United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Companies Pension Plan brought this ERISA interpleader action
to resolve who is entitled to deceased Plan participant Frank
Laenen's benefits. Frank's first wife, Beth A.
Laenen, claims that she is entitled to one-half of
Frank's Plan benefits under the terms of a qualified
domestic relations order (QDRO) entered March 16, 2015 in
Missouri state court. Frank's second wife, Jennifer R.
Laenen, contends that Beth is entitled to no Plan benefits.
After briefing by the parties, I found that the Franklin
County Circuit Court's Order entered March 16, 2015, does
not qualify as a QDRO under ERISA. Based on the court's
ruling, Jennifer Laenen seeks summary judgment in her favor.
However, on April 4, 2017, Beth Laenen filed a motion in
state court to modify or amend the Franklin County March 2015
Order. Beth seeks a stay in this case pending resolution of
her state-court motion, and for an order from the court that
the Plan continue its “hold” on the disputed
benefits until this case is resolved. Jennifer opposes a stay
of this action. In the interests of judicial economy and
under the court's discretionary power to control its own
docket, I will stay this case.
to the Supreme Court, “district courts …
ordinarily have authority to issue stays, where such a stay
would be a proper exercise of discretion.” Ryan v.
Gonzales, 133 S.Ct. 696, 708 (2013) (quoting Rhines
v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 276 (2005)). A district
court's broad discretion to stay proceedings is
incidental to its power to control its own docket in
consideration of the “economy of time and effort for
itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v.
N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). See also
Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706-07 (1997);
Enelow v. N.Y. Life Ins. Co., 293 U.S. 379, 381-82
(1935), overruled on different grounds by Gulfstream
Aerospace Corp. v. Mayacamas Corp., 485 U.S. 271 (1988)
(explaining that a court may stay a case “pending
before it by virtue of its inherent power to control the
progress of the cause so as to maintain the orderly processes
scope of a court's discretion to grant a stay in a
declaratory judgment action depends on whether a
“parallel” state court action is pending.
Lexington Ins. Co. v. Integrity Land Title Co.,
Inc., 721 F.3d 958, 967 (8th Cir. 2013) (citing
Scottsdale Ins. Co. v. Detco Indus., Inc., 426 F.3d
994, 999 (8th Cir. 2005)). When there is no parallel state
action pending, the district court's discretion to stay
is less broad and should be exercised according to the
factors adopted by the Eighth Circuit:
(1) whether the declaratory judgment sought “will serve
a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal
relations in issue”;
(2) whether the declaratory judgment “will terminate
and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and
controversy giving rise to the [federal] proceeding”;
(3) “the strength of the state's interest in having
the issues raised in the federal declaratory judgment action
decided in the state courts”;
(4) “whether the issues raised in the federal action
can more efficiently be resolved in the court in which the
state action is pending”;
(5) “whether permitting the federal action to go
forward would result in unnecessary ‘entanglement'
between the federal and state court systems, because of the
presence of ‘overlapping issues of fact or law'
(6) “whether the declaratory judgment action is being
used merely as a device for ‘procedural fencing' -
that is, ‘to provide another forum in a race for res
judicata' or ‘achiev[e] a federal hearing in a case
otherwise not removable.”
Lexington, 721 F.3d at 968 (quoting
Scottsdale, 426 F.3d at 998).
and Beth dispute whether the state court proceeding is a
“parallel” proceeding to this case. I need not
decide this issue because even under the narrower
discretionary standard of Scottsdale, I find that
this action should be stayed.
March 2015 Order contains a provision stating that the
Franklin County Circuit Court “shall retain
jurisdiction with respect to this Order to the extent
required to maintain its qualified status and the original
intent of the parties as stipulated herein.” ECF No.
9-8, ¶ 14. In addition, Missouri statute specifically
allows modification of “orders intended to be qualified
domestic relations orders … for the ...