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Grindling v. Shibao

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 20, 2017





         On August 18, 2016, Plaintiff Chris Grindling, proceeding pro se, filed an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP Application”), together with a First Amended Complaint alleging Section 1983 claims against correctional officers employed at an institution at which Grindling was formerly incarcerated. On September 29, 2016, the Court granted Grindling's IFP Application and dismissed portions of his First Amended Complaint. Dkt. No. 11 (9/29/16 Order). Defendants presently seek a stay of this matter pending resolution of state court proceedings raising similar issues. Because Defendants have not established an entitlement to a stay, the Motion is denied.[1]


         Defendants appear to seek a discretionary stay of Grindling's Section 1983 claims because he raises similar allegations in pending state court actions regarding the denial of food while in state custody. As discussed more fully below, because the Court cannot determine whether the relevant factors weigh in favor of their request, and because Defendants have the burden of demonstrating the need for a discretionary stay, Defendants' request is denied.

         I. Legal Standard

         “[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control disposition of the cases on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). “The exertion of this power calls for the exercise of sound discretion.” CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir. 1962); see also Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997) (“The District Court has broad discretion to stay proceedings as an incident to its power to control its own docket.”); Lockyer v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1109 (9th Cir. 2005) (“A district court has discretionary power to stay proceedings in its own court[.]”).

         When a stay is requested because of pending proceedings that bear on the case, the Court may grant a stay in the interests of the efficiency of its own docket and fairness to the parties. See Leyva v. Certified Grocers of Cal. Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 1979). The Ninth Circuit set out the following framework for analyzing motions to stay pending resolution of related matters:

Where it is proposed that a pending proceeding be stayed, the competing interests which will be affected by the granting or refusal to grant a stay must be weighed. Among those competing interests are the possible damage which may result from the granting of a stay, the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go forward, and the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the simplifying or complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law which could be expected to result from a stay.

Lockyer, 398 F.3d at 1110 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting CMAX, 300 F.2d at 268). See also Dependable Highway Express v. Navigators Ins. Co., 498 F.3d 1059, 1066-67 (9th Cir. 2007) (In determining the propriety of a stay, courts consider the possible effects of judicial economy as well as the potential harm to the parties and the public interest.)

         The party seeking to stay the proceedings carries “the burden of establishing its need.” Clinton, 520 U.S. at 708 (citing Landis, 299 U.S. at 255); see also Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp. v. Kama, No. CIV. 14-00137 ACK, 2014 WL 4980967, at *3-4 (D. Haw. Oct. 3, 2014).

         II. The Request To Stay Is Denied

         Defendants' Motion, sparse on details, seeks a stay of this matter pending resolution of ongoing state court cases. Defendants, however, have provided little information on the pending state court matters. The Motion states only that Grindling “has raised the same issue about adequate food in at least two other cases currently pending in state court on Maui: Chris Grindling v. Ted Sakai et al, Civil No: 13-1-0094(2) PTC and State of Hawaii v. Christopher Grindling, CR No. 15-1-0968 (3) JPC.” Mem. In Supp. at 2-3. Defendants do not explain how or to what extent Grindling raises similar claims in the state criminal matter, State of Hawaii v. Grindling, CR No. 15-1-0968 (3) JPC, or provide any details of the nature of that pending proceeding. They do, however, attach as an exhibit to their Motion, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law issued by the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit, State of Hawaii on March 3, 2015, which denied Grindling's motion for preliminary injunction in Grindling v. Sakai, Civil No: 13-1-0094(2) PTC. See Mem. In Supp. Ex. B (3/3/15 Order), Dkt. No. 45-2. Based upon that exhibit, the totality of Defendants' argument in support of their request to stay the instant matter is as follows-

In Grindling v. Ted Sakai, after an extended evidentiary hearing on Grindling's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, Judge Cahill made the following ...

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