United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
James Regan, Jesse Faircloth, Michael Pack, Thomas Haffey, Jacob Stafford, and Kyle Watkins, Each on Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
City of Charleston, South Carolina, Defendant.
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant City of Charleston, South Carolina's ("Defendant" or "the City") Motion for Temporary Stay of Discovery and Other Pending Deadlines (ECF No. 127) ("Motion to Stay") pursuant to Rule 16.00 of the Local Civil Rules (D.S.C.). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court denies the City's Motion to Stay.
Plaintiffs James Regan, Jesse Faircloth, Michael Pack, Thomas Haffey, Jacob Stafford, and Kyle Watkins ("Plaintiffs"), current or former firefighters with the City's Fire Department, commenced this action on November 7, 2013, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, seeking unpaid overtime compensation pursuant to the collective action provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). On Plaintiffs' motion, and following extensive briefing and a status conference, the Court conditionally certified this matter as a collective action on July 16, 2014. In doing so, the Court authorized Plaintiffs to provide putative class members with notice of the opportunity to opt-in to this lawsuit. To date, over 200 Plaintiffs have joined this action.
On February 23, 2015, the City filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, which has been thoroughly briefed by the Parties. According to the City, its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment "is not based on the merits of Plaintiffs' claims" but rather "is based solely on affirmative defenses ple[added] pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 259 and 260." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. 1, ECF No. 126). The City, in conjunction with its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, filed the instant Motion to Stay. In support of its Motion to Stay, the City maintains that a temporary stay of discovery and other deadlines pursuant to Rule 16.00 of the Local Civil Rules (D.S.C.) is warranted in light of the pending Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. More specifically, the City contends that a stay is necessary to prevent prejudice to the City, because its "§ 259 defense, " "which is the primary focus of [the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, ] provides an absolute bar to liability and a jurisdictional bar to suit." (Def.'s Mot. to Stay 1). Plaintiffs oppose the Motion to Stay, insisting both that a stay is unnecessary and that further delay may have an adverse impact on the availability of witnesses at trial.
Rule 16.00 of the Local Civil Rules provides, in relevant part, that "[t]he court may stay entry of the scheduling order(s) and all federal and local civil rule disclosure and conference requirements pending resolution of a motion to remand or to dismiss or other dispositive motion." Local Civ. Rule 16.00(C) (D.S.C.). "[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." Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936); see also Petrus v. Bowen, 833 F.2d 581, 583 (5th Cir. 1987) ("A trial court has broad discretion and inherent power to stay discovery until preliminary questions that may dispose of the case are determined."). The proper use and application of this discretionary authority to stay proceedings and deadlines requires "the exercise of judgment, which must weigh competing interests and maintain an even balance." Landis, 299 U.S. at 254-55 (citations omitted).
In the present case, the Court has carefully considered the Parties' respective interests and the arguments of counsel and finds that a stay is not warranted at this time. As correctly noted by Plaintiffs, the Consent Amended Scheduling Order in this matter provides that discovery shall be completed by April 15, 2015. Accordingly, the Court is not inclined to stay discovery on the eve of its completion. Moreover, although the City maintains that the good faith defense provides "immunity from suit" that would be "effectively lost" if it were forced to continue with this litigation, (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. 1-2), the Court is neither persuaded by this characterization nor convinced that the City will suffer any real prejudice by engaging in several more weeks of discovery. Further, as suggested by Plaintiffs, complying with the other outstanding deadlines will not be onerous and should not be complicated by the pendency of the City's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Nevertheless, in the event that the Parties need additional time to comply with one or more of the impending deadlines, the Court will entertain any such request or proposed revision to the Consent Amended Scheduling Order. Having balanced the Parties' respective interests and competing concerns, the Court concludes that the circumstances do not warrant staying this action pending disposition of the City's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.
For the foregoing reasons, it is ORDERED that the City's Motion for Temporary Stay of Discovery and ...