RANDOLPH D. MOSS, District Judge.
In September 2014, Yusuf Bush pled guilty to one count of first degree sexual abuse in D.C. Superior Court. Dkt. 1 at 2-3; Dkt. 8-2 at 5. He soon regretted that decision and attempted to withdraw his plea. Dkt. 1 at 4; Dkt. 8-2 at 5. The Superior Court denied his motion, Dkt. 8-3 at 45, and the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed, Dkt. 13-1. While his appeal was pending, Bush filed this suit against the D.C. public defender who represented him at the time he entered his guilty plea, Katerina Semyenova. Bush alleges that she "coerced [him] into taking a plea offer against his will," and thereby violated his constitutional rights and committed malpractice. Dkt. 1 at 3, 4.
Semyenova has moved to dismiss on two grounds: First, she argues that, as a public defender, she is not a government official subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, see Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981); second, she contends that Bush's suit is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), which held that a criminal defendant may not recover civil damages for "harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness[, if established,] would render [his] conviction or sentence invalid," id. at 486.
The Court "has the discretion to stay civil proceedings in the interest of justice and `in light of the particular circumstances of the case.'" Doe v. Sipper, 869 F.Supp.2d 113, 115 (D.D.C. 2012) (quoting SEC v. Dresser Indus., Inc., 628 F.2d 1368, 1375 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). That power "is incidental to the inherent power in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket." Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). The question whether a stay should issue commonly arises when criminal and civil proceedings involving the same conduct are brought against the same defendant; in such cases "[t]he noncriminal proceeding, if not deferred, might undermine the [defendant's] Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, expand rights of criminal discovery . . ., expose the basis of the defense to the prosecution in advance of the criminal trial, or otherwise prejudice the case." Dresser, 628 F.2d at 1376. Semyenova relies on cases arising in that context in her opposition to Bush's motion to hold the case in abeyance, see Dkt. 13 at 2-3 (citing Sipper, 869 F. Supp. 2d at 116; Horn v. District of Columbia, 210 F.R.D. 13, 15 (D.D.C. 2002)). In those cases, unlike this case, the criminal proceeding was ongoing at the time of the stay motions. See Sipper, 869 F. Supp. 2d at 115; Horn, 210 F.R.D. at 14. Here, in contrast, Bush has been convicted, and his conviction has been sustained on appeal; all that remains is his collateral challenge, which does not implicate the same Fifth Amendment issues posed in other cases. Nevertheless, the factors applied in Sipper provide a helpful guide for this Court's analysis. Among the relevant factors, each of which the Court "may give . . . as much weight as it determines to be necessary," are (1) "the relationship between the civil and criminal actions"; (2) "the burden on the court"; (3) "the hardships or inequalities the parties would face if a stay was granted"; and (4) "the duration of the requested stay." 869 F. Supp. 2d at 11.
The first two factors carry little weight. First, Bush's conviction is final, and there is, accordingly, little risk that permitting this civil matter to proceed would unfairly disadvantage either party. Bush's conviction arguably stands as a barrier to any civil recovery premised on a theory that "would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence." Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. The fact that Bush is pursuing a collateral challenge, which, if successful, might remove a barrier to this action, does not weigh in favor of granting a stay pending the outcome of that proceeding. That possibility exists in every case in which the Heck bar is raised as a defense, yet courts in this district routinely dismiss such suits on Heck grounds, see, e.g., Chin v. Palchak, 2010 WL 1640395, at *1 (D.D.C. Apr. 20, 2010); Keys v. United States, 2008 WL 2595115, at *1 (D.D.C. June 30, 2008). Second, granting a stay is unlikely to avoid a burden on the Court.
The remaining two factors, however, weigh against granting a stay. First, the equities do not favor allowing Bush to stay his own case. He brought this case, and he has failed to identify any prejudice he would suffer if the case is not held in abeyance. It is possible that Bush might face a problem with the statute of limitations, but, if so, he has failed to explain why that is so. Against those considerations, Semyenova has a strong interest in not having litigation pending against her indefinitely. That interest is particularly weighty, moreover, in light of the high hurdle Bush will face in attempting to overcome the Superior Court's finding—not challenged on appeal—that Bush "received the effective representation of counsel in connection with his trial and guilty plea." Dkt. 13-1 at 8. Second, and relatedly, the indeterminate length of the stay Bush requests weighs strongly against granting his motion.
The Court will, accordingly,
A separate order will issue.