Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 24-C-17-000103
Meredith, Kehoe, Friedman, JJ.
Maryland Transit Administration ("MTA") fired
Christopher Wilson because of an incident of workplace
violence. Wilson challenged this decision. Pursuant to the
terms of the collective-bargaining agreement between the MTA
and the union representing Wilson, Local 1300 of the
Amalgamated Transit Union ("Local 1300"), the
matter was submitted to arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in
Wilson's favor, deciding that the MTA did not have just
cause to terminate Wilson, and ordered his reinstatement. The
MTA filed a petition to vacate the arbitrator's award,
and Local 1300 countered with a petition to enforce it. The
Circuit Court for Baltimore City vacated the arbitration
award and upheld Wilson's termination, concluding that
the arbitrator's decision should not be enforced because
it was "clearly against public policy." Local 1300
has appealed from the court's judgment and presents two
issues, which we have reworded and reordered:
1. Did the trial court err by vacating the arbitration award
on public-policy grounds?
2. In reaching its decision, did the trial court err in
failing to consider Local 1300's timely filed response
and cross-motion for summary judgment?
For the reasons explained below, we will affirm the circuit
appeal arises out of a fight between Wilson, then an MTA bus
driver, and Kenneth Rosebrough, a retired bus driver and
Wilson's estranged stepfather. This fight was captured on
MTA security cameras and was described in detail in the
arbitrator's award. We will summarize the key events.
end of his run on September 14, 2015, Wilson returned to the
Northwest Bus Division, an administrative facility where MTA
buses are parked. When Wilson went inside, he found
Rosebrough waiting for him in the building's assembly
room. Rosebrough got up and the two men conversed as they
walked outside to the MTA's parking lot. By the time they
were outside, their discussion had grown heated and things
got physical. Rosebrough took a step toward Wilson, and
Wilson pushed Rosebrough. The two started throwing punches.
The men grabbed each other and wrestled themselves onto a
nearby car, where two MTA employees broke up the fight. At
some point during the brawl, Wilson stabbed Rosebrough in the
stomach with a penknife. Rosebrough left the MTA property in
his own car but was stopped by a police officer shortly
thereafter. When the officer learned about Rosebrough's
stab wound, he arranged for Rosebrough to be taken by
ambulance to a hospital for treatment.
first, Wilson told investigators that Rosebrough brought the
knife to the fight. Later, Wilson admitted that it was he who
brought the knife-that he had accidentally left it in his
pocket after breaking down boxes at home during his break.
was charged with second-degree assault. On February 24, 2016,
he tendered an Alford plea and was given probation
before judgment. Wilson also faced consequences at work: on
April 6, 2016, after a hearing, he was fired.
arbitration proceeding and the arbitral award
collective-bargaining agreement between the MTA and Local
1300 required that termination of employment be for
"just cause." The agreement also provided that a
terminated employee could request review of the MTA's
decision by an arbitrator, and that the arbitrator's
decision would be final and binding upon the parties. Wilson
invoked his right to an arbitral review, and the arbitration
proceeding was held on August 22, 2016.
part of the proceeding, all parties were given a full
opportunity to be heard, to present evidence and to examine
and cross-examine witnesses. To justify the termination, the
MTA pointed to Wilson's violations of MTA regulations and
the MTA's workplace-violence policy. The MTA regulations
subjected employees to "immediate dismissal" for,
inter alia, possessing dangerous or deadly weapons
on MTA property, for fighting on MTA property or for
violating the workplace-violence policy. The
workplace-violence policy prohibited "commit[ting] any
violent act against any person" and "[b]ring[ing]
weapons of any kind into the workplace"; encouraged
employees to seek law-enforcement assistance when confronted
with "violent situations" and to avoid
confrontation with "verbally abusive or harassing
persons"; and subjected employees engaging in prohibited
conduct to sanctions, ranging from reprimand and loss of
leave to suspension, demotion and termination.
arbitrator was unconvinced. In his written decision, the
arbitrator found that Wilson's conduct on September 14,
2015, violated the clear language of the MTA's
regulations and workplace-violence policy. He also refused to
accept Wilson's defenses for the stabbing-that he acted
in self-defense or that the MTA's lax security was to
blame, because this allowed Rosebrough on the MTA's
property in the first place. The arbitrator nonetheless
concluded Wilson's termination "was not for just
cause." He explained that, in reaching its decision to
fire Wilson, the MTA had failed to consider mitigating
circumstances surrounding his "respectable work and
disciplinary records." The arbitrator also explained
that by failing to "review all the facts and
circumstances" to determine which among "a range of
disciplinary penalties" would be the most proportionate
sanction for Wilson's misconduct, the MTA's
termination decision deviated from the model of progressive
discipline called for by the administration's own
policy. Because he believed the MTA had improperly
short-circuited this system of escalating responses to
employee misconduct, the arbitrator ordered Wilson's
reinstatement, although without back pay.
before the circuit court
filed a petition, later amended, to vacate the arbitration
award in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The MTA's
position was that enforcement of the arbitrator's award
would violate Maryland's clear public policy against
workplace violence and thus had to be vacated. In response,
Local 1300 petitioned to enforce the award.
parties entered a joint stipulation in which they agreed upon
filing deadlines for certain motions and responses. This
included an August 30, 2017, deadline for Local 1300's
response to the MTA's motion for summary judgment and its
own cross-motion for summary judgment. The circuit court
approved the joint stipulation and the parties filed motions
for summary judgment and responses according to it.
Specifically, the MTA filed its motion for summary judgment
on August 2, 2017, and Local 1300 timely filed a response and
its cross-motion for summary judgment on August 29, 2017.
September 1, 2017, the circuit court granted the MTA's
motion for summary judgment. The court ruled that no genuine
issues of material fact existed, and that the arbitration
award could not be enforced because it violated public
[T]he purpose of MTA's policy against workplace violence
and possession of weapons is to ensure public safety . . . .
Not only did Mr. Wilson violate the MTA workplace violence
policy but he violated Maryland statutory criminal law. Mr.
Wilson pled guilty to criminal conduct. . . . [T]he
Arbitrator's award reinstating Christopher Wilson as a
bus operator is contrary to MTA's duty to ensure public
safety as a common carrier. This Court declines to enforce an
arbitration award which is contrary to a clear public policy.
(references to docket entries omitted). Accordingly, the
court vacated the arbitrator's award.
written opinion accompanying the September 1, 2017, order
explicitly noted that Local 1300 had not filed a timely
response to the MTA's motion for summary judgment. This
was incorrect; Local 1300 had in fact filed a response on
August 29. When this was brought to the court's
attention, it reopened the case and scheduled a hearing for
September 27, 2017.
hearing, the court first explained its reasoning for granting
the MTA's motion for summary judgment. The court then
noted that it incorrectly believed that Local 1300 had not
filed a response, and it informed counsel for the Local that
"we're here today as if this was a fresh and a new
motion." Still, after hearing argument from counsel, the
court again granted the MTA's motion. In doing so, the
court explained that it considered Local 1300's response
to the MTA's motion for summary judgment to have been
untimely filed; that after considering Local 1300's
cross-motion for summary judgment "on its merits,"
the motion was nonetheless moot; and that the court's
earlier order granting the MTA's motion for summary
judgment "stands as the law of this case." The
court vacated the arbitrator's decision reinstating Mr.
Wilson on the grounds that it violated public policy.
1300 then timely filed this appeal.
Court, Local 1300 raises a substantive and a procedural
challenge to the circuit court's decision to grant
summary judgment to the MTA and vacate the arbitral award
first address Local 1300's substantive challenge: that
the circuit court improperly applied the requirements for
vacating an arbitral award on public-policy grounds. In
explaining why we disagree with Local 1300, we provide an
overview of the general rule of judicial deference to the
decisions of arbitrators and explain some of the common-law
exceptions to that rule. We then apply the exception at issue
here-the public-policy challenge to the enforceability of an
arbitral award-to the facts of the case. We ...