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JACKSON v. JOHNSON

December 2, 1997

JOE JACKSON and RUBY JACKSON, Plaintiffs, against THOMAS JOHNSON, Corrections Officer and GLEN S. GOORD, Commissioner of Correctional Services, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PECK

 ANDREW J. PECK, United States Magistrate Judge:

 To the Honorable Lewis A. Kaplan, United States District Judge:

 Presently before the Court is defendants' motion to stay plaintiffs' § 1983 action -- which alleges that plaintiff Joe Jackson was subjected to retaliation and prison disciplinary punishment in violation of due process when a "weapon" was found in his living area -- pending resolution of a state criminal proceeding against plaintiff Joe Jackson for possession of that weapon. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that defendants' motion be denied.

 FACTS

 Plaintiffs' complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while plaintiff Joe Jackson was incarcerated at Fishkill Correctional Facility. Jackson asked to be placed in protective custody to avoid problems with other prisoners. Jackson, however, refused to falsely implicate another inmate who defendant Correction Officer Johnson allegedly wanted Jackson to implicate. The complaint alleges that in retaliation, on January 9, 1996, C.O. Johnson "found" a damaged state-issued razor in Jackson's property cube, which Jackson alleges was planted either by Johnson or inmates. The complaint also alleges that Jackson was deprived of due process in connection with the resulting Tier III disciplinary hearing, which resulted in 99 days in keeplock and loss of privileges. (Cplt. § IV at attached pp. 1-2.) *fn1"

 In addition to the internal prison disciplinary proceedings, on February 20, 1996, the Dutchess County District Attorney filed a felony complaint charging Joe Jackson with promoting prison contraband in the first degree in violation of Penal Law § 205.25(2). (10/21/97 Letter-motion by Asst. Attorney General Richard J. Cardinale, at 1-2 & Ex. B.) The felony charge has been reduced to a misdemeanor, and Jackson's next court appearance on that charge is scheduled for January 6, 1998. (Id. at 2 & Ex. C.)

 Plaintiff Joe Jackson opposes the requested stay. (See 10/23/97 Joe Jackson letter and 10/29/97 Jackson "Opposition to Stay.") He notes that the criminal case is still pending almost two years after the January 1996 incident, and that "delayed justice is denied justice." (Id.) *fn2"

 ANALYSIS

 It is well settled that a federal court has the discretion to stay a civil case pending resolution of a related state court criminal action, if the interests of justice so require. See, e.g., Deakins v. Monaghan, 484 U.S. 193, 202, 108 S. Ct. 523, 529-30, 98 L. Ed. 2d 529 (1988) (error for district court to dismiss rather than stay federal § 1983 action pending resolution of related state criminal proceedings); Mack v. Varelas, 835 F.2d 995, 998-1000 (2d Cir. 1987) (stay of § 1983 action "prudentially warranted" where one possible outcome of state criminal action would negate essential element of § 1983 claim); Giulini v. Blessing, 654 F.2d 189, 193 (2d Cir. 1981) ("a federal court is not precluded, in the exercise of its discretion, from staying proceedings in the [civil] action before it pending a decision by the state court [in a related criminal action], with a view to avoiding wasteful duplication of judicial resources and having the benefit of the state court's views."); Estes-El v. Long Island Jewish Med. Ctr., 916 F. Supp. 268, 269-70 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (Kaplan, D.J. & Peck, M.J.) (staying a § 1983 action until resolution of a parallel state criminal action); Trustees of Plumbers & Pipefitters Nat'l Pension Fund v. Transworld Mechanical, Inc., 886 F. Supp. 1134, 1138 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ("It is well-settled that a court has the discretionary authority to stay a case if the interests of justice so require."); Volmar Distribs., Inc. v. New York Post Co., 152 F.R.D. 36, 39, 42 (S.D.N.Y. 1993) (staying civil discovery until resolution of parallel state criminal proceedings, to "avoid duplication of effort and unnecessary litigation costs" and because "the outcome of the criminal case may encourage settlement" of the federal civil action).

 "A stay of the civil case, however, is an extraordinary remedy." Trustees v. Transworld Mechanical, 886 F. Supp. at 1139 (citing In re Par Pharm., Inc., 133 F.R.D. 12, 13 (S.D.N.Y. 1990)). This Court previously has summarized the factors to consider in deciding whether to grant a stay, as follows:

 
"When deciding whether to grant a stay, courts consider five factors: (1) the private interests of the plaintiffs in proceeding expeditiously with the civil litigation as balanced against the prejudice to the plaintiffs if delayed; (2) the private interests of and burden on the defendants; (3) the interests of the courts; (4) the interests of persons not parties to the civil litigation; and (5) the public interest."

 Estes-El v. Long Island Jewish Med. Ctr., 916 F. Supp. at 270 (quoting Volmar Distribs., Inc. v. New York Post Co., 152 F.R.D. at 39); see also, e.g., Trustees v. Transworld Mechanical, 886 F. Supp. at 1139. "Balancing these factors is a case-by-case determination, with the basic goal being to avoid ...


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