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Franks v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

November 21, 2017

NKENIJIKA FRANKS and THEODORE TREASURE, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, POLICE OFFICER EDWIN VEGA badge number 027670, POLICE OFFICER JOHN DOE and POLICE OFFICER JOE COE, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDGARDO RAMOS, U.S.D.J.

         Nkenijika Franks (“Franks”) and Theodor Treasure (“Treasure”) (together, “Plaintiffs”) bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, alleging claims for unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, and malicious prosecution. Doc. 9 (“Am. Compl.”) at 1. Before the Court is the City of New York's[1] (“Defendant”) motion to stay the action until the criminal prosecution of third-party Dashawn Johnson (“Johnson”) and a Civilian Complaint Review Board (“CCRB”) investigation of one of the defendants conclude. Doc. 10 (“Mot. to Stay”) at 1. For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED without prejudice

         I. Background[2]

         Plaintiffs filed this § 1983 action based on three incidents with the police: an arrest on October 20, 2016, a stop on December 24, 2016, and a stop on March 7th, 2017. Am. Compl. at 4-5.

         On October 20th, at approximately 9:00 p.m., Plaintiffs were in Treasure's car which was stopped at the side of the road near 225th St. and Schefflien Avenue in the Bronx, New York. Id. at 4. Police officers approached in an unmarked car, and Treasure drove the car around the corner where Plaintiffs were subsequently stopped, searched, and arrested for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, in violation of N.Y. State Penal Law Section 265.03. Id. The police found no weapons in Plaintiffs' possession. Id. Plaintiffs allege that there was no probable cause for this stop, that Treasure's car was subjected to a warrantless search, and that they were subjected to excessive force near the car, at the 47th precinct, and at central booking. Id.

         Defendant maintains that another individual, Johnson, who was separately apprehended for possession of two firearms, fled from Treasure's car when the officers approached. Mot. to Stay at 1. The Plaintiffs aver that Johnson was not in the car at the time of their arrest. Am. Compl. at 5. Johnson was indicted for criminal possession of the two firearms and the charges against him are currently pending. Mot. to Stay at 1.

         The Bronx District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the Plaintiffs due to insufficient evidence to support the weapons charge as to them. Doc. 12 (“Pls.' Opp'n”) at 6. As to the remaining incidents alleged in the Complaint, it is undisputed that Johnson was not with the Plaintiffs on December 24th, 2016 or March 7th, 2017. Am. Compl. at 5. Plaintiffs allege that on both of these dates, Officer Vega (“Vega”) stopped Treasure's car and harassed them. Id.

         Currently, there is an ongoing CCRB investigation into Plaintiffs' claims that Vega harassed them on December 24, 2016 in violation of N.Y.P.D. rules and regulations. Mot. to Stay at 3.

         II. Discussion

         The question before the Court is whether to stay the instant case while the non-parallel criminal action against Johnson proceeds. It is well settled that federal district courts have discretion to stay civil matters pending a parallel criminal case, United States v. Kordel, 397 U.S. 1, 12 n.27 (1970), and courts in this circuit have held that the civil and criminal cases do not need to be completely parallel to warrant a stay. See United States v. Banco Cafetero Int'l, 107 F.R.D. 361, 365 (S.D.N.Y. 1985) (noting that the identity of the parties and issues addressed in the civil and criminal cases need not be identical) aff'd, 797 F.2d 1154, 1163 (2d Cir. 1986). Nevertheless, a stay of a civil case is an extraordinary remedy, Jackson v. Johnson, 985 F.Supp. 422, 424 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), and the strongest case for a stay is when the party under criminal indictment is also the party defending a civil suit arising from the same set of facts. Volmar Distribs., Inc. v. New York Post Co., 152 F.R.D. 36, 39 (S.D.N.Y. 1993).

         The party moving for a stay “bears the burden of establishing its need.” Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A v. LY USA Inc., 676 F.3d 83, 97 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 708 (1997)). If the moving party cannot establish that it will suffer undue prejudice or that its constitutional rights will be violated, the non-moving party should not be delayed in its efforts to diligently proceed to sustain its claim. Transatlantic Reinsurance Co. v. Salatore Ditrapani, Int'l, No. 90 Civ. 3884 (JMC), 1991 WL 12135, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 28, 1991) (quoting Paine, Webber, Jackson & Curtis Inc. v. Malon S. Andrus, Inc., 486 F.Supp. 1118, 1119 (S.D.N.Y. 1980)).

         In determining whether to grant a stay, the court balances the following factors: “1) the extent to which the issues in the criminal case overlap with those presented in the civil case; 2) the status of the case, including whether the defendants have been indicted; 3) the private interests of the plaintiffs in proceeding expeditiously 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; and 6) the public interest.” Trs. of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Nat'l Pension Fund v. Transworld Mech., 886 F.Supp. 1134, 1139 (S.D.N.Y. 1995).

         A. ...


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