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D.R. v. Michigan Department of Education

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 24, 2017

D.R., a minor child, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, ET AL., Defendants.

          Arthur J. Tarnow District Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING GENESEE AND MDOE'S MOTIONS (DE 35 AND 37) AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART FLINT'S MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY (DE 36)

          ANTHONY P. PATTI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court for consideration of Defendant Genesee Intermediate School District's (“Genesee”) motion to stay discovery (DE 35), Flint Community Schools' (“Flint”) motion to stay discovery until resolution of pending dispositive motions or, in the alternative, for protective order (DE 36), and the Michigan Department of Education's (“MDOE”) motion for protective order/request for stay of discovery pending outcome of pending dispositive and jurisdictional motions (DE 37), Plaintiffs' response in opposition (DE 41), Flint's reply (DE 43), and the parties' joint list of unresolved issues (DE 45). This matter came before me for a hearing on August 17, 2017, at which all parties appeared through counsel. For the reasons that follow, MDOE and Genesee's motions are GRANTED and Flint's motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs filed their 133 page, 395 paragraph complaint in this action on October 18, 2016, bringing four claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq. (“IDEA”): (1) failure to develop and implement child find procedures; (2) failure to provide a free, appropriate public education that confers a meaningful educational benefit in the least restrictive environment; (3) failure to protect students' due process procedural safeguards in the disciplinary process; and (4) discrimination on the basis of disability and denial of access to educational services. Plaintiffs also bring claims under the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Michigan state law. (DE 1.) In December 2016, all Defendants filed motions to dismiss, asserting that the Court was without subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case because Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under IDEA. (DE 22, 23, and 25.) Those motions are fully briefed and awaiting the Court's review.

         On February 28, 2017, the parties appeared before Judge Tarnow for a status conference. In the minute entry for the status conference, Judge Tarnow noted that counsel were “to discuss preliminary discovery and the possibility of settling some of the claims . . . .” (Minute entry, Feb. 28, 2017.) Defendants filed the instant motions in July, after being served with Plaintiffs' first set of discovery requests. They ask the Court to stay discovery pending resolution of the jurisdictional motions to dismiss, or, in the alternative, enter a protective order limiting Plaintiffs' broad discovery requests.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. The court will not impose a complete stay on discovery.

         1. The discovery requests are not premature.

         Defendants first argue that Plaintiffs' discovery requests are premature because they were made prior to a conference under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f). Pursuant to Rule 26(d), “[a] party may not seek discovery from any source before the parties have conferred as required by Rule 26(f).” This argument is unavailing, because, as Plaintiffs explain, Judge Tarnow's practice guidelines specify that he “does not enforce the stay of discovery contemplated by Rule 26(d) pending the conference contemplated by Rule 26(f).” Practice Guidelines for Arthur J. Tarnow, Discovery, available at https://www.mied.uscourts.gov/index.cfm?pageFunction=chambers&judgeid=17 (last viewed August 18, 2017). Moreover, as indicated in the Court's minute entry following the parties' February 28, 2017 status conference, Judge Tarnow instructed the parties to “discuss preliminary discovery, ” even with the knowledge that the motions to dismiss were then pending. (Minute entry, Feb. 28, 2017.) As such, I conclude that the Court contemplated that some form of discovery would occur prior to the conference under Rule 26(f) and find no reason to impose a stay on the basis of prematurity.

         2. A complete stay is not warranted.

         In any action, the Court must construe the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. Here, there is a tension between allowing discovery now, to ensure a “speedy” disposition, and staying it, so as to foster “inexpensive determination” of the pending jurisdictional motions. Neither party contends that the proposed discovery would shed light on the jurisdictional issues before the Court, although both parties conceded at oral argument that “[t]rial courts have broad discretion and inherent power to stay discovery until preliminary questions that may dispose of the case are determined.” Hahn v. Star Bank, 190 F.3d 708, 719 (6th Cir. 1999). Staying discovery until jurisdictional motions are resolved can be an efficient way to reduce or eliminate any unnecessary usage of resources. See Harlo v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982) (staying discovery until the “threshold immunity question [was] resolved.”). However, a complete stay is not warranted in this matter, despite the pending jurisdictional motions to dismiss.

         I am persuaded by Plaintiffs' argument that the Court anticipated some preliminary discovery in this matter, as evidenced by Judge Tarnow's practice guidelines, his notation that preliminary discovery should be discussed, and the fact that he made that minute entry after the jurisdictional motions had been filed and fully briefed. In addition, and bearing in mind that all of Plaintiffs' claims are for equitable relief, Plaintiffs' assertion that some discovery is appropriate because another school year is beginning is well-taken. As such, I conclude that some limited discovery is warranted, even while the jurisdictional motions are pending.

         B. The court will limit Plaintiffs' ...


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