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Artiga Carrero v. Farrelly

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 19, 2018

CHRISTOPHER FARRELLY, et al., Defendants.



         Mirna Rubidia Artiga Carrero (“Plaintiff”) filed a two-count complaint against Baltimore County Police Officer Christopher Farrelly in his individual capacity and against Baltimore County seeking declaratory relief and compensatory damages stemming from her alleged unlawful arrest in 2014. The Court previously disqualified Baltimore County Attorney James Nolan from representing Officer Farrelly going forward in this case, based on the apparent conflict of interest in his joint representation of Officer Farrelly and the County. Mr. Nolan subsequently filed a letter with the Court seeking bifurcation as a means to continue to represent Officer Farrelly. The Court construed this correspondence as a motion for reconsideration of its disqualification Order and denied it. Now pending before the Court is Baltimore County's Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's previous Order denying reconsideration of its disqualification Order. (Baltimore Cty.'s Mot. for Recons. of January 4, 2018 Mem. and Order, ECF No. 62.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         The currently pending Motion is the latest in a series of attempts by Baltimore County to have its in-house attorneys continue to represent both Officer Farrelly and the County despite the apparent conflict of interest in such joint representation. In its original Memorandum denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 33), the Court sua sponte raised concerns with this joint representation, suggesting that Mr. Nolan's ethical obligation to each of his clients would require that he assert a position (or positions) adverse to one (or both) of his clients at some point in these proceedings. Indeed, the Court was concerned that Mr. Nolan had already asserted a position on behalf of the County that was materially adverse to Officer Farrelly in his Motion to Dismiss. (Id. at 30.) The Court, however, granted Mr. Nolan an opportunity to show that he could continue to jointly represent Defendants, conflict free.

         Mr. Nolan filed a Motion cursorily dismissing the Court's concerns regarding the apparent conflict generated by his continued representation of Officer Farrelly and Baltimore County. (Christopher Farrelly and Baltimore Cty.'s Mot. Confirming Compliance with Rule 19-301.7 and Stating Why No. Conflict Exists, ECF No. 40.) Attached to the Motion were affidavits from Baltimore County and Officer Farrelly purporting to give informed consent to their continued joint representation in spite of the apparent conflict cited by the Court. (ECF No. 40-2.) The Court denied the Motion and disqualified Mr. Nolan from representing Officer Farrelly. (Order, ECF No. 48.) The Court found that Mr. Nolan had not addressed its “concerns with joint representation moving forward, ” and instead “focuse[d] exclusively on his previous arguments asserted in Defendants' motion to dismiss.” (Mem., ECF No. 47, at 5.) The Motion failed to “assuage the Court's concerns because [it] [wa]s entirely disconnected from the current posture of the case.” (Id.)

         The Court's primary concern, as expressed in its Memorandum disqualifying counsel, stemmed from Mr. Nolan's argument on behalf of the County regarding Officer Farrelly's training. Mr. Nolan has failed to address this specific concern in either his “bifurcation letter” or the currently pending Motion for Reconsideration. Given the significance of this issue, and the clear conflict that the Court is now convinced it presents, the Court's previous admonition bears repeating here:

[I]n the case's current posture, defense counsel may assert that Officer Farrelly was adequately trained and acted contrary to his training, thereby avoiding liability for the County, or he may assert that Officer Farrelly's training was inadequate, thereby shifting liability from the officer to the County, but he may not assert both positions. Moreover, and more troubling, by previously asserting that Officer Farrelly was adequately trained, counsel has arguably waived a defense that would otherwise be available to Officer Farrelly.

(ECF No. 47, at 7-8.) As will be explained infra, upon further consideration, the Court believes that there is an actual conflict based on Mr. Nolan's unequivocal assertion on behalf of the County that it had trained Officer Farrelly not to detain anyone solely on the basis of a civil immigration violation.

         Following the Court's disqualification Order, Mr. Nolan filed a two-page letter with the Court, “to discuss Officer Farrelly's representation going forward.” (Correspondence dated Dec. 7, 2017, ECF No. 53.) Mr. Nolan informed the Court that Officer Farrelly had “requested that [Mr. Nolan] continue to represent him in this matter.” (Id.) “To accommodate this request, [Mr. Nolan] . . . ask[ed] the Court to allow [him] to represent Officer Farrelly and to allow another attorney from []his office to represent Baltimore County.” (Id.) The Court generously construed the letter as a motion to reconsider its disqualification Order and denied it, because the “sole ground for reconsideration offered-potential bifurcation-d[id] not resolve the conflict identified by the Court.” (Mem. & Order, ECF No. 60.)

         Mr. Nolan subsequently filed another Motion, this time expressly seeking reconsideration of the Court's Order denying his informal request for bifurcation/reconsideration. That Motion is currently pending before the Court.

         II. Standard for Motion to Reconsider

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) governs reconsideration of orders that do not constitute final judgments in a case (i.e., interlocutory orders). That rule provides that “any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). “The precise standard governing a motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order is unclear.” Butler v. DirectSAT USA, LLC, 307 F.R.D. 445, 449 (D. Md. 2015). What is clear, is that such motions “are not subject to the strict standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of a final judgment” under Rules 59(e) and 60(b). Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 2003) (emphasis added). “Although the standards articulated in Rules 59(e) and 60(b) are not binding in an analysis of Rule 54(b) motions, courts frequently look to these standards for guidance in considering such motions.” Butler, 307 F.R.D. at 449 (citations omitted). Under Rule 59(e), a motion to amend a final judgment may be granted only “(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993). And under Rule 60(b), a court may grant relief from a final judgment or order for the following reasons: “(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud or misconduct by the opposing party; (4) voidness; (5) satisfaction; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.” Butler, 307 F.R.D. at 449 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)). Although there may be many valid reasons to reconsider an order, “a motion to reconsider is not a license to reargue the merits or present new evidence” that was previously available to the movant. Royal Ins. Co. of Am. v. Miles & Stockbridge, P.C., 142 F.Supp.2d 676, 677 n.1 (D. Md. 2001) (citing RGI, Inc. v. Unified Indus., Inc., 963 F.2d 658 (4th Cir. 1992)).

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Nolan asks that the Court reconsider its Order because bifurcation “was not the sole ground for reconsideration offered.” (ECF No. 62, ¶1.) He argues that the County (in a letter seeking bifurcation which failed to state any legal standard for bifurcation or reconsideration) offered an alternative basis for reconsideration because it stated that “[i]n all events, the County will pay any judgments entered against Officer Farrelly.” (ECF No. 53, at 2.) Mr. Nolan contends that this promise, combined with the County's position that Officer Farrelly acted within the scope of his employment, informed consent from Officer Farrelly and the County, and Officer Farrelly's ...

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