United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
BOSTON TAXI OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., SHARON OPHIR and JOSEPH PIERRE, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF BOSTON and BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER WILLIAM EVANS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NATHANIEL M. GORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action was brought by the Boston Taxi Owners Association,
Inc. and two individual Boston taxicab license owners, Sharon
Ophir (as the personal representative of deceased plaintiff
Raphael Ophir) and Joseph Pierre (collectively,
“plaintiffs”) against the City of Boston
(“the City”) and Boston Police Commissioner
William Evans. Plaintiffs challenge the City’s
regulations with respect to the registration and operation of
vehicles providing transportation-for-hire services under the
Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the
the Court allowed, in part, and denied, in part, Commissioner
Evans’s motion to dismiss, defendant appealed the
Court’s ruling denying him qualified immunity on
plaintiffs’ one remaining claim. Currently before the
Court is defendant’s motion to stay the proceedings in
the District Court pending resolution of his appeal by the
First Circuit Court of Appeals.
United States Supreme Court has held that a denial of
qualified immunity, either at the motion to dismiss stage or
at the summary judgment stage, is immediately appealable.
Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 839-40 (1996).
Both the Supreme Court and the First Circuit Court of Appeals
have noted the importance of a government officer’s
right, through qualified immunity,
not merely to avoid “standing trial, ” but also
to avoid the burdens of “such pretrial matters
as discovery ..., as ‘[i]nquiries of this kind can be
peculiarly disruptive of effective government.’”
Id. (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S.
511, 526 (1985)).
Evans argues that a stay is necessary to effectuate such
protection, citing Hegarty v. Somerset County, 25
F.3d 17 (1994). In Hegarty, the First Circuit found
a stay of discovery to be mandatory for the duration of the
appellate court’s consideration of the appeal of a
denial of qualified immunity. Id. at 18. The court,
however, qualified its holding in two respects. It cautioned
that a stay is required only “so long as the appeal is
non-frivolous, ” id., and noted that it may
not be necessary where the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief
as to which a defense of qualified immunity is immaterial,
id. at 18 n.2. In support, the court cited Lugo
v. Alvarado, 819 F.2d 5 (1st Cir. 1987).
Lugo, the First Circuit affirmed the district
court’s denial of a motion to stay discovery while the
district court considered a motion for summary judgment based
on qualified immunity. Id. at 5. It concluded that
“equitable claims stand on a different footing than
damage claims” because qualified immunity applies only
to claims for money damages against government officials in
their personal capacities. Id. at 7. Because the
plaintiffs in that case had requested both money damages and
injunctive relief, discovery on the substantive claims would
occur regardless of the Court’s ruling on
defendant’s qualified immunity claim. Accordingly, the
stay would not shield the defendant from unnecessary
here assert that a stay would be similarly futile because
they have requested injunctive relief as well as damages.
They note that Commissioner Evans has appealed the
Court’s decision only with respect to qualified
immunity. Plaintiffs’ claim for injunctive relief
against Commissioner Evans is not, therefore, on appeal.
Consequently, even if the First Circuit were to reverse the
Court’s qualified immunity decision, the suit would go
forward and Commissioner Evans would be subject to discovery
on plaintiffs’ equal protection claim.
is not warranted as a matter of right. Nken v.
Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 427 (2009) (citing Virginian
Ry. Co. v. United States, 272 U.S. 658, 672 (1926)). An
analysis of the suitability of a stay is, therefore, required
in this case. The Supreme Court has outlined a framework for
assessing a motion to stay which balances four factors:
(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that
he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the
applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3)
whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the
other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the
public interest lies.
Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 426 (2009) (quoting
Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)). The
first two factors weigh most heavily. Id. at 434.
The party requesting the stay bears the burden of
establishing that the balance of those factors warrants the
requested relief. Id. at 433-34.
the likelihood of success, the party requesting a stay must
show “more than a mere possibility of relief” on
appeal. Id. at 434. Defendant “need not
persuade the court that is it likely to be reversed on
appeal, ” but the appeal must “raise serious and
difficult questions of law in an area where the law is
somewhat unclear.” Canterbury Liquors & Pantry
v. Sullivan, 999 F.Supp. 144, 150 (D. Mass. 1998). While
the Commissioner has not convinced the Court that he is
likely to succeed in his appeal with respect to qualified
immunity, the constitutional issue in this case is neither
elementary nor well-established.
cannot, however, demonstrate that he will be irreparably
harmed absent a stay of the proceedings. As discussed above,
because this case involves claims against Commissioner Evans
for both money damages and equitable relief, the case will
proceed regardless of the First Circuit’s decision on
the qualified immunity issue. Defendant will suffer no
substantial harm from ...