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Court Grants Stay in Civil Case to Allow for Completion of Criminal Case

In the case of Doe v. Board of Educ. of Milton-Union Exempted Vill. Sch. Dist., a district court held that when deciding whether to grant a motion to stay for a civil proceeding pending the resolution of a related criminal case, the district court should consider seven factors: (1) how much the issues in the criminal case overlap with the issues in the civil case; (2) the status of the criminal case; (3) the private interests of the plaintiffs in proceeding weighed against the prejudice to plaintiffs caused by the delay; (4) the private interests of and burden on the defendants; (5) the interests of the courts; (6) public interest; and (6) the extent to which the defendant’s fifth amendment rights are implicated.

In this case, the defendant, who was criminally charged in relation to allegations of sexual assault against a student within the school district with which the defendant was employed, argued that continuing with the proceedings in the civil case would interfere with his constitutional and procedural rights, and that he would be precluded from including all mandatory counterclaims and joinder defenses prior to the disposition of the criminal case.

In response, the plaintiff argued that a pending criminal matter does not require the court to grant a motion to stay in a related civil case, continuing with the proceedings will not violate the defendant’s Fifth Amendment Privileges because they had not been served with discovery or asked to testify for the truth of the matter, and that the defendant had not cited any authority that would support a motion to stay in these circumstances. The district court agreed that there was no statutory basis requiring a stay, but still acknowledged that a court may issue the requested stay dependent on weighing the seven factors listed above, and in this case, the balancing of these factors weighed in favor of the stay.

In support of its decision, the district court explained that there was significant overlap between the civil and criminal case and the liability for all defendants in the civil case was at least partially dependent on the outcome of the criminal case. Additionally, the criminal case was well-advanced in that it was scheduled to take place in six weeks, whereas the civil case was still in its infancy.  Because many of the liability questions would be impacted and potentially resolved by the outcome of the criminal case, public interest weighed in favor of a stay to support efficiency with minimal prejudice to the plaintiff.  Lastly, the court concluded that there was substantial risk to the defendant’s fifth amendment rights in the event he was forced to respond under the liberal rules of civil discovery.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

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