United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on the Motion to Lift Stay of
Proceedings [DE 32], and the Motion to Consolidate Cases No.
2:18-cv-20 and No. 2:18-cv-127 [DE 33] filed by the
plaintiffs, Surfrider Foundation and City of Chicago, on
March 29, 2019. For the following reasons, the Motion to Lift
Stay of Proceedings [DE 32] is DENIED without
prejudice, and the Motion to Consolidate Cases No.
2:18-cv-20 and No. 2:18-cv-127 [DE 33] is
plaintiffs, Surfrider Foundation and City of Chicago,
commenced two separate actions on January 17, 2018 and
January 24, 2018, respectively, against the defendant, United
States Steel Corporation, under § 505 of the Clean Water
Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. § 1365. Surfrider's citizen
suit has raised statutory claims for relief alleging that
U.S. Steel discharged pollutants in violation of § 301
of the CWA, 33 U.S.C. § 1311, and in violation of the
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
permits issued to U.S. Steel pursuant to § 402 of the
CWA, 33 U.S.C. § 1342. The City's citizen suit
includes the same claims and adds a sixth claim for
negligence. The court on March 1, 2018, consolidated the
plaintiffs' actions for discovery and for trial purposes.
April 2, 2018, the United States and the State of Indiana
(the Governments) initiated a separate but related action
against U.S. Steel, United States v. United States Steel
Corporation, No. 2:18-cv-127, (N.D. Ind. 2018). On April
2, 2018, the Governments lodged a proposed Consent Decree
that purported to resolve the Governments' claims against
U.S. Steel. The parties have indicated that the facts alleged
in the Governments' complaint and the instant matter
relate to the same factual issues and claims and allege
similar CWA violations by U.S. Steel. Therefore, the parties
filed a joint motion requesting that the court stay the
proceedings in the instant matter on April 4, 2018. This
matter was stayed on April 6, 2018.
plaintiffs filed a motion requesting the court to lift the
stay on July 13, 2018. U.S. Steel opposed the motion because
the legal and factual criteria for issuing the stay remained
satisfied and because the plaintiffs had moved to intervene
in the Governments' action. The court denied without
prejudice the plaintiffs' request to lift the stay on
December 6, 2018. (DE 31). The court held that if the motions
to intervene were granted the plaintiffs would have the
opportunity to participate directly in the Governments'
litigation, thereby eliminating any prejudice to the
plaintiffs in continuing the stay in the instant matter. (DE
31). Also, if the plaintiffs became parties to the
Governments' action it may bar some of the
plaintiffs' claims, thus narrowing the issues and
reducing the burden on the parties and the court in the
instant matter. (DE 31).
December 13, 2018, the plaintiffs were granted intervenor
status in the Governments' litigation and on December 27,
2018, the plaintiffs filed their Complaints-in-Intervention.
The plaintiffs have indicated that to bring the CWA
allegations at issue up-to-date and reflect more recent and
ongoing violations, both plaintiffs filed Amended
Complaints-in-Intervention on January 17, 2019. U.S. Steel
has filed motions to dismiss the Amended
Complaints-in-Intervention. Those motions are fully briefed
and remain pending. This matter and the Governments'
litigation were reassigned to Chief Judge Theresa L.
Springmann on May 1, 2019.
plaintiffs have moved to lift the stay and to consolidate
this matter with the Governments' litigation. U.S. Steel
filed a response in opposition on April 12, 2019, and the
plaintiffs filed a reply on April 19, 2019.
district court “has broad discretion to stay
proceedings as an incident to its power to control its own
docket.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706,
117 S.Ct. 1636, 1650, 137 L.Ed.2d 945 (1997) (citing
Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254, 57 S.Ct.
163, 165-66, 81 L.Ed. 153 (1936)). “The power to stay
proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every
court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket
with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and
for litigants.” Landis, 299 U.S. at 254. The
ability to lift a stay previously enforced is included in
Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) provides that “[i]f
actions before the court involve a common question of law or
fact, the court may: (1) join for hearing or trial any or all
matters at issue in the actions; (2) consolidate the actions;
or (3) issue any other orders to avoid unnecessary cost or
delay.” Consolidation itself serves “[t]he
primary purpose . . . to promote convenience and judicial
economy.” Miller v. Wolpoff & Ambramson,
LLP, 2007 WL 2473431, at *2 (N.D. Ind. 2007).
“District courts enjoy substantial discretion in
deciding whether and to what extent to consolidate
cases.” Hall v. Hall, 138 S.Ct. 1118, 1131
(2018). In turn, a district court's decision to
consolidate cases is subject to review “only for an
abuse of discretion.” Star Ins. Co. v. Risk
Marketing Group, Inc., 561 F.3d 656, 660 (7th Cir.
plaintiffs have argued that judicial economy is best served
by lifting the stay and consolidating this matter with the
Governments' litigation because the cases involve the
same core set of CWA violations by U.S. Steel and involve
similar questions of law and fact related to the violations.
The plaintiffs represent that their complaints raise
virtually all the same facts and central questions of law at
issue in the Governments' case. Thus, the plaintiffs have
argued that resolving these questions of law in one
proceeding would be most efficient.
Steel contends that lifting the stay and consolidating the
matters would be contrary to judicial economy and the
court's prior Opinion and Order. The court, in its
previous Opinion and Order, denied without prejudice the
plaintiffs' request to lift the stay because the pending
motions to intervene in the Governments' litigation had
an impact on this litigation. (DE 31). The court held that if
the plaintiffs were able to participate directly in the
Governments' litigation it would eliminate any prejudice
to the plaintiffs in continuing the stay in the instant
matter. (DE 31). Also, the court held that if the plaintiffs
were granted intervenor status in the Governments'
litigation it may bar some the plaintiffs' claims, and
thus narrow the issues and reduce the burden on the parties
and the court. (DE 31). On December 13, 2018, the plaintiffs
were granted intervenor status in the Governments'
litigation, which U.S. Steel indicates weighs in favor of
maintaining the stay.
Steel represents that a resolution of the Governments'
litigation by amended Consent Decree is expected in the near
future. Therefore, lifting the stay at this stage of the
proceedings would be counterproductive and contravene the
principles judicial economy. U.S. Steel asserts that the
resolution of the Governments' litigation will resolve
most, if not all, of the plaintiffs' claims. Thus, the
resolution of the Governments' case would determine how
the plaintiffs' case would proceed. Additionally, in the
Governments' response to the notice of motion to
consolidate, the Government indicated ...