United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GRIMM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Emmanuel Edokobi has filed a motion demanding that I
reconsider my decision denying his request to reply to
Defendants' amended answers. Mot. for Recons., ECF No.
38. His motion - which warns that he will file additional
civil cases against me, should I decline to grant the relief
he seeks - asserts that my April 23, 2019 decision violated
his constitutional rights and proved once more that I am
biased against him. See Id. at 2.
are several points I intend to make in this Order, and I will
begin with one I already have made twice before. See
Mar. 20, 2019 Ltr. Order, ECF No. 29; Apr. 23, 2019 Ltr.
Order, ECF No. 37. To put it as simply as possible, this
Court has a pre-motion procedure that is followed in all
cases assigned to me. The central directive, which Mr.
Edokobi repeatedly has ignored, is as follows: “Any
party wishing to file a motion first will serve on all
parties and file with the Court a letter (not to exceed three
pages, single spaced) containing a brief description of the
planned motion and a concise summary of the factual and legal
support for it.” ECF No. 6. This procedure serves
several functions. In particular, as the letter order
establishing the procedure explains, it gives me the
opportunity “to schedule an expedited telephone
conference (usually within a week) to discuss the requested
motion and to determine whether the issues may be resolved or
otherwise addressed without the need for formal
briefing.” Id. Mr. Edokobi, in filing his
motion for reconsideration, once again has failed to comply
with the procedure - despite a warning that his continued
noncompliance “may subject him to sanctions for
contempt.” Apr. 23, 2019 Ltr. Order. If Mr. Edokobi
continues to disregard the orders of this Court regarding
procedures that must be followed, any filing of his that
violates such orders will be stricken from the docket.
address next the substance of Mr. Edokobi's motion for
reconsideration. Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure governs motions to reconsider an interlocutory
order. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) (providing that
interlocutory orders “may be revised at any time before
the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all
the parties' rights and liabilities”). The Fourth
Circuit has not stated a standard for review of a Rule 54(b)
motion, but it has said that, “generally at least, a
review of an interlocutory order under Rule 54 is not subject
to the restrictive standards of motions for reconsideration
of final judgments under Rule 60.” Fayetteville
Inv'rs v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462,
1472 (4th Cir. 1991); see also Am. Canoe Ass'n v.
Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 2003).
Nor is the standard for Rule 59(e) binding on review under
Rule 54. See Am. Canoe Ass'n, 326 F.3d at 514;
Cezair v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., No.
DKC-13-2928, 2014 WL 4955535, at *1 (D. Md. Sept. 30, 2014).
Nonetheless, “courts frequently look to these standards
for guidance in considering such motions.”
Cezair, 2014 WL 4955535, at *1; see also Peters
v. City of Mt. Rainier, No. GJH-14-955, 2014 WL 4855032,
at *3 n.1 (D. Md. Sept. 29, 2014) (looking to Rule 60(b)
standard); Harper v. Anchor Packing Co., No.
GLR-12-460, 2014 WL 3828387, at *1 (D. Md. Aug. 1, 2014)
(looking to Rule 59(e) standard).
59(e) motion “need not be granted unless the district
court finds that there has been an intervening change of
controlling law, that new evidence has become available, or
that there is a need to correct a clear error [of law] or
prevent manifest injustice.” Robinson v. Wix
Filtration Corp. LLC, 599 F.3d 403, 411 (4th Cir. 2010);
see also Mayfield v. Nat'l Ass'n for Stock Car
Auto Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012).
Rule 60(b) provides overlapping, but broader, bases for
relief from a court order, including that there has been
“mistake, inadvertence, surprise, . . . excusable
neglect[, ] . . . newly discovered evidence[, ] . . . fraud .
. ., misrepresentation, or misconduct”; that “the
judgment is void” or “has been satisfied”;
or “any other reason that justifies relief.”
Edokobi has not demonstrated that any of these circumstances
apply here. His motion asserts, without support, that my
ruling on his motion for leave to reply to the
Defendants' amended answers violated his constitutional
and legal rights. See Mot. for Recons. Nowhere,
though, does he specifically identify any errors of law in my
order. Nor could he, as my ruling was entirely consistent
with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and therefore
violated no “right” of Mr. Edokobi's, whether
constitutional or procedural.
April 23, 2019 letter order explained why a reply was
unwarranted under the circumstances of this case. To
summarize, “[t]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
limit the pleadings allowed in a federal case.”
Hoff v. Nicolaus, No. 11-3601, 2012 WL 1965456, at
*2 (D. Md. 2012). Under Rule 7(a), a party may file a reply
to an answer only “if the court orders one.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(a); see United States v. Clayton, 465
B.R. 72, 81 (M.D. N.C. 2011); Garner v. Morales, 237
F.R.D. 399, 400 (S.D. Tex. 2006). Generally, unless a
defendant's answer includes a counterclaim,
reply will be unnecessary because the Federal Rules require
courts to treat allegations raised in an answer as though
they had been denied. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6).
In other words, an answer that is not accompanied by a
counterclaim (as is the case here) alleges no claims against
Mr. Edokobi that require a response. And, as the above cited
cases make clear, any allegations contained in the answers to
which Mr. Edokobi wants to respond are treated as if they had
been denied. See Uhde v. Bitsky, No. 03-C-323-C,
2003 WL 23315778, at *1 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 24, 2003)
(“Fed. R. Civ. P. 7(a) forbids a plaintiff to submit a
reply to an answer unless the court directs a reply to be
filed. No. such order has been made in this case. Plaintiff
should be aware, however, that he is not prejudiced by Rule
7(a). Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) provides that a party is deemed to
deny averments in pleadings to which a response is not
allowed. Therefore, although plaintiff is not permitted to
respond to defendants' answer, the court considers that
he has denied the factual statements and affirmative defenses
raised in that answer.”). Moreover, as my letter order
also explained, a reply to a defendant's answer is
unlikely to be of value because any factual inaccuracies that
may be contained in an answer are better addressed through
the pretrial discovery process. See Apr. 23, 2019
Ltr. Order (citing Johnson v. Balt. City Police
Dep't, No. WDQ-12-646, 2013 WL 1833021, at *3 (D.
Md. Apr. 30, 2013)).
Edokobi's sense of aggrievement appears to derive from
his mistaken belief that other judges in this Court have
granted him the opportunity to file a reply to a
defendant's answer, whereas I have not. By way of
example, on page two of his motion for reconsideration, he
contrasts my order with orders issued in another case he has
filed in this court, Edokobi v. U.S. Department of
Justice, No. TDC-17-3639. To prove his point, Mr.
Edokobi has attached these orders as exhibits to his motion.
The first is an April 1, 2019 order in which Judge Chuang
authorized Mr. Edokobi to file a response to the
defendants' motion to dismiss. See ECF
No. 38-1. The second is an April 11, 2019 letter from the
Clerk of the Court which similarly notified Mr. Edokobi that
he has a “right” to file a response to the
defendants' motion to dismiss (or,
alternatively, for summary judgment). See ECF No.
Edokobi is mistaken, and his arguments are without merit.
While Judge Chuang's orders in Edokobi v. U.S.
Department of Justice each authorized him to file a
“response” to a defense filing, that filing was a
motion, not an answer, and Mr. Edokobi has overlooked the
critical difference between the two. A motion is a request
for the court to issue an order, and it must state with
particularity the grounds for the order, as well as the
specific relief sought. Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(b)(1). Thus, by its
very nature, a defense motion asks the court to
issue an order that may affect the plaintiff's rights,
and for that very reason the Local Rules of this Court
recognize that the party against whom a motion was filed will
have an opportunity to respond to the motion “[u]nless
otherwise ordered by the Court.” Loc. R. 105.2.a. In
sharp contrast, as explained above, a defendant's
answer to a plaintiff's complaint is a pleading
- not a motion. And where it asserts no counterclaim, it is
not a filing requiring a reply. That is exactly why the rules
do not permit one unless the court, exercising its
discretion, orders one to be filed. I have already explained
why permitting a reply to the defendant's answer was not
warranted in this case, and why Mr. Edokobi was not entitled
to the relief that he sought.
these reasons, Mr. Edokobi's motion for reconsideration
(ECF No. 38) is denied.
is another point that must be addressed here. It concerns Mr.
Edokobi's threats to sue me (again) if I refuse to grant
his motion, as I now have done. Over the past few weeks, Mr.
Edokobi's filings in this case have included several such
threats. The first ...