

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

May 1, 2017

CARY G. MOSELEY, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF SESSIONS, in his Official Capacity as Attorney General of the United States, Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. STAN BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Stay Discovery, (doc. 21), and Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, (doc. 29). The Court previously granted the Motion to Stay on April 21, 2017, before Plaintiff filed a Response. (Doc. 27.) Plaintiff has since filed a Response, (doc. 28), and accordingly, the Court VACATES its April 21, 2017, Order granting the Motion to Stay and will consider Plaintiff's Response. Additionally, the Court DISMISSES AS MOOT Plaintiff's Objection, (doc. 29), to the April 21, 2017 Order.

         However, after careful consideration of the entire record including Plaintiff's Response, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Stay, (doc. 21), and DISMISSES Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, (doc. 24).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on November 16, 2016, and filed his Amended Complaint on January 5, 2017. (Docs. 1, 8.) Defendant was served with the Complaint on February 8, 2017. (Doc. 13.) On April 10, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss requesting that the Court dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. 20.) Shortly thereafter, Defendant moved to stay discovery in this case until this Motion is resolved. (Doc. 21.) Plaintiff responded in opposition to the Motion to Stay on April 24, 2017. (Doc. 29, p. 3.) Additionally, on April 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel. (Doc. 24.) In that Motion, Plaintiff sought to have the Court compel Ms. Tracey Jermon, who is not a party to this action, to provide Plaintiff with unspecified “paperwork.” (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion to Stay

          With regard to the timing of discovery, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has recognized that:

[i]f the district court dismisses a nonmeritorious claim before discovery has begun, unnecessary costs to the litigants and to the court system can be avoided. Conversely, delaying ruling on a motion to dismiss such a claim until after the parties complete discovery encourages abusive discovery and, if the court ultimately dismisses the claim, imposes unnecessary costs. For these reasons, any legally unsupported claim that would unduly enlarge the scope of discovery should be eliminated before the discovery stage, if possible.

Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1368 (11th Cir. 1997) (footnotes omitted). For these reasons, this Court, and other courts within the Eleventh Circuit, routinely find good cause to stay the discovery period where there is a pending motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Habib v. Bank of Am. Corp., No. 1:10-cv-04079-SCJ-RGV, 2011 WL 2580971, at *6 n.4 (N.D.Ga. Mar. 15, 2011) (citing Chudasama, 123 F.3d at 1368) (“[T]here is good cause to stay discovery obligations until the District Judge rules on [the defendant's] motion to dismiss to avoid undue expense to both parties.”); Berry v. Canady, No. 2:09-cv-765-FtM-29SPC, 2011 WL 806230, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 2, 2011) (quoting Moore v. Potter, 141 F. App'x 803, 807 (11th Cir. 2005)) (“[N]either the parties nor the court have any need for discovery before the court rules on the motion [to dismiss].”).

         The Court recognizes that Chudasama and its progeny do not create a per se rule that discovery is stayed every time a motion to dismiss is filed. See S. Motors Chevrolet, Inc., No. CV414-152, 2014 WL 5644089, at *1. Nonetheless, the principle espoused in Chudasama, that the Court should prevent the needless expenditure of resources on discovery, is instructive to the Court's inquiry at hand. Further, “[i]n deciding whether to stay discovery pending resolution of a pending motion, the Court inevitably must balance the harm produced by a delay in discovery against the possibility that the motion will be granted and entirely eliminate the need for such discovery. This involves weighing the likely costs and burdens of proceeding with discovery.” Feldman v. Flood, 176 F.R.D. 651, 652 (M.D. Fla. 1997) (quoting, Simpson v. Specialty Retail Concepts, Inc., 121 F.R.D. 261, 263 (M.D. N.C. 1988)).

         A preliminary review of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss reveals that he has raised meritorious challenges to the legal sufficiency of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. If the Court were to grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, this lawsuit would be dismissed in its entirety. Whether the Amended Complaint can withstand Defendant's challenges is a decision left to the District Judge. However, at this stage, the Court does not find Defendant's arguments for dismissal so frivolous or non-meritorious to conclude that they have been interposed for the purpose of delay.

         Additionally, Plaintiff has filed numerous claims. Even a partial grant of the Motion to Dismiss could narrow the issues which the parties must address in discovery and perhaps reduce the scope of discovery. On this point, Plaintiff has not requested that discovery remain open on a limited set of issues. Thus, denial of the Motion to Stay would require the parties to commence discovery on all of the issues raised by Plaintiff's Amended Complaint despite the pending Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff has also not plausibly argued that discovery is needed for him to respond to the Motion to Dismiss. Indeed, in the Motion to Dismiss, Defendant accepts, as he must, the factual allegations of the Amended Complaint as true, for the purposes of the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 20-1, p. 1.) Thus, Plaintiff does not need discovery to prove his allegations, because Defendant has conceded those allegations for the purposes of the Motion to Dismiss.

         In his Response, Plaintiff acknowledges that “[d]iscovery shall be stayed unless the Court finds upon the motion of any particularized discovery [sic] is necessary to preserve evidence or to prevent undue prejudice to [the] opposing party.” (Doc. 28, p. 1.) Plaintiff then refers to his Motion to Compel and contends that discovery is necessary to “preserve the evidence in question.” (Id. at p. 2.) However, parties and their counsel are well aware of their duty to preserve evidence during the stay of discovery. Should they fail to live up to that duty, this Court has broad discretion to impose sanctions for spoliation in order “to prevent unfair prejudice to litigants and to insure the integrity of the discovery process.” Flury v. Daimler Chrysler Corp., 427 F.3d 939, 944 (11th Cir. 2005). Moreover, Plaintiff has not pointed to any specific evidence which could be lost or any other potential development ...


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