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Bratton-Bey v. Straughan

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 2, 2015



DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this civil rights case is a motion filed by pro se Plaintiff Moadiah Elam Bratton-Bey[1] for reconsideration and for leave to submit an amended complaint. (ECF No. 25). The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

I. Background[2]

Plaintiff commenced this action in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County on April 8, 2013, against Officers Casey Diaz and Jason Straughan ("Defendants"), claiming numerous violations of the United States Constitution, Maryland Declaration of Rights, and state tort law stemming from an alleged false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. (ECF No. 2). The case was removed to this court on July 8, 2013. (ECF No. 1). By memorandum opinion and order, the undersigned granted Defendants' motion to dismiss and dismissed Plaintiff's complaint on January 31, 2014, finding his federal and state constitutional claims, and state common law claims to be barred by the statute of limitations. The remaining claim for malicious prosecution was dismissed for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 23). On February 28, 2014, Plaintiff moved for reconsideration and for leave to file an amended complaint. (ECF No. 25).[3] The motion is fully briefed. (ECF Nos. 26 and 33).

II. Analysis

A. Motion to Amend

1. Malicious Prosecution Claim

Plaintiff has moved for reconsideration of the dismissal of his malicious prosecution claim, citing Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). Plaintiff has also moved under Rule 15 for leave to amend his complaint to add facts in support of his claim for malicious prosecution. (ECF No. 25).

In Katyle v. Penn Nat'l. Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 470 (4th Cir. 2011), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit explained that a district court may not grant a post-judgment motion to amend the complaint unless the court first vacates its judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) or 60(b). See also Calvary Christian Ctr. v. City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, 710 F.3d 536, 539 (4th Cir. 2013). The Fourth Circuit further stated that "[t]o determine whether vacatur is warranted, [ ] the court need not concern itself with either of those rules' legal standards[;]" rather:

[t]he court need only ask whether the amendment should be granted, just as it would on a prejudgment motion to amend pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). In other words, a court should evaluate a post judgment motion to amend the complaint "under the same legal standard as a similar motion filed before judgment was entered-for prejudice, bad faith, or futility." [ Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 427 (4th Cir. 2006)]; accord Matrix Capital Mgmt. Fund, LP v. Bearingpoint, Inc., 576 F.3d 172, 193 (4th Cir. 2009).

Katyle, 637 F.3d at 471; United States v. Shabazz, 509 F.Appx. 265, 266 (4th Cir. 2013) (same). Accordingly, a reviewing court must determine that a Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint should be granted under Rule 15, before considering a motion for reconsideration. See Shabazz, 509 F.Appx. at 266 (holding that the failure of the district court to examine whether the amended complaint would be prejudicial, futile, or in bad faith before examining the motion for reconsideration was an abuse of discretion). Therefore, Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint to add allegations in support of his malicious prosecution claim will be considered first.

Rule 15(a) provides that courts "should freely give leave [to amend a pleading] when justice so requires." The Fourth Circuit has interpreted this rule as requiring courts to grant leave to amend unless "the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would be futile." Harvey, 484 F.3d at 426-27 ( citing Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986)). A proposed amendment is futile if it fails to state a claim under the applicable rules and accompanying standards. See United States ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 376 (4th Cir. 2008) ("[A] district court may deny leave if amending the complaint would be futile - that is, if the proposed amended complaint fails to satisfy the requirements of the federal rules.") (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiff's proposed amendments to his complaint are futile because they fail to cure the defects in his original complaint. In the January 31, 2014 opinion and order, dismissing Plaintiff's complaint, the undersigned found that the facts alleged failed to plead a claim for malicious prosecution. Malicious prosecution claims require a plaintiff to prove: "(1) a criminal proceeding instituted or continued by the defendant against the plaintiff; (2) without probable cause; (3) with malice, or with a motive other than to bring the offender to justice; and (4) termination of the proceedings in favor of the plaintiff." (ECF No. 23, at 17) ( quoting Heron v. Strader, 361 Md. 258, 264 (2000)). Specifically, the undersigned noted that Plaintiff's claim failed because his conviction in the Montgomery County Circuit Court created a presumption that probable cause existed for his prosecution. The undersigned noted that the presumption of probable cause remains, despite the fact that Plaintiff's conviction was later reversed by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, unless Plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction was obtained through fraud, perjury, or other corrupt means, which he failed to do. Zablonsky v. Perkins, 230 Md. 365, 368-69 (1963) ( quoting Restatement (First) of Torts ยง 667 (1938)).

Plaintiff contends that he demonstrated fraud, perjury, or other corrupt means in his original complaint by alleging that Defendants, his arresting officers, fabricated his seatbelt violation to initiate a traffic stop. (ECF No. 25, at 10). In addition, Plaintiff moves to amend his complaint to add facts supporting his assertion that Defendants fabricated evidence, which he believes will plead a plausible claim for malicious prosecution because the fabrication establishes fraud, perjury, or corruption undermining the probable cause for his conviction.[4] Defendants argue that Plaintiff's motion is futile because: it fails to allege new facts that were not already in his ...

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