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Mixter v. Farmer

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

December 19, 2013

MARK T. MIXTER
v.
JAMES FARMER, ET AL.

Krauser, C.J., Matricciani, Moylan, Charles E., Jr., (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION

Matricciani, J.

Appellant filed a lawsuit against appellee James Farmer based on letters that Farmer sent to various lawyers regarding appellant's "unprofessional" conduct. In the complaint, appellant alleged defamation, libel, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He later filed amended complaints to add counts for tortious interference with contract and tortious interference with prospective advantage. Appellant also added appellee Charles Bowie as a party defendant. Appellees filed separate motions to dismiss. Both were denied. Appellees then filed separate motions for summary judgment and requests for a hearing. Following a hearing, on October 12, 2012, the trial court granted appellees' motions for summary judgment. This timely appeal followed.

Questions Presented

Appellant presents several questions, which we summarize below in two questions:

I. Whether the trial court erred in granting appellees' motions for summary judgment and holding that absolute judicial privilege and/or qualified privilege immunized appellees from the following claims: 1) defamation, libel, and slander; 2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; 3) interference with appellant's existing contracts; and 4) interference with appellant's prospective advantage?
II. Whether the trial court erred in holding that, absent any privilege, the appellees did not state a cognizable claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with appellant's existing contracts, or tortious interference with appellant's prospective advantage?

For the reasons that follow, we answer no to both questions and affirm.

Factual and Procedural History

To characterize Farmer and Mixter's relationship as acrimonious might be the understatement of the year. This court is sadly all too familiar with the antics of these litigants from a dispute a few years ago in the case of Smith v. Keener, Case No. 08-C-09-00896, in the Circuit Court for Charles County. In Smith, Farmer represented the plaintiff and appellant represented the defendant. While the case ultimately settled for a small amount of money, Farmer was so infuriated by Mixter's behavior that he sought sanctions against him. The trial court initially denied the motion for sanctions, but later granted it, only to be reversed by this court.

Thereafter, on August 12, 2010, Farmer sent twenty letters to various Maryland attorneys discussing appellant's "unprofessional behavior" in the Smith case, and seeking information about other lawyers' negative experiences with Mixter for a potential complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland (AGC). Mixter retaliated by filing a defamation suit against Farmer on November 24, 2011. Farmer then sent additional letters to other local attorneys and individuals, including to one of Mixter's clients, seeking more information for his complaint. Farmer filed a grievance against appellant with the AGC on December 27, 2011.

In his initial complaint against Farmer, appellant alleged defamation, libel, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. After Farmer sent the letter to appellant's client, Mixter filed an amended complaint which added counts for tortious interference with contract and tortious interference with prospective advantage. He filed a second amended complaint, which amended the first three counts of the complaint to note that Farmer made his defamatory statements intentionally, or with reckless disregard as to the statements' truth or falsity. Mixter then filed a third amended complaint against both appellees setting forth the same six counts. He added Bowie to the complaint because he believed that Bowie conspired with Farmer to send the letters. Appellees filed separate motions to dismiss, which were denied. Appellees then filed separate motions for summary judgment and requests for a hearing. On August 24, 2012, a hearing was held to consider appellees' motions. Thereafter, on October 12, 2012, the trial court granted appellees' motions for summary judgment. This timely appeal followed.

Discussion


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