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Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment and Discovery

Issue: Is staying discovery pending resolution of a summary judgment motion an abuse of discretion when the summary judgment motion is not meritorious, even if granted it will not dispose of the entire case, the discovery may be necessary to allow the nonmoving party to fully respond to the summary judgment motion, and the balance of harm tips decidedly against a stay?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Discovery pending resolution; Summary judgment; Abuse of discretion
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 729 F.2d 994; 745 F.2d 1406
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 11/01/2006

Although in exceptional circumstances a court may stay discovery, generally, a trial judge’s order denying discovery is an abuse of discretion when it denies a party an adequate opportunity to conduct meaningful discovery. See Duke v. Univ. of Tex., 729 F.2d 994, 996-97 (5th Cir. 1984).  Thus, even though the trial court may have discretion in discovery matters, it must adhere to the liberal spirit of the discovery rules or it abuses its discretion.  Williams v. City of Dothan, 745 F.2d 1406, 1415 (11th Cir. 1984).

Generally, the mere filing of a dispositive motion does not warrant the issuance of a stay of discovery.  See 6 James W. Moore, Moore’s Federal Practice § 26.105[3][c], at p. 26-271 (2005).  Courts will grant a stay only if the moving party makes a “strong showing” of both good cause and reasonableness.  McCabe v. Foley, 233 F.R.D. 683, 685 (M.D. Fla. 2006); Howard v. Galesi, 107 F.R.D. 348, 350 (S.D.N.Y. 1985). 

When the basis for the motion is that the moving party seeks to stay all discovery pending resolution of another motion, a synthesis of relevant authority shows the motion to stay will not be granted unless the moving party establishes four elements: (1) the alleged “dispositive motion” is truly meritorious; (2) the alleged dispositive motion is truly dispositive of the entire case; (3) the dispositive motion can be decided without any party needing the discovery for which a stay is sought; and (4) the […]

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