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Hodges v. Mayor & City Council of Annapolis

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 5, 2017




         Plaintiff Daniel Hodges brought this civil action against several Maryland-based municipal and law enforcement entities and employees alleging violation of his First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, as enforced under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as Articles 22, 24, and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. See Pl.'s First Am. Compl., [ECF No. 28]. Mr. Hodges also asserts that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. Id. Now pending is Mr. Hodges's Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint (“Motion to Amend”), [ECF No. 74], and Defendant Anne Arundel County Police Department Corporal Jeffery Rothenbecker's (“Defendant Rothenbecker's”) Opposition thereto, [ECF No. 76]. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set forth herein, Mr. Hodges's Motion to Amend will be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Hodges originally initiated this suit against the Mayor and City Council of Annapolis, Maryland, Annapolis Police Department (“APD”) Chief Michael Pristoop, APD Officer Gregory Fabela, APD Officer Alfred Thomas, APD Officer Andrew Ascione, and unknown officers of the APD. See [ECF No. 1]. The underlying factual allegations revolve around a series of traffic stops. In his First Amended Complaint, Mr. Hodges added unknown officers of the Anne Arundel County Police Department (“AACPD”), the Anne Arundel County Council, and AACPD Chief Timothy Altomare (“Chief Altomare”) as defendants. See [ECF No. 28]. In an August 3, 2016 Memorandum Opinion (“Memorandum Opinion”), I dismissed all claims against Anne Arundel County Council and Chief Altomare. See [ECF No. 42]. Following that dismissal, on August 17, 2016, Mr. Hodges was granted leave to file a Second Amended Complaint by consent, which joined APD Officer Gwynne Tavel and Defendant Rothenbecker, and eliminated all unknown defendant officers. See [ECF No. 46]. On the basis of “new information gleaned through discovery and through the expert report [of Steven D. Nicely, ]” Mr. Hodges now seeks to amend his complaint a third time in order to rejoin unknown officers of the APD, unknown officers of the AACPD, “Anne Arundel County Council a/k/a Anne Arundel County Government, ” and Chief Altomare. Pl.'s Mot., [ECF No. 74, 1 & Ex. 1]. In addition, Mr. Hodges raises new factual allegations regarding “poor training and supervision” by Anne Arundel County[1] and Chief Altomare over the K-9 unit involved in one of the traffic stops. Id. Defendant Rothenbecker objects to the Third Amended Complaint, citing prejudice and futility. See Def.'s Opp., [ECF No. 76].


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 provides that a party seeking to amend its pleading after twenty-one days following service may do so “only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B). Furthermore, the Rule requires courts to “freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Fourth Circuit has liberally construed this standard, such that leave to amend should be denied only if prejudice, bad faith, or futility is present. See Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986) (interpreting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962)); Hart v. Hanover Cnty. Sch. Bd., 495 F. App'x 314, 315 (4th Cir. 2012).

         Nonetheless, “[u]nder Rule 15(a), the district court has ‘broad discretion concerning motions to amend pleadings[.]' … A district court may deny a motion to amend for reasons ‘such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment or futility of the amendment.'” Griaznov v. J-K Technologies, LLC, 2017 WL 915000 at *3 (D. Md. Mar. 8, 2017) (citing Booth v. Maryland, 337 Fed. App'x 301, 312 (4th Cir. 2009) (per curiam) (quoting Foman, 371 U.S. at 182)).


         a. Prejudice

         Mr. Hodges argues that his Motion to Amend timely follows the acquisition of “new information gleaned through discovery and through [Mr. Nicely's] expert report[.]” Pl.'s Mot., [ECF No. 74, 1]. According to Mr. Hodges, defendants will not be prejudiced by the proposed addition of Anne Arundel County and Chief Altomare because “there has been an attorney directly employed by Anne Arundel County involved in this case [since Mr. Hodges first added Anne Arundel County Council as a defendant in August 2016;] and the County has participated in discovery all along during the representation of [Defendant] Rothenbecker[;] … [and] [t]here is a near or total identity (sic) of interest between [Defendant] Rothenbecker and Anne Arundel County in this case.” Id. at 2-3. See [ECF No. 28]. Consequently, Mr. Hodges avers that the discovery issues raised by the Motion to Amend are limited to the “negligent or deliberately indifferent training and supervision” claim against Anne Arundel County and expert depositions. Id. at 2-3.

         Defendant Rothenbecker objects that Mr. Hodges's Motion to Amend is prejudicial in its untimeliness - “filed exactly 100 days after the deadline the Court provided in its order” and without adequate explanation for the delay. Def.'s Opp., [ECF No. 76, 2]. Defendant Rothenbecker notes that discovery is now closed, [2] and blames Mr. Hodges's dilatory approach to discovery, including delay in generating the expert report upon which the Motion to Amend rests, for the very tardiness Mr. Hodges now asks the Court to excuse in order to grant the subject Motion. Id. at 3. Moreover, Defendant Rothenbecker contends that permitting Mr. Hodges to rejoin Anne Arundel County Council and AACPD Chief Timothy Altomare “and include a totally different cause of action at this point is beyond prejudicial particularly when [these parties] were [previously] dismissed at the inception of this action.” Id. Defendant Rothenbecker further insists that, “contrary to [Mr. Hodges's] contention, the mere representation of one party by the undersigned does not justify the assumption that any further party or other theory of recover (sic) can be added without prejudice.” Id.

         Mr. Hodges's Motion to Amend is undeniably untimely, coming seven months after the proposed defendants were dismissed from litigation, well beyond the deadline for amendment set in the scheduling order, and near the close of discovery. See [ECF Nos. 58, 68]. That the Motion's tardiness is largely, if not wholly, a product of Mr. Hodges's earlier failure to abide by the Rule 26(a)(2) disclosure deadline makes this conduct worse. See [ECF No. 68]. However, “[t]he Fourth Circuit has held … that delay alone is not sufficient reason to deny leave to amend. The delay must be accompanied by prejudice, bad faith, or futility.” Johnson, 785 F.2d at 509-10 (citations omitted); Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 242 (4th Cir. 1999) (same).

         Here, there are several ways Defendant Rothenbecker would be prejudiced if the Motion to Amend is granted. First, Mr. Hodges seeks to introduce a new legal theory which requires gathering and analyzing facts relating to the training and supervision of AACPD K-9 units generally, and the team comprised of Defendant Rothenbecker and “Rocky” the dog (“Rocky”) in particular. However, the fact that Defendant Rothenbecker and his co-defendants are custodians of the relevant documents and information relating to this issue, and that the claim is not being raised on the eve of or during trial, mitigates the amendment's prejudicial impact. See Johnson, 785 F.2d at 510 (“[P]rejudice can result where a proposed amendment raises a new legal theory that would require the gathering and analysis of facts not already considered by the opposing party [and] … the amendment is offered shortly before or during trial.”) (citations omitted). Second, as discovery is now closed, the timing of Mr. Hodges's Motion deprives Defendant Rothenbecker and proposed defendants of the opportunity to properly question Mr. Nicely about his statements regarding the allegedly poor training and supervision of the subject K-9 unit. Redeposing Mr. Nicely would be both financially burdensome and unauthorized by the court's scheduling order. Third, given that the parties' motions for summary judgment have been filed, see [ECF Nos. 77, 78, 79], and will soon be ripe for review, granting Mr. Hodges's Motion to Amend would obligate the parties to re-brief their motions for summary judgment and would delay progress in this case. Lastly, I am not persuaded that involvement of an Anne Arundel County Law Office Attorney since the time of Mr. Hodges's First Amended Complaint ...

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