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Thomas v. Bryant

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

February 26, 2019

JOSEPH THOMAS, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
PHIL BRYANT, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a motion to stay filed by two of the three defendants. After considering the record evidence, arguments, and applicable law, the motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         In July 2018, the plaintiffs filed this § 2 case challenging the boundaries of Mississippi Senate District 22. Over the following months, all of the lawyers and parties worked diligently to gather evidence and marshal arguments-not just to resolve the case before the November 2019 election, but to have it resolved before the March 1, 2019 candidate qualification deadline.

         Those efforts were successful. A trial was held in early February 2019. One week later, the Court notified the parties and the Legislature that the testimony and other evidence largely supported the plaintiffs' allegations.[1] A full memorandum opinion issued on February 16, 2019.

         The Mississippi Legislature was provided the first opportunity to redraw the District and extend the March 1 qualification deadline.[2] It has so far declined to act and there is no progress on the horizon. Accordingly, alongside this ruling, the Court has issued an Order extending the qualification deadline for Districts 22 and 23 to March 15, 2019, and requiring the defendants to redraw Districts 22 and 23 in accordance with the plaintiffs' illustrative Plan 1. A separate Final Judgment will follow.

         One dispute remains. Two out of the three defendants-the Governor and the Secretary of State-have appealed and argue that the Court's ruling should be stayed pending that appeal. The Attorney General has not appealed or joined in their motion.

         II. Legal Standard

         The law governing motions to stay pending appeal is well-established:

We consider four factors in deciding a motion to stay pending appeal: (1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies. The first two factors . . . are the most critical.

Veasey v. Perry, 769 F.3d 890, 892 (5th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         “A stay is an intrusion into the ordinary processes of administration and judicial review, and accordingly is not a matter of right, even if irreparable injury might otherwise result to the appellant.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 427 (2009) (quotation marks and citation omitted). “It is instead an exercise of judicial discretion, and the propriety of its issue is dependent upon the circumstances of the particular case. The party requesting a stay bears the burden of showing that the circumstances justify an exercise of that discretion.” Id. at 433-34 (quotation marks, citations, and brackets omitted).

         “[T]he movant need not always show a ‘probability' of success on the merits; instead, the movant need only present a substantial case on the merits when a serious legal question is involved and show that the balance of the equities weighs heavily in favor of granting the stay.” Ruiz v. Estelle, 650 F.2d 555, 565 (5th Cir. 1981) (citations omitted).

         III. ...


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