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Moeller v. Bradford County

February 5, 2007

CLARK MOELLER AND JANE MOELLER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
BRADFORD COUNTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Blewitt

Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. Background

The Plaintiffs, Clark and Jane Moeller, Jeffery Gonzalez, Laura Blain, Chris Schwenke and Tim Thurston, all residents of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, filed this action, through counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, on February 17, 2005, seeking a declaratory judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, et seq. (Doc. 1). The named Defendants are Bradford County; Carl J. Anderson, (former) Executor Director of Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency ("PCCD"); Alberto Gonzales, United States Attorney General; and The Firm Foundation of America, d/b/a/ The Firm Foundation of Bradford County ("FF"). On November 29, 2005, Defendant Bradford County ("BC") filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Doc. 101).*fn1

On February 10, 2006, after BC filed its stated Motion, the District Court issued a Memorandum and Order in which it granted Defendant Firm Foundation's Motion to Dismiss to the extent that it dismissed Plaintiffs' state Constitutional claims and Plaintiff Thurtson's claims for injunctive and declaratory relief. (Doc. 111).*fn2 The District Court also granted Defendant Gonzales' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief with respect to all future DOJ grants. (Id.). The Court denied the Motions to Dismiss in all other respects.*fn3

On February 24, 2006, we issued a Report and Recommendation in which we recommended that the BC Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 101) be granted in part and be denied in part. It was recommended that Defendant's Motion be granted with respect to Plaintiffs' claims under the Pennsylvania Constitution (Counts Two and Three).*fn4 It was also recommended that Defendant's Motion as to the mootness of Plaintiff Thurston's claims for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief be granted. Further, it was recommended that Defendant's Motion be denied with respect to Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim (Count One), violation of the Establishment Clause. Finally, it was recommended that Defendant's Motion be denied with respect to Plaintiffs' religious employment discrimination claim under the Establishment Clause. (Doc. 113).

On August 10, 2006, the District Court issued a Memorandum and Order adopting, for the most part, our Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 132). The District Court rejected our Report and Recommendation only with respect to allowing Plaintiffs' claims under the Pennsylvania Constitution to proceed to the extent that they seek injunctive and declaratory relief.

This case was remanded to the undersigned for further proceedings.*fn5 A case management conference was held on September 11, 2006, and deadlines were set. (Docs. 140 & 141). Discovery then ensued.

Subsequently, on December 27, 2006, Defendant BC filed a Motion to Stay all proceedings in this case until the United States Supreme Court decides the case of Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Chao, 433 F. 3d 989 (7th Cir. 2006), cert. granted sub nom. Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, 127 S.Ct. 722 (2006). (Doc. 148). Defendant BC and Plaintiffs have briefed the Motion to Stay. (Docs. 149, 154, 156 & 160).*fn6 Presently ripe for disposition is Defendant BC's Motion to Stay all proceedings.

Upon Stipulation of the parties that an extension of discovery was required, the Court issued an Order on January 19, 2007, extending the discovery deadline to March 30, 2007, and the dispositive motions deadline was extended to April 20, 2007. (Doc. 157).

II. Standard

A. Motion to Stay

Plaintiffs correctly state the applicable standard which governs a Motion to Stay. (Doc. 154, p. 6). Since we find that the Plaintiffs have cited the proper standard governing the instant Motion, we shall not repeat it. Suffice to say that this Court "has broad discretion to stay proceedings incident to its power to control its docket, however, a party seeking a stay bears the burden of establishing that it is needed." DePalma v. ...


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