United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
OLIVER E. DIAZ, JR., ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
PAUL S. MINOR, ET AL. DEFENDANTS
ORDER STAYING CASE
KEITH BALL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court are two motions: Defendants' Motion to Stay
Proceedings  and Defendants' Motion to File Answer
and Counterclaim Under Seal . For the reasons described
herein, the Court finds that motion  should be granted,
and motion  is, therefore, moot.
case concerns an attorneys' fees dispute. Plaintiffs,
Oliver Diaz, Jr. and the Oliver Diaz Law Firm
(“Diaz”), claim that Defendants owe them
attorney's fees and expenses for legal services rendered
in the matter of Paul S. Minor and Estate of Sylvia F.
Minor vs. United Services Automobile Association, Cause
No. 2008-00204, pending before the Circuit Court of Jackson
County, Mississippi (“the USAA
case”). The state court litigation resulted in a
verdict in favor of Paul Minor and the Estate of Sylvia Minor
(“the Minors”). However, the Mississippi Court of
Appeals has remanded the case for additional proceedings.
See Estate of Minor v. United Servs. Auto.
Ass'n, No. 2014-CA-00372-COA, 2017 WL 2781975 at
*11-12 (Miss. Ct. App. June 27, 2017), reh'g denied (Mar.
6, 2018). The Minors have since retained new counsel in the
USAA case, but Diaz claims he is still owed attorney's
fees and expenses for his previous representation of the
Minors in the USAA case.
September 13, 2017, Diaz filed his Second Amended Complaint.
. On September 27, 2017, Defendants filed motion ,
requesting permission to file their answer and counterclaim
under seal. Defendants claim that some assertions in their
answer and counterclaims “may affect the parties'
respective positions in the ongoing USAA case, ” and
“[t]o avoid any such unintended effects, ”
Defendants request that they be allowed to file their answer
and counterclaim under seal.  at 2. After Plaintiffs
objected to the motion to seal, Defendants moved to stay the
cause until the USAA case has concluded. . Defendants ask
the Court to grant the motion to seal  only if the Court
denies the motion to stay . See  at 1.
December 12, 2017, the Court stayed Defendant's duty to
file an answer to Diaz's Second Amended Complaint pending
its ruling on these motions. On December 22, 2017, the Court
ordered Defendants to file a non-confidential memorandum in
support of the motion to seal as required by L.U.Civ.R. 79.
. The Court also ordered Defendants to submit a
confidential memorandum and a copy of the proposed answer and
counterclaim directly to chambers, copying opposing counsel
on both. Id. Defendants submitted the required
documents to the Court on January 9, 2018.
determining whether to seal a portion of a judicial record, a
court must balance the public's right to access filings
against interests which favor nondisclosure. Securities
and Exchange Commission v. Van Waeyenberghe, 990 F.2d
845, 848 (5th Cir. 1993). The court must examine
“relevant facts and circumstances of the particular
case.” Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc.,
435 U.S. 589, 599 (1978). “Despite the public's
general right to inspect and copy public record, a court may
order documents sealed where, on balance, the party's
interest in having them sealed outweighs the public's
interest in open access to judicial records.” DISH
Network, LLC v. WLAJ-TV, LLC, No. CV 16-0869, 2017 WL
1333057, at *2 (W.D. La. Apr. 3, 2017).
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." Landis v. N. Am.
Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). “Generally, the
power to stay a pending matter derives from a trial
court's wide discretion to control the course of
litigation.” United States v. $9, 041, 598.68,
163 F.3d 238, 251 (5th Cir. 1998). “When deciding
‘whether a stay should be granted, the Court is guided
by the factors of judicial economy and convenience for the
Court, for counsel, and for the parties.'” Ha
Thi Le v. Lease Fin. Grp., LLC, Civ. Action No. CV
16-14867, 2017 WL 2915488, at *6 (E.D. La. May 9, 2017),
reconsideration denied, Civ. Action No. CV 16-14867, 2017 WL
2911140 (E.D. La. July 7, 2017)(quoting United States v.
FEDCON Joint Venture, Civ. Action No. 16-13022, 2017 WL
897852, at *1 (E.D. La. Mar. 7, 2017)).
Court has reviewed Defendants' proposed answer and
counterclaim in camera. The Court has also reviewed
Defendants' memoranda, which assert that the answer and
counterclaim contain attorney-client privileged and work
product information related to the ongoing USAA case.
Court finds that Defendants' concern that the proposed
answer and counterclaim may potentially reveal
attorney-client privileged and work product information to
the public (and therefore the opposing party in the USAA
case) is well-founded. Diaz, the Minors' former attorney
and Plaintiff herein, filed this suit against his former
clients prior to the case in which he represented them
concluding. This puts Defendants in a difficult position;
they are forced to defend against their former attorney,
while at the same time trying not to reveal any information
publicly that could damage their ongoing state court lawsuit.
In light of these circumstances, Defendants' request to
file their answer and counterclaim under seal is reasonable,
as is their request for a stay.
risk of prejudice to the Minors' state court case
significantly outweighs any prejudice to Diaz that would
result from a stay. Defendants have shown a pressing need for
the stay to protect attorney-client privileged and work
product information from being disseminated to the opposing
party in the USAA litigation. Although Diaz claims prejudice
by delay, it is simply too problematic to attempt to proceed
with this case without revealing Defendants' privileged
and confidential information related to a case that they are
still litigating in state court. The Minors did not initiate
this case, and the Court can find no reason why they should
be forced to publicly divulge attorney-client ...