United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
JESSICA ROBINSON, on behalf of herself, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
JACKSON HEWITT, INC., JACKSON HEWITT TAX SERVICE INC., and TAX SERVICES OF AMERICA, INC., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the Court on four motions pending before
the Court in the above-captioned case, including:
• Motion for Reassignment and Consolidation,
filed on January 29, 2019, (hereinafter "Motion to
Consolidate"), ECF No. 6;
• Motion for Entry of Case Management Order, filed
jointly by Plaintiff and the plaintiffs in the Related Cases
on January 30, 2019, (hereinafter "Motion for Case
Management Order"), ECF No. 8;
• Motion to Transfer Case ("Motion to
Transfer"), filed by defendants Jackson Hewitt, Inc.,
Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc., and Tax Services of America,
Inc. (collectively, "Defendants") on February 12,
2019, ECF No. 12; and • Defendants' Motion to Stay
Case Pending Resolution of Motion to Transfer filed on
February 15, 2019, (hereinafter "Motion to Stay"),
ECF No. 18.
OVERVIEW OF PENDING MOTIONS
summary of the status of these four motions follows.
Plaintiffs Motion to Consolidate and Motion for Case
Management Order are fully briefed and ripe for decision.
Defendants' Motion to Transfer is not yet ripe, but it is
due to be fully briefed by March 4, 2019. On February 19,
2019, Plaintiff filed an expedited response to
Defendants' Motion to Stay. ECF No. 20.
consideration of the foregoing, and upon review of the
pending motions, it appears to the Court that Defendants may
have a valid basis on which to request transfer of this case
to the United States District Court for the District of New
Jersey. ECF No. 12. As such, the Court finds that it is in
the interest of justice and the fair administration thereof
to resolve the pending Motion to Transfer before ruling on
other pending motions in this case. Indeed, the Court
declines to resolve any pending case-management issues when
it is not yet clear whether this Court will ultimately decide
the substantive issues of the case. Therefore, the Court
finds that it is in the interest of justice to set the Motion
for Transfer for prompt hearing as directed below. With this
finding, the only remaining issue is whether the Court should
stay the entire action pending resolution of the Motion for
Transfer as Defendants request in their Motion to Stay. The
Court turns to this question below.
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STAY
their Motion to Stay, Defendants seek a brief stay of this
action pending resolution of the Motion to Transfer. ECF No.
18. In support, Defendants advise that they intend to file
motion(s) to dismiss in this case by the deadline of March 1,
2019, which is well before the pending Motion to Transfer is
likely to be resolved. Defendants therefore argue that,
without a stay, the parties will have to engage in costly and
possibly wasteful litigation efforts if this case is
ultimately transferred to the District of New Jersey. In
response, Plaintiff opposes the requested stay, arguing that
Defendants - whose responsive pleading deadline has already
been extended by agreement of Plaintiff- should not be able
to further delay this litigation based on briefing-schedule
hardships that are of Defendants' own making. Opp. Br.,
ECF No. 20, at 6-7.
district court has broad discretion to stay proceedings as
part of its inherent power to control its own docket.
Landis v. North American. 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936).
In determining whether to grant a stay, the district judge
must "weigh competing interests," Id. at
255, and "balance the various factors relevant to the
expeditious and comprehensive disposition of the causes of
action on the court's docket," United States v.
Georgia Pac. Corp., 562 F.2d 294, 296 (4th Cir. 1977).
These factors include "(1) the interests of judicial
economy; (2) hardship and equity to the moving party if the
action is not stayed; [and, ] (3) potential prejudice to the
non-moving party." Gibbs v. Plain Green. LLC.
331 F.Supp.3d 518, 525 (E.D. Va. 2018) (citation omitted).
Finally, "[t]he party seeking a stay must justify it by
clear and convincing circumstances outweighing potential harm
to the party against whom it is operative." Id.
applying the relevant factors to this case, the Court finds
that a stay pending resolution of Defendants' Motion to
Transfer is justified. First, the requested stay will be
relatively brief- less than 60 days - because the Motion to
Transfer will be ripe for this Court's decision no later
than March 29, 2019, as set forth below. Therefore, the
resulting delay and potential prejudice to Plaintiff, who
alleges "ongoing harm" in this case, is minimal.
when weighing the relatively brief delay against the
possibility of duplicitous and costly litigation efforts, a
stay is justified. If Defendants file a motion to dismiss by
March 1, 2019, as currently scheduled, the parties will have
to engage in extensive briefing in this Court while the
Motion to Transfer is still pending. But if this case is
ultimately transferred to the United States District Court
for the District of New Jersey, which must resolve the
substantive issues of the case in accord with Third Circuit
rather than Fourth Circuit precedent, much of the
parties' briefing on the motion to dismiss would likely
be wasted and supplemental briefing would likely ...