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Chavous v. Dist. of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority

May 21, 2001

KEVIN P. CHAVOUS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND MANAGEMENT ASSISTANCE AUTHORITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah A. Robinson United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

This action was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for resolution of the parties' discovery disputes. Two motions which concern the conduct of discovery are pending for determination by the undersigned: (1) plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Production of PriceWaterhouseCoopers Due Diligence Report (Docket No. 6); and (2) Motion of District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (the "Control Board"), Dr. Alice M. Rivlin and Francis S. Smith to Quash Notices of Deposition (Docket No. 7). Also pending are the parties' dispositive motions: plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment, and each of the defendants has filed a motion to dismiss. Oral argument with respect to plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction and the parties' dispositive motions is scheduled for June 8, 2001. *fn1

On May 18, 2001, the undersigned heard the arguments of counsel with respect to the two motions which concern the conduct of discovery. *fn2 Upon consideration of plaintiffs' motion to compel and defendant Control Board's motion to quash; the memoranda in support thereof and in opposition thereto; the proffer of evidence by plaintiffs' counsel; the arguments of all counsel and the entire record herein, all discovery, including further consideration of the motion to compel and motion to quash, will be stayed pending determination of the parties' dispositive motions.

DISCUSSION

I. Exercise of Discretion to Stay Discovery

It has long been recognized that trial courts are vested with broad discretion to manage the conduct of discovery. See, e.g., Brennan v. Local Union No. 639, Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters Chauffers, Warehousemen and Helpers, 494 F.2d 1092, 1100 (D.C. Cir. 1974); FED. R. CIV. P. 26. It is settled that entry of an order staying discovery pending determination of dispositive motions is an appropriate exercise of the court's discretion:

A trial court has broad discretion and inherent power to stay discovery until preliminary questions that may dispose of the case are determined. Petras v. Brown, 833 F.2d 581, 583 (5th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted); see Ladd v. Equicredit Corp. of Am., No. CIV.A.00-2688, 2001 WL 175236, at *1 (E.D. La. Feb. 21, 2001); White v. Fraternal Order of Police, 909 F.2d 512, 517 (D.C. Cir. 1990).

In accordance with this broad discretion, this court (Oberdorfer, J.) has observed that

[i]t is well settled that discovery is generally considered inappropriate while a motion that would be throughly dispositive of the claims in the Complaint is pending. Anderson v. United States Attorneys Office, No. CIV.A.91-2262, 1992 WL 159186, at *1 (D.D.C. June 19, 1992).

A stay of discovery pending the determination of a dispositive motion "is an eminently logical means to prevent wasting the time and effort of all concerned, and to make the most efficient use of judicial resources." Coastal States Gas Corp. v. Department of Energy, 84 F.R.D. 278, 282 (D. Del. 1979) (citations omitted).

In Anderson, a motion to dismiss that would have been dispositive of all of the issues was pending when the court considered plaintiff's motion to compel discovery and defendant's motion for protective order. In this action, each defendant has filed a motion to dismiss. Perhaps more significantly, plaintiffs have filed a motion for summary judgment, and in it, state that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that based on the undisputed material facts Plaintiffs are entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law." Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 10) at 1. At the May 18 hearing, plaintiffs and defendant Control Board agreed that either plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment or defendant Control Board's motion to dismiss, if granted, would be "thoroughly dispositive." See Anderson, 1992 WL 159186, at *1. While a stay of discovery pending determination of a motion to dismiss "is rarely appropriate when the pending motion will not dispose of the entire case[,]" Keystone Coke Co. v. Pasquale, No. CIV.A.97-6074, 1999 WL 46622, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 7, 1999), no such concern exists here, since the parties agree that the grant of either plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment or defendant Control Board's motion to dismiss will be dispositive of "the entire case." See also Feldman v. Flood, 176 F.R.D. 651, 652 (M.D. Fla. 1997) ("the Court ordinarily should not stay discovery which is necessary to gather facts in order to defend against the motion.").

Plaintiffs do not contend - - nor did they at the April 30 hearing - - that they would be unable to file their oppositions to defendants' motions to dismiss in the absence of such discovery. *fn3 A trial court "ordinarily should not stay discovery which is necessary to gather facts in order to defend against [a] motion [to dismiss]." Feldman, 176 F.R.D. at 652; cf. Coastal States Gas Corp., 84 F.R.D. at 282 ("discovery should precede consideration of dispositive motions when the facts sought to be discovered are relevant to consideration of the particular motion at hand."). However, plaintiffs have never suggested that they need the discovery they now seek in order to oppose the pending motions to dismiss. *fn4

In the memorandum in support of their motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs state that they have sought to compel the production of the PriceWaterhouseCoopers due diligence reports, and to depose Dr. Rivlin and Mr. Smith. Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment at 4, n.1. While plaintiffs state that they "reserve the right to supplement the undisputed material facts" with the report and the deposition testimony, they do not contend that their motion is premature or incomplete without such discovery. While a trial court could well be found to have abused its discretion by staying discovery where it is necessary for the party opposing summary judgment to develop "additional facts," see Moore v. United ...


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