United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB District Judge
Jacob Bailey, represented by counsel, is proceeding in this
case on claims that staff at the Lincoln Hills School for
Boys in Irma, Wisconsin, violated his constitutional rights
by using excessive force against him, subjecting him to an
unnecessary strip search and failing to provide him adequate
medical treatment after breaking his arm. Now before the
court is the motion of defendants John Wienandt and James
Johnson to stay proceedings and discovery pending the
completion of a purported criminal investigation against them
relating to the incidents at issue in this case. Dkt. #10.
For the reasons below, I will deny the motion.
has the inherent power to stay civil cases before it when
necessary 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. North
American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936). A stay may be
appropriate in “special circumstances” when there
is a need to avoid “substantial and irreparable
prejudice.” United States v. Certain Real Property,
Commonly Known as 6250 Ledge Road, Egg Harbor,
Wisconsin, 943 F.2d 721, 729 (7th Cir. 1991). The
interest of justice may favor a stay when a defendant in a
civil suit is also a defendant in parallel criminal
proceedings; the pendency of a parallel criminal action may
force the defendant to choose between preserving a privilege
against self-incrimination and losing the civil suit. Id.
See also CMB Export, LLC v. Atteberry, No.
4:13CV04051SLDJEH, 2014 WL 4099721, at *2 (C.D. Ill. Aug. 20,
2014). However, the fact that a party to civil litigation is
faced with this sort of choice does not automatically entitle
him to a stay of the civil case. Certain Real
Property, 943 F.2d at 729; Chagolla v. City of
Chicago, 529 F.Supp.2d 941, 945 (N.D. Ill. 2008).
Instead, courts consider the interests of the plaintiff,
defendants and the public, and evaluate a number of factors,
including: whether the civil and criminal matters involve the
same subject; whether the governmental entity that has
initiated the criminal case or investigation is also a party
in the civil case; the posture of the criminal proceeding;
the effect on the public interest of granting or denying a
stay; the interest of the civil-case plaintiff in proceeding
expeditiously, and the potential prejudice the plaintiff may
suffer from a delay; and the burden that any particular
aspect of the civil case may impose on defendants if a stay
is denied. See, e.g., Chagolla, 529
F.Supp.2d at 945; CMB Export, 2014 WL 4099721, at
*3; In re Garcia, 569 B.R. 480, 487 (Bankr. N.D.Ill.
these factors to this case, I conclude that defendants have
not shown that a stay is warranted. Nken v. Holder,
556 U.S. 418, 433-34 (2009) (“The party requesting a
stay bears the burden of showing that the circumstances
justify an exercise of that discretion.”) First,
defendants' assertions that they are facing a potential
parallel criminal proceeding are vague and supported entirely
by the hearsay statement of defendants' counsel. Dkt.
#12. Samuel Hall, Jr., one of the lawyers representing
defendants, states in his declaration that he was advised by
criminal defense counsel that defendants Wienandt and Johnson
are the subjects/targets of a federal criminal investigation
related to the same incidents alleged to have occurred in
this civil lawsuit.” Id. ¶ 3. However,
Hall provides no further information beyond the statement in
his declaration, such as whether an indictment is likely,
what specific charges will be filed and against whom, and
when those charges may be filed. Without such information,
defendants' assertion that they may be forced to choose
between preserving their privilege against self-incrimination
and losing this civil suit is entirely speculative.
Additionally, because no criminal proceeding is actually
pending against defendants, it would be impossible to
estimate how long this case would have to be stayed. Such
circumstances weigh heavily against staying this case.
CMB Export, 2014 WL 4099721, at *4 (“A stay is
disfavored where defendants are under the mere threat of
plaintiff and the public have a strong interest in prompt
disposition of civil litigation. In some cases, a parallel
civil proceeding could interfere with the criminal process.
Here, however, “where criminal proceedings are a mere
possibility, the public interest is best served by preserving
the interest that is actually implicated over the speculative
defendants' assertions of potential prejudice are too
vague to justify a stay. Defendants say they would
“likely assert their Fifth Amendment rights in this
civil proceeding out of an abundance of caution.” Dkt.
#11 at 6. However, such an argument could be made in nearly
every case involving an excessive force claim that has been
reported to law enforcement. To show a real threat of
prejudice, defendants would have to make a much more specific
argument about the criminal investigation, and would have to
explain why they cannot participate in this case while
“selectively invoking their right against
self-incrimination to specific questions during discovery as
necessary.” CMB Export, 2014 WL 4099721, at
*4. Because defendants have not done so, they have not shown
that a stay is warranted.
ORDERED that the motion for stay filed by defendants John
Wienandt and ...