United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
Court has before it a motion to stay proceedings  filed
by the defendant Billie Williams. Having considered the
matter, the Court finds the motion should be granted.
Lindsey Thomas alleges that on January 1, 2017, Williams, who
at the time was the Chief of Police of the City of
Benoit, arrested him following an altercation
that occurred between Thomas and another individual. Compl.
¶¶ 9-16 . Williams placed Thomas into his patrol
car and drove away. Id. ¶ 18. Instead of taking
Thomas directly to the police station, Williams drove to a
night club in Benoit that he owned. Id. ¶ 20.
Thomas claims that on a prior occasion, Williams threated to
kill him if he ever had to arrest Thomas again. Id.
¶¶ 21-22. Thomas believed that Williams was about
to carry out his threat, and so when William:; went to enter
the club, Thomas, still handcuffed, opened the car door in an
attempt to escape. Id. ¶ 23-24. Williams,
noticed however, and walked back towards the car, kicking it
shut, and telling Thomas to stay in the car. Id.
¶¶ 25-26. Williams walked back towards the club,
and Thomas again opened the door to run away. Id.
¶ 27. Williams, seeing Thomas run away, pulled his
handgun and fired several shots, one of which struck Thomas
in the leg. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Thomas was
apparently able to escape. Id. ¶31.
brought the present § 1983 suit alleging that Williams
violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches and
seizures and that the City maintained an official policy,
practice, or custom of using malicious and excessive force
that caused Williams to injure him.
August 28, 2017, Williams was indicted on one count of
aggravated assault in the Circuit Court of Bolivar County,
Mississippi for shooting Thomas. Indictment [1-1]. Williams
now asks this Court to stay this case pending the resolution
the criminal case against him.
Court possesses inherent power over its docket and the
disposition of cases to grant a stay when necessary.
"The decision whether ... to stay civil litigation in
deference to parallel criminal proceedings is
discretionary." United States v. Simcho, 326
Fed.Appx. 791, 792 (5th Cir.2009) (quoting
Microfinancial, Inc. v. Premier Holidays Int'l,
Inc., 385 F.3d 72, 77 (1st Cir.2004)). "'[T]he
granting of a stay of civil proceedings due to pending
criminal investigation is an extraordinary remedy, not to be
granted lightly.'" Id. at 792-93 (quoting
In re Who's Who Worldwide Registry, Inc., 197
B.R. 193, 195 (Bankr. E.D.N.Y.1996)). It is the burden of the
party seeking the stay to overcome the "strong
presumption in favor of discovery" and demonstrate why a
stay is warranted. United States v. Gieger Transfer
Serv., 174 F.R.I). 382, 385 (S.D.Miss. 1997) (citing
Milton Pollack, Parallel Civil and Criminal
Proceedings, 129 F.R.D. 201, 209 (1990)).
courts consider the following factors to evaluate whether a
stay is warranted: (1) the extent to which the issues in the
criminal case overlap with those presented in the civil case;
(2) the status of the criminal case, including whether the
defendants have been indicted; (3) the private interests of
the plaintiffs in proceeding expeditiously, weighed against
the prejudice to plaintiffs caused by the delay; (4) the
private interests of and burden on the defendants; (5) the
interests of the courts; and (6) the public interest.
U.S. ex rel. Magee v. Lockheed Martin Corp., No.
1:09CV324-HSO-JMR, 2010 WL 2816658, at *4 (S.D.Miss. July 16,
2010) (collecting cases).
Extent of Overlap in Issues
"When the issues presented in the civil and criminal
proceedings overlap, courts often feel compelled to grant a
stay." Mosing v. Boston, No. 6:14-CV-02608,
2017 WL 4228699, at *3 (W.D. La. Sept. 22, 2017). "The
similarity of the issues underlying the civil and criminal
actions is considered the most important threshold issue in
determining whether to grant a stay." State Farm
Lloyds v. Wood, No. CIV A H-06-503, 2006 WL 3691115, at
*2 (S.D. Tex. Dec. 12, 2006)
first bears noting that Thomas makes two separate claims
against two defendants. First, he makes a § 1983 claim
against Williams for violating his right to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures by shooting him, as well
as a common law assault and battery claim. Second, he makes a
§ 1983 claim against the City of Benoit for holding an
official policy or custom that caused Williams to violate his
issues presented by the civil claim against Williams and
Williams' pending criminal case do not just overlap-they
are identical. In each case the opposing party alleges that
Williams shot Thomas in the leg. The State of Mississippi
seeks to hold him criminally responsible for that act, and
Thomas alleges that the act violated his civil rights.
Further, at the time of these alleged events occurred,
Williams was the Chief of Police for the City of Benoit. He
was the official policymaker for the City. Thomas's
complaint, and exhibits attached to it, allege several
similar incidents of violence perpetuated by Williams. So,
while the underlying issue s of the claim against the city
are not identical, they are so substantially similar as to
consider them overlapping. This factor weighs in favor of
granting a stay.
Status of the Criminal Case
Court must also consider "the status of the related
criminal proceedings, which can have a substantial effect on
the balancing of the equities." In re Adelphia
Commc'ns Sec. Litig., No. 02-1781, 2003 WL 22358819,
at *4 (E.D. Pa. May 13, 2003). A stay is 'most
appropriate when a party to the civil action has already been
indicted for the same conduct." Modern American