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Clark v. Louisville Jefferson County Metro Government

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

September 11, 2019

JEFFREY DEWAYNE CLARK, et al., Plaintiffs,


          Colin H Lindsay, Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is the Motion to Stay All Discovery Directed to Him Pending Resolution of His Criminal Trial filed by Defendant, Mark Handy (“Handy”). (DN 78.) Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition (DN 83), and Handy filed a reply (DN 86). Therefore, this matter is ripe for review.

         For the reasons set forth below, Handy's Motion to Stay (DN 78) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case involves Plaintiffs' convictions for the murder of Rhona Sue Warford by a Meade County, Kentucky, jury in 1995. (DN 78-1, at PageID # 587.) Handy, at that time a homicide detective with Louisville Metro Police Department, assisted the Meade County Sheriff's Office in investigating the murder. (Id. at 588.) After they each spent twenty-two years in prison, Plaintiffs' convictions were vacated. (Id.; DN 83, at PageID # 608-09.) Plaintiffs have now filed suit against Handy and other Defendants alleging “that Handy and other Defendants caused their wrongful conviction by fabricating inculpatory evidence and suppressing exculpatory evidence.” (DN 83, at PageID # 609-10.) Plaintiffs have alleged that Handy falsified statements he attributed to Plaintiffs and falsely testified to those same statements at trial. (Id. at 610.) Plaintiffs alleged in both their Complaint and their response to the Motion to Stay that Handy has a history of this type of misconduct. (Id. at 610-11; DN 39, at PageID # 241, 249-50.)

         The Court initially stayed this matter to permit resolution of Plaintiffs' criminal proceedings. (DN 34.) Shortly after that stay was lifted, on September 26, 2018, Handy was indicted for perjury and tampering with physical evidence related to his role in the investigations of Edwin Chandler (“Chandler”) and Keith West (“West”). Commonwealth v. Handy, No. 18-cr-2871, Jefferson Circuit Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky (filed Sept. 26, 2018). While Handy was indicted nearly a year ago, the Jefferson Circuit Court has not yet set a trial date in the case. The case is set for pretrial conference on October 8, 2019 and oral argument on a pending Motion to Sever on November 14, 2019.

         In the instant Motion to Stay, Handy argued that this Court should stay discovery as to him to prevent him from suffering a penalty for asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. (DN 78-1, at PageID # 589-90.) Handy asserted that he will be forced to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege should discovery proceed in this case before his criminal case concludes. (Id. at 595.) He argued that forcing the Parties to reconvene a deposition at a later date after his criminal proceedings were resolved would waste time and resources. (Id. at 596.) Handy admitted in his motion that the current criminal charges against him relate to the investigation and prosecution of non-parties West and Chandler but argued that Plaintiffs have put his conduct with respect to West and Chandler at the center of their Complaint. (Id. at 593.) Handy also argued that “the same policies and practices are at issue in both the civil and criminal cases.” (Id.) Handy argued that in the meantime “the Plaintiffs may continue to develop their case in other ways, either through their own independent investigation, or by pursuing discovery against the remaining defendants.” (Id. at 597.)

         In response, Plaintiffs argued that Handy's state court criminal proceedings are not related to any investigative actions that led to Plaintiffs' arrests and wrongful convictions. (DN 83, at PageID # 613-14.) However, Plaintiffs acknowledged that any overlap is “murky” because though Handy's state court criminal proceedings themselves are not related to the investigation of Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs intend to use “Handy's longstanding and notorious pattern and practice of misconduct, including misconduct during the Chandler and West investigations” to support their Monell claim. (Id. at 614.) Plaintiffs argued that given the current status of Handy's state criminal prosecution and the length of time it is expected to continue, a stay is not warranted. (Id. at 614-15.) They asserted that any delay prejudices them given the amount of time that has already elapsed between their wrongful convictions and the instant case. (Id. at 615-16.)

         In his reply, Handy characterized Plaintiffs arguments as seeking a tactical advantage by putting him in the position of choosing between his Fifth Amendment privilege and defending against the “frivolous claims” asserted in this matter. (DN 86, at PageID # 644.) Handy also emphasized that he was seeking a narrow stay that would not prevent Plaintiffs from proceeding with discovery as to other Defendants. (Id. at 647-48.)


         A. Legal Standard

         “[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 whether to stay civil proceedings, the Sixth Circuit has held that a district court should consider the following factors:

(1) the extent to which the issues in the criminal case overlap with those ...

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