CMAX, INC. v. HALL No. 17517.
300 F.2d 265 (1962)
Petition of CMAX, INC., For a Writ of Mandamus, Petitioner, v. Honorable Peirson M. HALL, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division, Respondent.
United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit.
March 19, 1962.
Dunlap, Holmes, Ross & Woodson, John W. Holmes, Pasadena, Cal., for respondent Drewry Photocolor Corp., real party in interest.
Before BARNES, HAMLEY and DUNIWAY, Circuit Judges.
HAMLEY, Circuit Judge.
In this mandamus proceeding, CMAX, Inc., seeks to vacate a district court order postponing the trial of petitioner's action against Drewry Photocolor Corporation.
CMAX is an air freight forwarder (indirect air carrier) operating under Civil Aeronautics Board authority and regulations.
Drewry answered, setting up certain defenses. Plaintiff and defendant moved for summary judgment but both motions were denied. Pretrial proceedings were then had. CMAX answered all requests for admissions and all interrogatories submitted and propounded by Drewry. On May 1, 1961, the district court signed a pretrial conference order, under provisions of Local Rule 9 of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division, West's Ann.Code. On the same day the cause was set for trial on June 6, 1961.
On May 18, 1961, the bureau of enforcement of the Civil Aeronautics Board instituted an enforcement proceeding against CMAX.
The relief requested by the enforcement attorney was revocation of all operating authority previously granted to CMAX, and such other and further relief as the Board might deem proper. In the petition for enforcement filed by the Board's bureau of enforcement on the basis of this complaint, the purpose of the proceeding was stated as follows:
Eight days after this Board proceeding was instituted, Drewry gave notice that it would move in the district court for a continuance of the trial in CMAX v. Drewry to a date subsequent to the completion of the proceedings before the Civil Aeronautics Board. This motion was supported by an affidavit of one of Drewry's attorneys. It was therein alleged that there were then pending, in that district court, at least twelve actions against various shippers by CMAX, in which the latter was seeking recovery for alleged undercharges. It was further alleged that CMAX had made similar demands against many of the other shippers listed in the administrative complaint, and that the total recoveries being sought by CMAX were in excess of $500,000.
It was also alleged in the affidavit of this attorney that in the Board proceeding there will be a comprehensive investigation as a result of which there will be developed and made available for the information of the district court the facts and circumstances concerning the practices followed by CMAX in undercharging customers. The demands being made by CMAX, it was alleged, involve a great variety of circumstances and intricate factual situations suggesting a program of willful and intentional abuse of the position of CMAX as a freight forwarder. It was further alleged that if the Board proceeding results in an order depriving CMAX of its operating authority,
Drewry's motion to postpone the trial was argued on June 6, 1961, and on that day granted. The motion was granted on the ground that the Board proceeding might result in an order which would affect this and other pending district court actions in which CMAX is seeking
A district court has inherent power to control the disposition of the causes on its docket in a manner which will promote economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants. The exertion of this power calls for the exercise of a sound discretion. Where it is proposed that a pending proceeding be stayed, the competing interests which will be affected by the granting or refusal to grant a stay must be weighed. Among these competing interests are the possible damage which may result from the granting of a stay, the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go forward, and the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the simplifying or complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law which could be expected to result from a stay. See Landis v. North American Co.,
Where the district court, upon a consideration of such factors, grants a stay, such action may be tested in this court by way of mandamus. See Chronicle Publishing Co. v. National Broadcasting Co., 9 Cir.,
Arguing that the district court has abused its discretion in granting the stay here in question, CMAX asserts, in effect, that the proceeding before the Civil Aeronautics Board cannot resolve any of the issues which must be decided in the case of CMAX, Inc. v. Drewry Photocolor Corp., and that the delay in the latter proceedings will result in irreparable injury to CMAX and in a miscarriage of justice.
If in fact there is a fair possibility that a stay of the district court proceeding will result in irreparable injury and a miscarriage of justice, petitioner's prospect of showing an abuse of discretion would be considerably increased. As stated in Landis v. North American Co.,
But CMAX has not made a strong showing in support of its assertion that it will suffer irreparable damage and a miscarriage of justice. The relief which
But this, in any event, would be the extent of its damage. CMAX states that all discovery proceedings have been concluded, and hence there is presumably no problem of preserving evidence. If there were such a problem, application could be made in the district court to permit further discovery proceedings.
It may be that CMAX will be prejudiced by the delay in the sense that evidence will be obtained, or rulings made, as a result of the Board proceedings, which will adversely affect the claims which CMAX asserts in the district court. But this is not the kind of prejudice which should move a court to deny a requested postponement. If CMAX is prejudiced by such an eventuality it will be because the Board proceedings demonstrate a weakness in its case. And if its case is weak, justice will be served by having that fact revealed prior to the district court trial.
No impressive showing of irreparable damage or injustice having been made we are not inclined to judge the stay order with a critical eye. Absent such a showing there is little incentive to substitute our judgment for that of the district court in such matters as this.
The district court did not undertake to state just what could result from the Board proceeding which would be helpful in deciding the district court case. Petitioner argues that no evidence or finding of fraud on the part of CMAX, or excusatory circumstances on the part of shippers, developed in the Board proceeding, could provide a defense against CMAX's claim in the district court action.
Petitioner may or may not be right as to this. But at the very least, the Board proceeding will provide a means of developing comprehensive evidence bearing upon the highly technical tariff questions which are likely to arise in the district court case. Moreover, if that proceeding should result in a revocation of CMAX's operating authority, the district court will be enabled to explore the effect thereof on that carrier's standing to collect past undercharges. If the district court trial should proceed now, and result in a judgment for CMAX, Drewry would be deprived of this possible defense or, at best, would have to assert it in supplemental proceedings.
To these considerations must be added the fact that several other similar cases are now pending in the same district court, and more are likely to be filed in the near future. In the interests of uniform treatment of like suits there is much to be said for delaying the front-runner. The parties thereto will then have the same relative advantages or disadvantages which prior disposition of the Board proceeding will confer upon these other cases. Apart from this element of fairness, the pendency and prospective filing of these other like suits gave the district court a special incentive to accept any aid which might reasonably be forthcoming as a result of the Board proceedings.
The petition for a writ of mandamus is denied.
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