The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge
Plaintiffs, Randy and Janete Shrey, initiated this civil action on July 8, 2010, by filing a six-count complaint against defendant Raymond Kontz III. The complaint alleges Unlawful Seizure of Property pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 (Count I), violation of Procedural Due Process pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 (Count II), violation of Substantive Due Process pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 (Count III), Invasion of Privacy (Count IV), Conversion (Count V) and an action for Replevin (Count VI).
The action was initiated after Kontz confiscated more than 600 collectible Little League pins from plaintiffs. Apparently, Kontz is, or was, being investigated criminally for confiscating the pins, for on October 5, 2010, he filed a "Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Resolution of the Criminal Investigation" along with a supporting brief. (Rec. Doc. Nos. 10 and 11). On October 20, 2010, plaintiffs filed an opposing brief. (Rec. Doc. No. 12). No reply brief was filed so the matter is ripe for disposition.
For the following reasons we will deny the motion to stay.
II. Discussion: "[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, 254-255 (U.S. 1936). "How this can best be done calls for the exercise of judgment, which must weigh competing interests and maintain an even balance." Id.
In deciding whether to stay a civil case pending the resolution of a related criminal case, courts consider many factors, including: (1) the extent to which the issues in the civil and criminal cases overlap; (2) the status of the criminal proceedings, including whether any defendants have been indicted; (3) the plaintiff's interests in expeditious civil proceedings weighed against the prejudice to the plaintiff caused by the delay; (4) the burden on the defendants; (5) the interests of the court; and (6) the public interest.
In re Adelphia Communs. Secs. Litig., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9736, 7-8, 2003 WL 22358819 (E.D. Pa. May 13, 2003) (Hutton, J.), citing Walsh Securities, Inc. v. Cristo Prop. Mgmt, Ltd., 7 F. Supp. 2d 523 (D.N.J. 1998). We will consider each factor in turn.
A. The extent to which the issues in the civil and criminal cases overlap.
This factor is the most important threshold issue in determining whether or not to grant defendant's motion. See State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17896, *4, 2002 WL 31111766 (E.D. Pa. September 18, 2002) (Hutton, J.)
Defendant argues that the criminal investigation and the allegations in the civil complaint overlap "completely." Plaintiffs argue that the court should deny the stay as there has been no indictment filed against Kontz. Because there is no indictment or criminal complaint, the court has no way to determine if there is overlap between the civil and criminal cases. Plaintiffs' brief points out that defendant admits that he does not believe that an indictment will be issued at the conclusion of the criminal investigation. (Rec. Doc. No. 11 at 5). His concerns about the overlap between the civil case and criminal investigation and his desire not to waive his Fifth Amendment rights are unfounded according to his own admission.
Consequently, this factor weighs against granting the stay.
B. The status of the criminal proceedings, including whether any defendants have been indicted.
A court is most likely to grant a stay of civil proceedings where an indictment has been returned. The potential for self-incrimination is the greatest at this stage. Moreover, because the Speedy Trial Act requires the swift resolution of criminal trials, the burdens of delay on the civil litigant is lessened. Conversely, because the risk of self-incrimination is reduced at the pre-indictment stage, and because of the uncertainty surrounding when, if ever, indictments will be issued, as well as the effect of the delay on the civil trial, pre-indictment requests ...