United States District Court, D. Maryland
ALTON W. SMITH, Plaintiff,
STATE OF MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.
RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Alton W. Smith ("Smith") brought this lawsuit
against Baltimore City Community College ("BCCC"),
the State of Maryland, and three Individual Defendants: Tonja
L. Ringgold ("Ringgold"), Enyinnaya Iweha
("Iweha"), and Cynthia Webb ("Webb"),
alleging that the termination from his position as an
associate professor at BCCC was a breach of his teaching
contract and in violation of his federal and state due
process rights. (Compl., ECF No. 2.) Smith alleged seven
causes of action against Defendants including breach of
contract (Count I), interference with economic relationship
(Counts II-V), and federal, and state due process claims
(Counts VI and VII). On April 4, 2018, this Court granted
Summary Judgmentin favor of the Defendants on all
Smith's claims except Count VI, his federal due process
claim against the Individual Defendants, and Count VII, the
state due process claim against all Defendants. (See
Mem. Order 32, ECF No. 29.)
pending before this Court is Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 51) on the remaining two claims,
Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 57) of the
initial summary judgment decision on Counts I to V, and
Plaintiffs Motion to File Corrected Exhibit (ECF No. 58). The
parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For
the reasons that follow, this Court shall GRANT
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 51) and
Plaintiffs Motion to File Corrected Exhibit (ECF No. 58) and
shall DENY Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No.
brief,  Smith was an associate professor at
Baltimore City Community College ("BCCC") from 2005
until he was terminated from his teaching position in 2016.
(See Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 2.) Smith filed his
Complaint on August 23, 2017 in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City, and the case was removed to this Court on
October 18, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) Smith alleged that the
termination was not only a breach of his contract, but that
his due process rights were violated, and that the Individual
Defendants conspired and interfered with his economic
relationship with BCCC. Defendants asserted that Smith's
termination was legitimate because he failed to meet the
standards necessary to remain an associate professor,
including carrying a semester teaching load of 15 Teaching
Assignment Units ("TAUs"). Defendants filed a
Motion to Dismiss or, In the Alternative for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 18), to which Smith responded with a Cross Motion
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21). This Court considered the
documents and affidavits filed outside the pleadings and
treated the motions as motions for summary judgment.
decision denying Smith's summary judgment motion and
partially granting Defendants' summary judgment motion,
this Court held that the various personnel decisions were
authorized and made within the scope of each Individual
Defendant's employment. (See Mem. Order at
18-19, 23, ECF No. 29.) This Court also rejected Smith's
allegations made against each of the Individual Defendants of
intentional, willful, and malicious manipulation of his TAUs.
(Id. at 20-22.) The two remaining causes of action
in this case relate to the allegedly improper process of
Smith's termination. Thereafter, Defendants filed the
pending motion seeking summary judgment on Counts VI and VII,
and Smith filed a motion seeking reconsideration of this
Court's decision on Counts I to V. (See ECF Nos.
also seeks to correct Exhibit 11 (ECF No. 55-11), which he
had attached to his response to Defendants' motion and
belatedly realized that it was incomplete. (See ECF
No. 58.) There being no objection, this Court GRANTS
Plaintiffs Motion to File Corrected Exhibit (ECF No. 58) and
accepts the corrected exhibit (ECF No. 58-1) as filed.
reasons that follow, this Court shall DENY Plaintiffs Motion
for Reconsideration (ECF No. 57) and GRANT Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 51).
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) governs reconsideration of
orders that do not constitute final judgments in a case. Rule
54(b) 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 . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of
judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties'
rights and liabilities." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Resolution
of a motion to reconsider an interlocutory order is
"committed to the discretion of the district
court." Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms,
Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 515 (4th Cir. 2003).
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
cautions that the discretion afforded by Rule 54(b) "is
not limitless" and it has "cabined revision
pursuant to Rule 54(b) by treating interlocutory rulings as
law of the case." U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc. v.
Big South Wholesale of Virginia, LLC, 899 F.3d 236,
256-57 (4th Cir. 2018) (quoting Carlson v. Boston
Scientific Corp., 856 F.3d 320, 325 (4th Cir. 2017)).
The Fourth Circuit explained that the discretion to revisit
earlier rulings in the same case is "subject to the
caveat that where litigants have once battled for the
court's decision, they should neither be required, nor
without good reason permitted, to battle for it again."
Id. at 257 (quoting Official Comm. of the
Unsecured Creditors of Color Tile, Inc. v. Coopers &
Lybrand, LLP, 322 F.3d 147, 167 (2d Cir. 2003)).
to motions to reconsider final judgments pursuant to Rule
59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule
54(b)'s approach involves broader flexibility to revise
interlocutory orders before final judgment as the litigation
develops and new facts or arguments come to light."
Carlson, 856 F.3d at 325 (citing Am. Canoe,
326 F.3d at 514-15; Cobell v. Jewell, 802 F.3d 12,
25-26 (D.C. Cir. 2015)). "[A] court may revise an
interlocutory order under the same circumstances in which it
may depart from the law of the case: (1) 'a subsequent
trial producing] substantially different evidence'; (2) a
change in applicable law; or (3) clear error causing
'manifest injustice.'" Id. (quoting
Am. Canoe, 326 F.3d at 515). "This standard
closely resembles the standard applicable to motions to
reconsider final orders pursuant to Rule 59(e), but it
departs from such standard by accounting for potentially
different evidence discovered during litigation as opposed to
the discovery of new evidence not available at trial."
Id. (citations omitted).
Fourth Circuit also noted that "where, as here, 'the
order was entered by one judge and then reviewed by
another,' courts have held that the latter judge should
be hesitant to overrule the earlier determination."
Id. (quoting Harrell v. DCS Equip. leasing
Corp., 951 F.2d 1453, 1460 n.24 (5th Cir. 1992)).
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court
"shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entided to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A material fact is one that "might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law."
Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313
(4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A genuine issue over a
material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When
considering a motion for summary judgment, a judge's
function is limited to determining whether sufficient
evidence exists on a claimed factual dispute to warrant
submission of the matter for resolution at trial.
Id. at 249. Trial courts in the Fourth Circuit have
an "affirmative obligation ... to prevent factually
unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to
trial." Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir.
undertaking this inquiry, this Court must consider the facts
and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Libertarian Party of Va., 718
F.3d at 312; see also Scott v. Harris,550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007). This Court "must not weigh evidence or make
credibility determinations." Foster v. University of
Md.-Eastern Shore,787 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Or. 2015)
(citing Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French, 499
F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 2007)); see also Jacobs v. N.C
Admin. Office of the Courts,780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir.
2015) (explaining that the trial court may not make
credibility determinations at the summary judgment stage).