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Edokobi v. Toyota Motor Credit Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

May 24, 2019

EMMANUEL EDOKOBI, Plaintiff,
v.
TOYOTA MOTOR CREDIT CORP. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL W. GRIMM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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.

         A.

         There 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.

         B.

         I will 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).

         A Rule 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b).

         Mr. 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.

         My 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, [1] a 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)).

         Mr. 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. 38-2.

         Mr. 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.

         For these reasons, Mr. Edokobi's motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 38) is denied.

         C.

         There 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 ...


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