MICHAEL JOHNSON, JR.
TYRONE S. FRANCIS, et al.
Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 24-C-1000-1382
Reed, Fader, JJ.
consolidated appeal arises from appellant Michael Johnson,
Jr.'s attempts to execute on a judgment entered against
three Baltimore City police officers. Having previously been
unsuccessful in his effort to collect from the non-party City
of Baltimore, Mr. Johnson turned to the non-party Baltimore
Police Department (the "Department"). He first
issued interrogatories seeking detailed information about the
Department's assets. He then sought to obtain the same
information through depositions of the Department's
then-commissioner and then-chief fiscal officer. The Circuit
Court for Baltimore City entered protective orders as to all
of this discovery and quashed the subpoenas. Mr. Johnson
argues that the court erred in doing so.
affirm. The circuit court did not err in protecting the
Department from having to respond to interrogatories because
the Maryland Rules permit interrogatories to be issued only
to parties and the Department is not a party. The circuit
court also correctly quashed the subpoenas, which were not
reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of evidence
relevant to the enforcement of a judgment against the
litigation initiated in 2010, Mr. Johnson alleged that three
officers of the Department violated his rights by
"taking him from Baltimore in a police van, assaulting
him, breaking his phone, and then dropping him off in Howard
County in the rain, without shoes, socks or a way home."
Johnson I, 219 Md.App. at 537. After a 2013 trial, a
jury found the officers liable and awarded Mr. Johnson $500,
000 in damages, which we ultimately reduced to $247, 000 in
compensatory damages and $34, 000 in punitive damages.
Id. at 537, 560-61, 564. We further found that the
court did not abuse its discretion by upholding the
jury's award of punitive damages because of the
"overwhelming evidence to support a finding of malice on
the part of" two of the officers. Id. at 564.
We remanded the case for further proceedings, which
necessarily would include entering a new judgment against the
officers for the reduced amounts. Id.
any further proceedings in the trial court occurred on
remand, Mr. Johnson sought a writ of execution and a writ of
garnishment against the City of Baltimore. Johnson v.
Mayor & City Council of Balt., 233 Md.App. 43, 50
(2017) ("Johnson II"). At the City's
request, the trial court quashed the writs. Id. at
51. We affirmed, holding that (1) Mr. Johnson's
collection efforts were premature because no proceedings had
taken place on remand to enter the new judgment, as required
by Johnson I, and (2) Mr. Johnson could not collect
from the City, which was not responsible for a judgment
against officers of the Department. Id. at 54-56. We
noted in that opinion that if the Department failed to pay a
judgment for compensatory damages against its officers, the
Department would be "subject to an enforcement
action" by Mr. Johnson. Id. at 56 (citing
Balt. Police Dep't v. Cherkes, 140 Md.App. 282,
326 (2001)). To date, Mr. Johnson has not initiated such an
Johnson disagrees with our decision in Johnson II.
For the ostensible purpose of proving that our decision
denying his attempt to collect from the City was incorrect,
he initiated discovery designed to show that the Department
has no assets with which to satisfy the judgment authorized
in Johnson I. He first propounded interrogatories to
the Department, in its purported capacity as "Indemnitor
of the Defendants," requesting detailed information
about the Department's assets. The interrogatories did
not seek any information about any assets of, or obligations
owed to, the three officers. The Department sought a
protective order, which the circuit court granted on June 6,
2017. In a footnote, the court stated that its order
"shall not be construed to preclude the use of subpoenas
or other instruments of post-judgment discovery authorized by
the Maryland Rules to compel production of the information
Johnson moved for reconsideration. On June 22, 2017, the
circuit court denied that motion, observing that
"Maryland Rule 2-421(a) limits use of interrogatories to
parties" and that the Department is not a party. Mr.
Johnson filed a second motion for reconsideration on July 13,
which the court denied on August 16.
10, 2017, after the circuit court's denial of his first
motion for reconsideration regarding the interrogatories, Mr.
Johnson served a subpoena for deposition and production of
documents on the then-commissioner of the Department. The
schedule of documents to be produced sought detailed
information about the Department's assets. It did not
seek any information about any assets of, or obligations owed
to, the three officers. On August 16, in the same order in
which it denied Mr. Johnson's second motion for
reconsideration regarding the interrogatories, the circuit
court granted the commissioner's motion for protective
order and quashed the subpoena. The court held that although
the Department may be subject to an "enforcement
'action' pursuant to [the Local Government Tort
Claims Act]" and applicable case law, the subpoena to
the commissioner was not yet appropriate.
November 21, 2017, Mr. Johnson served on the Department's
then-chief of fiscal affairs a subpoena for deposition and
production of documents. The subpoena demanded production of
"[a]ny and all information consisting of documents or
otherwise pertaining to the property (assets) of the
Baltimore City Police Department," including without
limitation information regarding a specific bank account at
M&T Bank. As with the earlier discovery, the subpoena did
not seek any information about any assets of, or obligations
owed to, the three officers. The circuit court granted the
chief's motion to quash on January 19, 2018.
Johnson noted two separate appeals: (1) on September 14,
2017, the 29th day after the August 16 order; and (2) on
February 15, 2018, the 27th day after the January 19 order.
Neither notice of appeal identified any specific order or
judgment; both simply noted an appeal "in the above
We Review the Orders from Which Mr. Johnson Appealed
for Abuse of Discretion.
turning to the merits, we address two jurisdictional
issues. First, pursuant to the final judgment
rule, discovery orders are not ordinarily immediately
appealable. Addison v. State, 173 Md.App. 138, 156
(2007) ("[T]he Court of Appeals has been unswerving in
its position that discovery rulings (at least those which
affect only the parties to the action and do not compel
discovery from a high government official) may not be
appealed in advance of the entry of a final judgment.").
Under that rule, to be appealable, a "decision must be
'so final as to determine and conclude rights involved,
or deny the appellant means of further prosecuting or
defending his rights and interests in the subject matter of
the proceeding.'" Quillens v. Moore, 399
Md. 97, 115 (2007) (quoting Cant v. Bartlett, 292
Md. 611, 614 (1982)). The purpose of the final judgment rule
"is to combine in one review all stages of the
proceeding that effectively may be reviewed and corrected if
and when final judgment results." Ashcraft &
Gerel v. Shaw, 126 Md.App. 325 (1999) (quoting Sigma
Reprod. Health Ctr. v. State, 297 Md. 660, 668 (1983)).
Here, where a final judgment in the underlying dispute has
already been rendered, appealed, and affirmed, and nothing
else is pending, the issues resolved in these discovery
orders are the sole issues remaining to be decided in the
case (other than, perhaps, the need to enroll a new judgment
reflecting our prior ruling as discussed above in footnote
1). If Mr. Johnson is denied the discovery he seeks, it is
unclear what, if anything, would remain to be decided in the
case or how there would be any future opportunity for him to
appeal from these decisions. The final judgment rule thus
does not bar his appeals.
we must determine which orders are properly before us on
appeal. Rule 8-202(a) generally provides that an appeal must
"be filed within 30 days of the entry of the judgment or
order from which the appeal is taken." Rule 8-202(c)
provides for an exception that tolls the running of that
appeal period while the court considers certain motions,
including motions to alter or amend that are filed within ten
days of entry of the judgment or order "under Rule 2-534
and/or 2-535." Edery v. Edery, 213 Md.App. 369,
383 (2013). A motion for reconsideration filed more than ten
days, but within 30 days, after entry of a judgment or order
may still be considered by the trial court, pursuant to Rule
2-535, but it does not toll the running of the time to note
an appeal. Pickett v. Noba, Inc., 114 Md.App. 552,
557 (1997) ("If the motion [under Rule 2-535] is filed
within ten days of judgment, it stays the time for filing the
appeal; if it is filed more than ten days after judgment, it
does not stay the time for filing the appeal.").
Moreover, once a court has denied one motion for
reconsideration, the filing of additional such motions does
not toll the running of the time to note an appeal. Leese
v. Dep't of Labor, Licensing & Regulation, 115
Md.App. 442, 445 (1997).
Johnson filed his first motion for reconsideration within ten
days from the entry of the protective order relating to his
interrogatories. Pursuant to Rule 8-202(c), the filing of
that motion tolled the deadline for him to appeal from that
order. The court denied that first motion for reconsideration
in an order dated June 22 and entered on June 29. Mr.
Johnson's second motion for reconsideration did not
further toll the time to note a timely appeal. Leese,
115 Md.App. at 445. As a result, any appeal from the entry of
the protective order itself had to be filed by July
Mr. Johnson filed his first notice of appeal on September 14.
Thus, the only decision we have jurisdiction to review
relating to the interrogatories is the circuit court's
August 16 denial of his second motion for reconsideration,
which we review for abuse of discretion. See Miller v.
Mathias, 428 Md. 419, 438 (2012).
Johnson did timely appeal the court's orders quashing
both subpoenas. We also review those decisions "under an
abuse of discretion standard." Larocca v. Creig
Northrop Team, P.C., 217 Md.App. 536, 547 (2014),
rev'd in part on other grounds by Windesheim v.
Larocca, 443 Md. 312 (2015). An abuse of discretion
occurs "where no reasonable person would take the view
adopted by the [trial] court" or where the court acts
"without reference to any guiding rules or
principles." Powell v. Breslin, 430 Md. 52, 62
(2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Moreover, "where an order involves an interpretation and
application of Maryland statutory and case law," we must
determine whether the trial court's conclusions are
'legally correct' under a de novo standard
of review." Johnson II, 233 Md.App. at 53
(quoting Walter v. Gunter, 367 Md. 386, 392 (2002)).
The Circuit Court Did Not Err in Denying the Second
Motion for Reconsideration Because the Rules
Do Not Provide for Interrogatories to Non-parties.
Department was not a party to the underlying action and is
not a judgment debtor. Although Mr. Johnson concedes that he
would therefore not be permitted to propound interrogatories
to the Department under Rule 2-421(a)-which authorizes
service of interrogatories only if "directed to any
other party"-he contends that Rule 2-633(a) is not so
limited. The Department, by contrast, argues that
interrogatories in aid of enforcement are also limited to
parties under Rule 2-633. The Department is correct.
2-421 authorizes the use of interrogatories as a mechanism to
obtain discovery in civil litigation. The Rule establishes in
some detail rules for the issuance of and response to such
interrogatories, including: (1) interrogatories may only be
served by one party on another party; (2) interrogatories may
be served in one or multiple sets; (3) absent leave of court,
one party may not require another to answer more than 30
interrogatories in total; (4) each question must be counted
as a separate interrogatory, no matter how "grouped,
combined, or arranged"; (5) the party to whom
interrogatories are directed must serve a response within the
later of 30 days from service or 15 days from its initial
pleading deadline; (6) the response must be under oath; (7)
the response must either separately and fully answer each
interrogatory or "state fully the grounds for refusal to
answer any interrogatory"; (8) the response must set
forth each interrogatory and answer separately; (9) the
response must "include all information available to the
party directly or through agents, representatives, or
attorneys"; (10) the response must be signed by the