United States District Court, D. Maryland
Stephanie A. Gallagher, United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment
filed by Defendants Patrick McDonough and Richard Impallaria
(the “Delegates”), ECF 199. Gemcraft Homes, OT,
LLC, Inc., Shades and Springs, Inc., and Ajaz Khan
(collectively “Plaintiffs”) have sued Harford
County, certain County officials, and the Delegates under
numerous causes of action. Essentially, Plaintiffs allege
that the Delegates conspired with Harford County officials to
thwart a real estate development project because most of the
prospective homebuyers are Muslim. See ECF 204 at 2.
I have considered the Delegates' motion, ECF 199,
Plaintiffs' opposition, ECF 204, and the Delegates'
reply, ECF 210. The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no
hearing is necessary. See Local R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2018). For the reasons explained below, the Delegates'
motion is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
facts below are taken in the light most favorable to
Plaintiffs, who are the non-moving party.
of Old Trails
case centers around the Old Trails Subdivision (“Old
Trails” or “Property”) in Harford County,
Maryland. In 2004, Old Trails Partnership (“OTP”)
acquired title to the property that became Old Trails. ECF
146 at 2. OTP partnered with Tousa Homes, Inc., to
develop Old Trails into a residential townhome community.
Id. In furtherance of this goal, OTP entered into
numerous agreements with Harford County
(“County”). For instance, in 2005, the parties
entered into a Storm Water Management Maintenance Agreement,
and a separate Subdivision Agreement. Stipulation of Facts,
ECF 133-1 at 1. Between 2007 and 2008, Tousa built four
townhomes in Old Trails, and sold them to homebuyers. ECF 40
at 16. However, Tousa declared bankruptcy in 2008, and both
Tousa and OTP halted development of the Old Trails project.
is a Maryland corporation and a regional home builder.
Id. at 7. Gemcraft's president, William Luther,
entered into an August 17, 2016 agreement with OTP to
purchase Old Trails. See Purchase and Sale
Agreement, ECF 168-1. Gemcraft and OT, LLC (“OT”)
are related entities. ECF 40 at 7. On April 5, 2017, OT
entered into an Option Agreement with Shades and Springs
(“S&S”), a non-profit corporation that was
formed under the authority of the governing body of the
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States. ECF 40 at
17-18 (explaining that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
“is the leading Islamic organization to categorically
reject terrorism (jihad) in any form, ” and
“face[s] extraordinary persecution in the Middle East
and South Asia”). Under the agreement, S&S had an
option to purchase as many as forty-five lots at Old Trails.
Id. Additionally, the option agreement required OT
to seek approval for the construction of a community center
on the property, to be used for prayer and other activities.
Id. at 20.
to the Project
spring of 2017, as word spread that Muslim families were
planning to move into the Old Trails subdivision, some
community members expressed concerns. For instance, two local
realtors, Gina and Jorge Pimentel, started a social media
campaign in efforts to inhibit the project. See,
e.g., Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Opposition to Motion
for Summary Judgment, ECF 204-3, Exhibit 2 (writing on
Facebook “STOP OFFENSIVE BUILDING ON HISTORIC SHORES OF
TRAILS WAY”). In addition to the Pimentels, other
individuals derided the project on social media, and
initiated an online petition called “Joppa Lives
Matter.” ECF 204 at 3; see also Social Media
Binder, Hrg. on June 5, 2018.
2017, Patrick McDonough and Richard Impallaria served as
elected members of the Maryland House of Delegates. Both
Delegates were in the midst of political campaigns: McDonough
for Baltimore County Executive, and Impallaria for
re-election to the House of Delegates. ECF 204 at 3.
Relevant here, the Delegates aligned themselves with
community opposition to the Old Trails project. For example,
Impallaria included his opposition on a campaign flier.
Id. at 4.
spring or summer of 2017, McDonough engaged County Executive
Barry Glassman in a conversation about the Old Trails
project. ECF 199-1 at 7. McDonough summarized this
conversation at a meeting with constituents. ECF 19-23 at
48:56. Per his own words, he directed Glassman to “get
[his] County Attorney to investigate this, ” to
“find out in total detail, ” and to “not
issue any permits.” ECF 204 at 4. In response, Glassman
nodded his head and said, “we're working on
it.” Id. Although the Delegates contend that
the conversation was “fleeting in nature, ”
Delegates' Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary
Judgment, ECF 199-1 at 8, Glassman testified that it was
“threaten[ing], ” see ECF 204 at
At the time of this conversation, McDonough maintained
considerable influence in the County. Id. at 5. He
had not only served as an elected official for several
decades, but also maintained his own weekly radio show and
monthly television show. Id.
worked with Gina Pimentel to organize a town hall on
September 7, 2017, for community members to voice their
complaints about the Old Trails development. Id. at
6. Impallaria communicated with County officials, and
pressured them to attend the meeting. Id. At the
meeting, McDonough expressed anti-Islamic sentiments,
including suggesting the project could be related to
“Sharia Law.” Id. at 7. He also stated
that Glassman would be in “collusion” with the
project if his administration did not investigate and prevent
its completion. Id.
after this meeting, the Delegates sent a joint letter
stating, “[w]e are requesting that no more permits be
issued and that no further occupancy permits be granted until
a full investigation has been completed.” ECF 204-16,
Exhibit 15. The letter also demanded that “the
community be represented either by the Harford County
Attorney or the People's Counsel as this moves
forward.” Id. Plaintiffs and the Delegates
disagree on how significant this letter was in influencing
the County's behavior. See ECF 199-1 (contending
“there is no evidence that the County took either
letter as a directive as to how to handle the
project”). However, it is not disputed that Glassman
forwarded the letter to his County Attorney. ECF 204-19,
Exhibit 18. Furthermore, Glassman responded to Impallaria,
via email, a few days later. ECF 204-21, Exhibit 20.
Boniface is the Harford County Director of Administration.
ECF 40 at 3. Three days after the County received the
Delegates' letter, Boniface represented the County at a
Joppatowne Community Advisory Board meeting. ECF 204 at 8.
Boniface told the crowd that the County would stop the Old
Trails Project, thereby adhering to the Delegates'
request. See Id. For example, he declared that,
“[t]hey can build the houses but they can't put
anybody in them.” ECF 204-22, Exhibit 21.
Delegates presided over three more town hall meetings in the
Fall of 2017 - one each in September, November, and December.
ECF 204 at 8. Additionally, in December, 2017, Impallaria
filed a mandamus action in Harford County Circuit Court
seeking to prohibit the County from allowing construction of
the community center at Old Trails. ECF 204-24, Exhibit 23.
Gemcraft filed suit against the County and County officials
(“County Defendants”), as well as the Delegates,
on September 21, 2017. ECF 1. OT and Gemcraft - along with
S&S and Khan - filed an amended complaint on December 1,
2017. ECF 40. The complaint contains seventeen counts: §
1983 claims for violations of the Free Exercise Clause (Count
I), Establishment Clause (Count II), and Freedom of
Association Clause (Count III) of the First Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Count IV), and
deprivation of Substantive Due Process under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution (Count V);
violation of the nondiscrimination and substantial burden
provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc
(Counts VI and VII); violation of Articles 24 and 36 of the
Maryland Declaration of Rights (Counts VIII and IX);
violations of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42
U.S.C. § 3604, 42 U.S.C. § 3617 (Counts X and XI);
racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count
XII); deprivation of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1982
(Count XIII); conspiracy to interfere with civil rights under
42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count XIV); neglect to prevent
conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1986 (Count XV); judicial
review of the County administration's actions (Count
XVI); and tortious interference with contract and prospective
business relations (Count XVII). Id.
addition to their amended complaint, Plaintiffs filed a
motion seeking preliminary injunctive relief. ECF 19. The
County had refused to issue water and sewer hookup permits,
use and occupancy permits, and building permits that were
necessary for completion of Old Trails. Id. United
States District Judge George L. Russell III held a hearing on
Plaintiffs' motion on June 4- 7, and June 11, 2018.
Several witnesses testified, including Glassman, Boniface,
Impallaria, McDonough, Luther, and Faheem Younus (the
President of S&S). See ECF 129, ECF 128, ECF
130. On June 22, 2018, Judge Russell issued an Order,
granting in part and denying in part the preliminary
injunctive relief sought by Plaintiffs. ECF 133.
Specifically, the Court ordered the County Defendants to
issue use and occupancy permits, and sewer and water hook-up
August 21, 2018, Judge Russell denied the Delegates'
motion to dismiss the amended complaint. ECF
Finally, on September 23, 2019, Judge Russell denied
cross-motions for Summary Judgment by Plaintiffs and the
County Defendants, except that he granted Summary Judgment
for the County Defendants on Count XVI (judicial review of
administrative acts). See Memorandum Opinion, ECF
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Defendants, as the moving party, bear the
burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of
material facts. See Casey v. Geek Squad, 823
F.Supp.2d 334, 348 (D. Md. 2011) (citing Pulliam Inv. Co.
v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987)).
If Defendants establish that there is no evidence to support
Plaintiffs' case, the burden then shifts to Plaintiffs to
proffer specific facts to show a genuine issue exists for
trial. Id. Plaintiffs must provide enough admissible
evidence to “carry the burden of proof in [their] claim
at trial.” Id. at 349 (quoting Mitchell v.
Data Gen. Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1315-16 (4th Cir. 1993)).
The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of
Plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be
evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for
Plaintiffs. Id. at 348 (citing Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)).
Moreover, a genuine issue of material fact cannot rest on
“mere speculation, or building one inference upon
another.” Id. at 349 (quoting Miskin v.
Baxter Healthcare Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 669, 671 (D. Md.
1999)). Additionally, summary judgment shall be warranted if
the non-moving party fails to provide evidence that
establishes an essential element of the case. Id. at
352. Plaintiffs “must produce competent evidence on
each element of [their] claim.” Id. at 348-49
(quoting Miskin, 107 F.Supp.2d at 671). If
Plaintiffs fail to do so, “there can be no genuine
issue as to any material fact, ” because the failure to
prove an essential element of the case “necessarily
renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at