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B.L. v. Schuhmann

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

January 11, 2019

B.L., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BRADLEY SCHUHMANN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Colin H. Lindsay, Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court are the Motions to Stay filed by Defendants Kenneth Betts (“Betts”) (DNs 17, 215); Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (“Louisville Metro”) (DN 19); Boy Scouts of America, Learning for Life, Inc., Lincoln Heritage Council, Inc., and Learning for Life Lincoln Chapter, Inc. (collectively the “LFL Defendants”) (DNs 20, 67, 90, 111, 145, 171); and Brandon Wood (“Wood”) (DNs 21, 95, 124, 177, 189). Plaintiff, B.L, filed a Response (DN 25) to the Motions to Stay filed by Betts, Wood, Louisville Metro, and the LFL Defendants (DNs 17, 19, 20, 21) in the lead case prior to the consolidation of the other cases.[1] Plaintiffs A.S., K.W., N.C., E.B., F.A., and C.F. (together with B.L., the “Plaintiffs”), filed a response (DN 211) to the Motions to Stay filed by the LFL Defendants and Wood, as well as a response to Betts's recent Motion to Stay (DN 217). Louisville Metro (DN 33), Betts (DNs 34, 219), Wood (DNs 39, 213), and the LFL Defendants (DNs 35, 214, 218) also filed Replies in support of their Motions. Therefore, this matter is ripe for review. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions to Stay are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         These matters arise from Plaintiffs' allegations of sexual abuse while participating in the Explorer Program. The Defendants in these cases include former Louisville Metro Police Officers Betts and Wood, both of whom are currently being prosecuted in Jefferson Circuit Court for allegations also related to the Explorer Program. See Commonwealth v. Wood, No. 17-CR-001040 (Jefferson Cir. Ct. filed April 12, 2017); Commonwealth v. Betts, No. 17-CR-1041, (Jefferson Cir. Ct. filed April 12, 2017). Wood's state court prosecution is set for a status hearing on February 21, 2019. Betts's state court prosecution is set for a pretrial conference in March 2019. Betts was also subsequently indicted in federal court but has already pled guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2019. See United States v. Betts, No. 3:18-cr-00176-DJH (W.D. Ky. Nov. 6, 2018).

         Nearly all of the Defendants have Motions to Dismiss pending before the Court on various grounds.[2] Betts, Louisville Metro, the LFL Defendants, and Wood have also filed Motions to Stay either discovery or the entire case given the pending Motions to Dismiss and/or the ongoing criminal prosecutions against Wood and Betts. The purpose of the instant memorandum opinion and order is to address these Motions to Stay.

         In his Motions to Stay, Betts asked the Court to stay discovery in this case while the state criminal proceedings are pending.[3] (DNs 17, 215.) Betts argued that due to the ongoing criminal proceedings, he would be unable to adequately defend himself in a civil action. (DN 17 at PageID # 863; DN 215 at PageID # 8256.) He also pointed out that unlike in a criminal case, the Parties to this civil litigation would be able to ask the Court for an adverse inference should he assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. (DN 17 at PageID # 863.) In the alternative, Betts argued that at the very least discovery should be stayed pending resolution of Betts's outstanding Motion to Dismiss. (DN 17 at PageID # 868; DN 215 at PageID # 8257-58.) Betts also filed a supplement to his most recent Motion to Stay (DN 215) to inform the Court that he had been indicted on federal charges. (DN 216.) However, as noted above, Betts has since pleaded guilty to the federal charges and is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2019. DN 25, United States v. Betts, No. 3:18-cr-00176-DJH (W.D. Ky. Nov. 6, 2018).

         In his Motions to Stay, Wood echoed Betts's arguments regarding the potential prejudice to him in the instant civil should he invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination due to the pending state prosecution. (DN 21, at PageID # 899.)[4] However, Wood's proposed stay is broader than that proposed by Betts, as Wood asked the Court to “stay all discovery in this matter pending the outcome of the criminal prosecution against him in Jefferson Circuit Court.” (Id. at PageID # 901.) Wood also argued that, in the alternative, the Court should stay discovery pending the resolution of the Motions to Dismiss given those Motions could “theoretically” resolve the case in its entirety and avoid “unnecessary discovery.” (DN 39, at PageID # 1882.)

         In their Motions to Stay, the LFL Defendants argued that discovery should be stayed until after the Court has ruled on the Defendants' pending Motions to Dismiss. (DN 20, at PageID # 881.)[5] The LFL Defendants argued that because their Motion to Dismiss could dispose of the Plaintiffs' claims as to them altogether, a stay of discovery is appropriate. (DN 20, at PageID # 886.) The LFL Defendants cited in support to the fact that the Boy Scouts of America and Lincoln Heritage Council were dismissed by Judge Cunningham in Jefferson Circuit Court prior to the addition of federal claims and removal to this Court. (DN 76, at PageID # 3068.) The LFL Defendants also argued that the case should be stayed pending the resolution of the state criminal proceedings against Defendants Betts and Wood. (DN 20, at PageID # 886-89.) The LFL Defendants stated that failure to stay the proceedings will prejudice the LFL Defendants because the other Defendants have more knowledge concerning the allegations than the LFL Defendants, and without the participation of Betts and Wood in discovery, the LFL Defendants will have a lesser opportunity to plan and execute discovery. (DN 20, at PageID # 889.)

         In its Motion to Stay, Louisville Metro asked the Court to stay discovery pending a ruling on its Motion to Dismiss because its Motion included several defenses including sovereign immunity. (DN 19.) Louisville Metro argued that a ruling on that Motion will govern whether discovery is necessary at all.

         In response, Plaintiffs argued that a stay of discovery was not appropriate generally but stated that at the very least discovery should proceed as to those Defendants not subject to criminal proceedings. (DNs 25, 211, 217.) The Plaintiffs expressed concern over the potential delay a stay would inject into this proceeding and noted uncertainty regarding how long the criminal proceedings against Betts and Wood would take to resolve. (DN 25, at PageID #985.)

         DISCUSSION

         While the instant Motions to Stay were filed on various grounds, Betts, Wood, the LFL Defendants, and Louisville Metro all ask for a stay of discovery because of either the pending criminal proceedings against Betts and Wood or the pending Motions to Dismiss filed by the Defendants. Because the legal standard to be considered by the Court is different in each case, the Court will address these arguments separately below.

         I. Criminal Proceedings

         “[N]othing in the Constitution requires that a civil action be stayed in the face of a pending or impending criminal indictment.” FTC v. E.M.A. Nationwide, Inc.,767 F.3d 611, 627 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Chao v. Fleming,498 F.Supp.2d 1034, 1037 (W.D. Mich. 2007)). Accordingly, district courts have broad discretion in determining whether a civil action should be stayed due to pending or impending criminal proceedings. Id. In determining ...


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