United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
ORDER DENYING STAY OF DISCOVERY
PERCY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the court on the defendant Tommy Mason's
Motion for Stay requesting a stay of all discovery not
related to his qualified immunity defense. Docket 44. The
court finds the motion is not well taken and should be
court previously stayed all discovery pursuant to Local
Uniform Civil Rule 16(b)(3)(B) after Mason filed his first
motion for judgment on the pleadings asserting a qualified
immunity defense. The plaintiff James Allen Hughey sought
leave to conduct qualified immunity-related discovery, which
Mason opposed, and which the court denied. The court also
denied Mason's motion for judgment on the pleadings as
presented and required Hughey to file a Schultea
reply. After Hughey did so, Mason again moved for judgment on
the pleadings based on qualified immunity. The court found
that Hughey sufficiently alleged facts to overcome
Mason's claim of qualified immunity, denied Mason's
motion for judgment on the pleadings, and stated,
“Hughey's § 1983 claim, therefore, may proceed
to discovery.” Docket 39. Mason now seeks a stay of all
discovery not related to his qualified immunity defense.
Mason brings his motion under the auspices of Local Rule
16(b)(3)(B), that rule provides him no support. It states
that a motion asserting a qualified immunity defense stays
all discovery pending a ruling on the motion, including any
appeal. In this case, Mason's second motion for judgment
on the pleadings was denied, after which the stay was lifted,
and there is no pending motion asserting a qualified immunity
defense that would trigger a discovery stay under the rule.
argues that Fifth Circuit jurisprudence mandates limited
qualified immunity-related discovery when the court finds a
plaintiff has met the heightened pleading standard required
to overcome qualified immunity and the court is nonetheless
unable to rule on the asserted qualified immunity defense
pending development of related facts. However, that is not
the case here, where Mason's motion asserting qualified
immunity was denied. The Fifth Circuit established the
limited discovery procedure for those cases where the court
defers ruling on the claim of qualified immunity.
The very cases cited by Mason bear this out. See Hinojosa
v. Livingston, 807 F.3d 657, 661 (5th Cir.
2015) (trial court deferred ruling on motion to dismiss
asserting qualified immunity); Webb v. Livingston,
618 Fed.Appx. 201, 204 (5th Cir. 2015) (trial
court deferred and carried motion to dismiss asserting
qualified immunity); Backe v. LeBlanc, 691 F.3d 645,
647 (5th Cir. 2012) (trial court refused to rule
on motion to dismiss asserting qualified immunity pending
discovery); Wicks v. Mississippi State Employment
Services, 41 F.3d 991, 994 (5th Cir. 1995)
(motion to dismiss asserting qualified immunity remained
pending); Lion Boulos v. Wilson, 834 F.2d 504, 506
(5th Cir. 1987) (trial court did not rule on
motion asserting qualified immunity).
argues that the limited discovery procedure is required
because the court found only that Hughey alleged sufficient
facts to support an excessive force claim and did not make a
final ruling on the applicability of Mason's qualified
immunity defense. Mason emphasizes the court's statement
that it “is mindful that discovery may reveal that
Hughey's version of the underlying facts is not entirely
accurate.” To the extent Mason suggests this means the
court deferred ruling on Mason's claim of qualified
immunity, Mason is mistaken. The court denied Mason's
motion. The court's reference to what discovery may
reveal -- and to the court's limited inquiry “at
this stage” -- was merely an acknowledgment that Mason
may raise the qualified immunity defense again at a
successive stage, i.e., in a motion for summary judgment.
Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 306 (1996)
(stating Supreme Court precedent “clearly contemplated
that [defendant] could raise the [qualified immunity] defense
at successive stages”) (citing Mitchell v.
Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)).
argues the court's denial of his motion for judgment on
the pleadings in no way negates his right to a stay, even in
the absence of a pending motion asserting qualified immunity.
Mason is again mistaken. This court's discovery procedure
when qualified immunity is asserted is governed by the local
rule, which states “a motion asserting an immunity
defense . . . must be raised by a separate motion.”
L.U.Civ.R. 16(b)(3)(A). This rule “requires that
immunity defenses be asserted in a motion separate from the
answer.” Salcido v. University of Southern
Mississippi, No. 2:11-CV-173-KS-MTP, 2013 WL 1837850, *1
(S.D.Miss. May 1, 2013). The filing of such a motion stays
all discovery “pending the court's ruling on the
motion, including any appeal.” L.U.Civ.R. 16(b)(3)(B).
The court having denied Mason's motion, which he did not
appeal, under the rule discovery may proceed as the court
ordered when denying the motion. Unless and until Mason files
a motion asserting qualified immunity at a successive stage,
he has no right to a stay.
complains that in response to a motion for summary judgment
Hughey would simply argue that discovery is necessary to
respond to the same. That is precisely what the rule
contemplates. “Whether to permit discovery on issues
related to the motion and whether to permit any portion of
the case to proceed pending resolution of the motion are
decisions committed to the discretion of the court, upon a
motion by any party seeking relief.” L.U.Civ.R.
16(b)(3)(B). A motion for summary judgment asserting
qualified immunity would stay discovery, whereupon the court
could permit discovery on issues related to the motion if a
party were to move for that relief. Mason's argument that
this procedure would render his potential summary judgment
motion futile is unpersuasive.
Mason's Motion ...