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Cherry. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 22, 2016

ROBERT F. CHERRY, JR., et al. Plaintiffs
v.
MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: AMENDED COMPLAINT

          MARVIN J. GARBIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court has before it Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 215], Defendant Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City's ["the City's"] Motion to Abstain [ECF No. 225] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court has held a hearing and had the benefit of the arguments of counsel.

         I. SUMMARY BACKGROUND[1]

         In 1962, Baltimore City enacted the Fire and Police Employees' Retirement System of the City of Baltimore (the "Plan"), which provides defined benefits to its members and beneficiaries. In 2010, the City enacted Ordinance 10-306, that unilaterally modified the provisions of the Plan in several respects, effective July 1, 2010. Plaintiffs filed the First Amended and Restated Class Action Complaint for Declaratory, Injunctive, and Monetary Relief [ECF No. 5] (the "Amended Complaint") asserting[2] state-law contract claims and federal claims under the Contract and Takings clauses of the United States Constitution.

         The Court held that the City had violated Constitutional rights of certain union members[3] in violation of the Contract Clause. By agreement of the parties, the Court dismissed the Takings Clause claim as moot, dismissed the state-law contract claims without prejudice, and entered a final judgment subject to appeal. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the Contract Clause rights had not been impaired because the Plaintiffs retained a state-law remedy for breach of contract and that the Takings Clause Claim was no longer moot. Cherry, 762 F.3d at 373-74. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. Id. at 374. As to further proceedings, the appellate court stated:

The plaintiffs may attempt to refile in the district court their state law claims that were dismissed without prejudice, or they may initiate proceedings in state court alleging breach of contract under Maryland law. If the plaintiffs choose to pursue either of these two courses of action, the district court may wish to hold any proceedings regarding the Takings Clause claim in abeyance pending the resolution of related contractual issues.

Id. at 374, n.6.

         Plaintiffs seek to refile the state-law contract claims in federal court in the proffered Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"). Defendants seek to have the Court deny the motion or, alternatively, to abstain from deciding the state-law contract claims.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs may file the proffered SAC only with the City's consent or leave of Court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The City does not consent. However, "the court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Id.

         The City contends that amendment would be futile and that, in any event, the Court should exercise its discretion to deny the amendment.

         A. Futility

         The City asserts that amendment would be futile because the Court would lack jurisdiction over the state-law claims asserted therein due to the absence of any pending federal claim. According to the City, the Takings Clause claim will not be ripe until after the state-law claims are resolved and may be rendered moot by the resolution of the state-law claims.

         The City's position appears to be worthy of reasonable debate. If Plaintiffs prevail on the state-law claims - as would be the case if they had prevailed on the Contract Clause claims - it appears that they would obtain the relief they seek on their federal claims. The City contends that should Plaintiffs not prevail on their state-law contract claims, they would not have any rights that were subject to unconstitutional taking. However, it may be possible for ...


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