9850104,Carey, et al. v. Imagineers, Ruling on Motion for Stay
CASE NO. 9850104
Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, ex rel. Edward J. Carey and Carolyn Carey, Complainants
Imagineers, LLC, Respondents
September 2, 1999
RULING ON MOTION FOR STAY
The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ("Commission") filed a Motion for Stay of Proceeding ("Motion") dated July 23, 1999, to which Complainants joined and Respondents did not object. Commission raises the following three specific reasons in support of its motion: "to prevent duplication of effort by the parties; to prevent excessive unnecessary costs for [commission]…; and also because of the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel". Commission’s Memorandum, July 23, 1999, p.2. Commission focuses primarily on its last argument of res judicata and collateral estoppel to persuade the undersigned Human Rights Referee to stay the proceeding.
Commission did not present a satisfactory basis to stay the current proceedings, but rather relied on the theories of res judicata and collateral estoppel which are the possible consequences of what could occur if the proceedings are not stayed. It is not the undersigned Human Rights Referee’s duty to assist the lawyers in preventing the effects of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Complainants may bring a lawsuit in the forum of their choice. Here, the Complainants commenced a claim with the commission
on May 26, 1998 and one year later, on July 13, 1999, Complainants filed a parallel suit in federal court. The Commission provides an accurate analysis in support of its argument for res judicata and collateral estoppel, but those are not the true issues here. Here, the issue is whether or not to stay proceedings, presently. Res judicata and collateral estoppel become issues when a party is trying to get "two bites of the same apple" after a claim or issue has already been decided. Res judicata and collateral estoppel prevent that party from doing so. Therefore, I will not address in further detail that proposed reasoning for staying the present case.
Commission argues that it is "well established that [commission] hearing officers stay [commission] proceedings when the Complainants file a similar action in U.S. District Court". Commission’s Memorandum, July 23, 1999, p.2. Commission cites certain cases in support of this argument, but these cases are certainly distinguishable from the present case. In CHRO ex rel. Sipe v. National Cash Register Corporation, [commission] Complaint No. 9240230 (March 18, 1994), Commission requested a stay because there was an "upcoming" federal court trial. In the present matter, no information has been provided showing that there is a scheduled federal court trial. In CHRO ex rel. Shane v. State of Connecticut, [commission] No. 8640389 (August 3, 1993), Commission requested a stay because there were two federal actions pending in which discovery was currently being conducted. In the present matter, no information has been provided showing that discovery is currently being conducted in the parallel federal action. In CHRO ex rel. Yohanes Michaels v. City of Norwalk, [commission] Complaint No. 9120320 (May 23, 1995), Commission requested a continued stay because there was a Motion for Summary Judgment pending in the federal action. In the present matter, no information has been provided showing that there is a motion pending which would be dispositive of the issues or claims at hand. Even if any of the above-stated reasons exist in the present action, the undersigned Human Rights Referee still would be extremely reluctant in granting a stay. There is no plausible reason why the present action with the commission must be stayed while the federal action is pending.
In regard to Commission’s concern for duplication of effort by the parties, Complainants chose to file their discrimination claim with the federal court while the present case with the commission still was pending. Complainants could have waited for a final decision by the commission and then filed a federal claim with the U.S. District Court for any relief not available or for claims not decided by the commission. See Kendall Lewis v. Ames Department Stores, Inc., Docket No. 3:97 CV 1214, Ruling on Motion to Dismiss, Droney, J., March 31, 1999. Again, no information has been provided showing that the parties have begun any discovery or that the federal court is processing any current motions in the federal case, whereas the parties in this case shall begin discovery proceedings in less than one month. The results of discovery conducted in the present case may be used by the parties in the pending federal case and therefore the efforts of the parties will not be duplicated.
The commission has the authority to hear and has the ability to adequately handle litigation of discrimination claims. The commission is the most convenient forum for the present case. Complainants were not required to file their housing discrimination claim with the commission, but could have filed directly with the state or federal courts. See General Statutes 46a-98(a); 42 U.S.C.A. § 3613(a)(1)(A). Complainants chose to file their housing discrimination claim with the commission first. There exist adequate resources easily accessible and Human Rights Referees who are available full-time to preside over such claims in a timely manner and therefore there are no unnecessary costs to the commission.
At this time, the need to stay or not to stay the proceeding is the question. It should not be the objective of the commission to stay cases indefinitely or maintain them on the docket while monitoring the pending federal case. The present claim was filed on May 26, 1998 and certified to Public Hearing on May 27, 1999, a settlement conference was held on August 17, 1999, discovery shall commence on September 29, 1999, and the Public Hearing shall commence on January 11, 2000. These dates were previously ordered on July 9, 1999 by the Human Rights Referee, Lara Manzione, which incidentally was prior to Complainants filing their federal claim.
The commission was created primarily to decide cases of this kind and is fully capable of doing so. All parties should be able to resolve the matter as expeditiously as possible, which in this case would be to comply with the scheduling order already in place.
For all of the reasons set forth above, the Commission’s Motion to Stay Proceeding is DENIED.
SO ORDERED this ____ day of September, 1999, at Hartford, Connecticut.
Hon. Donna Maria Wilkerson
Presiding Human Rights Referee
c.: Attorney John Hamilton
635 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105-2999
Attorney Dennis Ciccarillo
P.O. Box 2950
New Britain, CT 06050-2950
David M. Teed, AAG
55 Elm St.
Hartford, CT 06106
Ray P. Pech, Deputy Commission Counsel
21 Grand St.
Hartford, CT 06106
21 Grand St.
Hartford, CT 06106