G.R. SMITH, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Charles Rankin brings this § 1983 action alleging that the defendants violated his rights when he was arrested after an altercation. See doc. 10 (Amended Complaint). Defendants have moved to dismiss and to stay discovery pending disposition of that motion. Docs. 8 & 16.
Rankin, who is a Corporal in the Georgia State Patrol, went to "a friend's gathering" near Paulson Stadium at Georgia Southern University.
Rankin was released from jail, but sometime later defendant Terry Briley, a Captain in the GSUPD, obtained a warrant for his arrest. Doc. 10, ¶ 50. He surrendered and was rebooked. Id. ¶ 54. The warrant, he contends, was issued without probable cause. Id. ¶¶ 78-82. Accordingly, defendants Laura McCullough, Chief of the GSUPD, and Briley engaged in malicious prosecution in procuring and serving that warrant, a second violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Each of the defendants discussed above is sued in his or her official and individual capacities.
Defendants have also moved to stay discovery pending the resolution of their motion to dismiss. Doc. 8. The parties agree that a stay of discovery "as to the 11th Amendment subject matter jurisdictional issues" is appropriate.
In evaluating stays of discovery pending resolution of dispositive motions, "a court must take a `preliminary peek' . . . to assess the likelihood that the motion will be granted." Taylor v. Jackson, 2017 WL 71654 at * 1 n. 2 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 6, 2017) (quoting Sams v. GA West Gate, LLC, 2016 WL 3339764 at * 6 (S.D. Ga. June 10, 2016). The Court will do so here.
"Because qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation, [cit.], questions of qualified immunity must be resolved at the earliest possible stage in litigation." Gonzalez v. Reno, 325 F.3d 1228, 1233 (11th Cir. 2003). One aspect of the immunity is that it frees "officials from the concerns of litigation, including avoidance of disruptive discovery." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 685 (2009) (quotes and cite omitted). It protects "all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law," that is those who violate a "clearly established" right or law. Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (quotes and cite omitted). The Supreme Court has "repeatedly told courts not to define clearly established law at a high level of generality." Id. (quotes, cite, and alteration omitted). "The dispositive question is whether the violative nature of particular conduct is clearly established." Id. (quotes and cite omitted).
Defendants argue that even under the charitable motion-to-dismiss standard, Rankin's contentions concerning his intent, or lack of it, do not preclude probable cause for either of his arrests. See doc. 16-1 at 11-15. Further, a failure to sufficiently allege facts demonstrating the lack of probable cause would doom his false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution claims. Id. at 13, 15, 18. And if he has failed to allege any underlying constitutional violation, his claim against McCullogh, based on GSUPD's policies and procedures, also fails. Id. at 19. Finally, defendants contend, if the district judge found probable cause for his arrests was even arguable, they would be protected by qualified immunity. Id. at 22-24. Thus even if the district judge found Rankin had sufficiently alleged lack of probable cause, qualified immunity would still require dismissal if he finds that it is even arguable.
Defendants' arguments have legs. There is a distinct possibility that the district judge will find either that the Amended Complaint fails to sufficiently allege facts showing a lack of probable cause, or that the existence of arguable probable cause requires dismissal on qualified immunity grounds. In either case, both parties would have wasted time and resources pursuing discovery.