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Livingston v. Ballard

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 10, 2019

RONALD G. LIVINGSTON, et al., Plaintiffs,
SUSAN BALLARD, in her official capacity as Police Chief of the City & County of Honolulu, et al., Defendants.


          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge


         Defendant Clare E. Connors, in her capacity as Attorney General of the State of Hawaii, moves to stay proceedings in this case until the Ninth Circuit issues a decision in Young v. Hawaii, 9th Cir. No. 12-17808 (“Young”), which will be decided by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit. ECF No. 27. See Young v. Hawaii, 915 F.3d 681, 682 (9th Cir. 2019) (February 8, 2019 order granting petition for rehearing en banc). Defendants Susan Ballard, in her capacity as Chief of Police of the Honolulu Police Department; and the City & County of Honolulu, have both joined in the Motion to Stay proceedings. See ECF Nos. 29, 31. The matter is suitable for decision without an oral hearing under Local Rule 7.2(d).

         Because this case and Young challenge the constitutionality of the same statute-Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) § 134-9[1]-and involve substantially similar questions of law, the court GRANTS the Motion to Stay Proceedings.


         District courts have “broad discretion to stay proceedings as an incident to its power to control its own docket.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706-07 (1997) (citation omitted); Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936) (“[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.”).

A trial court may, with propriety, find it is efficient for its own docket and the fairest course for the parties to enter a stay of an action before it, pending resolution of independent proceedings which bear upon the case. This rule applies whether the separate proceedings are judicial, administrative, or arbitral in character, and does not require that the issues in such proceedings are necessarily controlling of the action before the court.

Leyva v. Certified Grocers of Cal., Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863-64 (9th Cir. 1979) (citations omitted). See also Mediterranean Enters., Inc. v. Ssangyong Corp., 708 F.2d 1458, 1465 (9th Cir. 1983).

         In exercising its judgment, the court “must weigh competing interests and maintain an even balance.” Landis, 299 U.S. at 254-55. 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 v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1110 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir. 1962)). “The proponent of a stay bears the burden of establishing its need.” Clinton, 520 U.S. at 708 (citing Landis, 299 U.S. at 255).

         In the present case, Plaintiffs raise significant constitutional questions involving whether the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a right to carry firearms outside the home. See Compl. ¶¶ 52-61. Specifically, they contend that HRS § 134-9(a) unconstitutionally infringes on a Second Amendment right to carry handguns in public for self-defense. Among other relief, they seek a declaration that “the provisions of H.R.S. § 134-9(a) that prevent ordinary, law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns outside the home or place of business for self-defense in some manner, either concealed or openly, are unconstitutional facially and as applied to plaintiffs.” Id. ¶ C at PageID #20.

         These are substantially the same issues that were addressed-in a challenge to the very same statute-by a Ninth Circuit three-judge panel in Young v. Hawaii, 896 F.3d 1044 (9th Cir. 2018), opinion vacated, 915 F.3d 681(9th Cir. 2019), and which the Ninth Circuit will consider en banc. In particular, in interpreting District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Young panel opinion held, among other matters, that (1) “the right to carry a firearm openly for self-defense falls within the core of the Second Amendment, ” 896 F.3d at 1070, and (2) “section 134-9's limitation on the open carry of firearms to those ‘engaged in the protection of life and property' violates the core of the Second Amendment and is void; the County [of Hawaii] may not constitutionally enforce such a limitation on applicants for open carry licenses, ” id. at 1071. These are among the issues that were raised in the State of Hawaii's petition for rehearing en banc in Young (which was granted), which the en banc Ninth Circuit panel will likely address. See Connors Ex. B, ECF No. 27-4. [2]

         Under these circumstances, where this district court must follow precedent from the Ninth Circuit, it “makes little sense to expend the resources necessary for a full presentation of those same issues in this forum while awaiting guidance from the appellate court.” Hawaii v. Trump, 233 F.Supp.3d 850, 855 (D. Haw. 2017). The Ninth Circuit's views of the constitutionality of HRS § 134-9 at issue in Young are central to the very issues raised in the instant case. In short, the Ninth Circuit's opinion of the constitutionality of the statute is obviously relevant in this case. The current posture easily fulfills the “orderly course of justice” prong of the required analysis set forth in Lockyer. See Lockyer, 398 F.3d at 1110 (requiring the ...

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