Solomon v. Dawson
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paul W. Grimm on 8/30/2013. (c/m 9/3/2013 eb)(ebs2, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
CARGYLE BROWN SOLOMON,
Civil Case No.: PWG-13-1951
CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE HERMAN C.
On July 18, 2013, the undersigned entered a Memorandum and Order dismissing
Plaintiff’s complaint against state court judge, the Honorable Herman C. Dawson, ECF Nos. 5 &
6. The Court is in receipt of Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration, ECF No. 7. Additionally,
Plaintiff moves to seal the exhibits filed with her complaint, the exhibits filed as a
Supplemental/Reply Brief, ECF No. 4, and the exhibits filed with her Motion for
Reconsideration, ECF No. 8.1 Her motion appears to request that the Court seal all exhibits
except exhibits 65A, 65B, 73, 75, two reports of the State of Maryland Commission on Judicial
Disabilities, the complaint, and the civil cover sheet. See Pl. Mot. to Seal. For the reasons stated
herein, Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration shall be DENIED; and Plaintiff’s Motion to Seal
shall be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
Motion for Reconsideration
Plaintiff’s motion requests “the exhibits in case number 13 CV 1951,” be placed under seal,
which the Court construes as a request to seal the exhibits filed with the complaint, Exhibits 16
and 17 filed as a Supplemental/Reply Brief, ECF No. 4, and the exhibits filed with the Motion
Parties frequently request that a court reconsider a prior ruling without citing any
authority for such a request. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for a motion
for reconsideration, denominated as such. However, Rule 7 defines a motion as any request,
written or oral, to the court that requests the issuance of an order. Therefore, Rule 7 is broad
enough to permit a party to seek virtually any relief, including a request that it reconsider an
order previously issued.
The Local Rules of this Court permit the filing of a motion for reconsideration within
fourteen days of the issuance of the order that is the subject of the motion, unless otherwise
provided in Fed. R. Civ. P. 50, 52, 59, or 60. See Loc. R. 105.10. The rule, however, contains
no standard for its application, nor has this Court, or the Fourth Circuit, identified such a
standard. Other courts have, and their guidance is instructive. In the widely cited case of Above
the Belt, Inc. v. Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99 (E.D. Va. 1983), the court noted there are
“circumstances when a motion to reconsider may perform a valuable function,” but added that it
was improper to use such a motion to “ask the Court to rethink what the Court had already
thought through—rightly or wrongly.” Id. at 101. The court concluded:
The motion to reconsider would be appropriate where, for example, the Court has
patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial
issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning
but of apprehension. A further basis for a motion to reconsider would be a
controlling or significant change in the law or facts since the submission of the
issue to the Court. Such problems rarely arise and the motion to reconsider should
be equally rare.
Id. (emphasis added). Other courts that have considered this issue are in accord. See, e.g., Kern–
Tulare Water Dist. v. City of Bakersfield, 634 F. Supp. 656, 665 (E.D. Cal. 1986), rev’d in part
on other grounds, 828 F.2d 514 (9th Cir. 1987) (“Courts have distilled various grounds for
reconsideration of prior rulings into three major grounds justifying reconsideration: (1) an
intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence or an expanded
factual record; and (3) need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.”); Brambles
USA, Inc. v. Blocker, 735 F. Supp. 1239, 1241 (D. Del. 1990); Shields v. Shetler, 120 F.R.D. 123,
125–26 (D. Colo. 1988) (recognizing the three customary reasons for granting a motion for
reconsideration, providing they are of a “strongly convincing” nature, and observing that a
motion for reconsideration “is not a license for a losing party’s attorney to get a second bite at
the apple”); United States v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., 969 F. Supp. 975, 977 (E.D. Va. 1997). The
learned commentators agree. See, e.g., Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Edward H.
Cooper, 18B Fed. Prac. & Proc. Juris. § 4478 (2d ed. 1981) (observing that permitting a motion
for reconsideration for only limited grounds protects both the courts and the parties against the
burden of repeat arguments by unyielding advocates).
The logic of these cases is apparent. When parties file a motion with the court, they are
obligated to ensure it is complete with respect to facts, law and advocacy. Once a court has
issued its ruling, unless one of the specific grounds noted above can be shown, that should end
the matter, at least until appeal. Were it otherwise, there would be no conclusion to motions
practice, each motion becoming nothing more than the latest installment in a potentially endless
serial that would exhaust the resources of the parties and the court—not to mention its patience.
Hindsight being perfect, any lawyer can construct a new argument to support a position
previously rejected by the court, especially once the court has spelled out its reasoning in an
order. It is hard to imagine a less efficient means to expedite the resolution of cases than to
allow the parties unlimited opportunities to seek the same relief simply by conjuring up a new
reason to ask for it. In the relatively rare instances when there has been an intervening change in
the controlling law, or the court has made a clear error in its initial ruling, or new facts have
surfaced, that could not have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence before the
motion was filed, then a request for reconsideration can perform a valuable function, allowing
the court quickly to correct a clear error or injustice, and sparing the parties the need to appeal.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration is untimely if filed under Loc. R. 105.10.
However, in affording liberal construal to this pro se Plaintiff, the Court can consider her Motion
as one to alter or amend under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). Such a 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 or prevent manifest
injustice.” Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp. LLC, 599 F.3d 403, 411 (4th Cir. 2010). “Mere
disagreement does not support a Rule 59(e) motion.” Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1082
(4th Cir. 1993). The rule permits a district court to correct its own errors, “sparing the parties
and the appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate proceedings.” Russell v. Delco
Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995).
Plaintiff has offered no justiciable reason to alter the previous findings of the Court and
has introduced no material evidence that was unavailable at the time the Court made its prior
ruling. Therefore, Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration shall be DENIED.
Motion to Seal
Protection of information contained in filed documents is governed by Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 5.2 and District of Maryland Local Rule 105.11. Certain information contained
in the exhibits Plaintiff moves to seal is protectable under Rule 5.2. The motion is unopposed,
but that does not dispense of this Court’s obligation to conduct a review under Local Rule
105.11. See Butler v. DirectSAT USA, LLC, 876 F. Supp. 2d 560, 576 (D. Md. 2012). Loc. R.
105.11 sets the procedure and standards for requesting that documents be placed under seal. The
Rule balances the public’s common law right to inspect and copy judicial records and
documents, see Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978), with competing
interests that sometimes outweigh the public’s right, see In re Knight Publ'g Co., 743 F.2d 231,
235 (4th Cir. 1984). The public’s right of access to dispositive motions and the exhibits filed
within is protected to an even higher standard by the First Amendment. Rushford v. New Yorker
Magazine, Inc., 846 F.2d 249, 253 (4th Cir. 1988).
Plaintiff has “proposed reasons supported by specific factual representations to justify the
[requested] sealing,” in accordance with Loc. R. 105.11. However, to the extent Plaintiff seeks
to seal the whole docket or any information beyond that protectable under Rule 5.2, the Motion
shall be DENIED because Plaintiff has failed to provide “an explanation why alternatives to
sealing would not provide sufficient protection,” as required under Loc. R. 105.11(b). Plaintiff
failed to show why redactions, as opposed to sealing the records in their entirety, would not
provide sufficient protection. See Butler, 876 F. Supp. at 576 (“[T]he court should consider less
drastic alternatives to sealing, such as filing redacted versions of the documents”).
The Court finds that sufficient protection will be provided by redacting the following
information as to the involved minors under Rule 5.2(a): names (except their initials), social
security numbers, taxpayer-identification numbers, and birth dates. In addition to the exhibits
filed with Plaintiff’s complaint and Motion for Reconsideration, Plaintiff seeks to seal the
Supplemental/Reply Brief she filed in all three related cases (PWG-13-1951, PWG-13-1952, and
PWG-13-1953).2 Plaintiff appears to have properly redacted the Brief using White-Out. To
The Brief is identical in all three cases and filed as ECF No. 4 in each. It consists of one set of
two volumes available in hard copy in the Clerk’s Office. See Docket, ECF No. 4 (one set is
available for all three cases). Although referenced in the table of contents, Plaintiff failed to file
protect the information regarding the minor child sufficiently, the Court has photocopied the two
volumes to make permanent Plaintiff’s White-Out redactions. The original volumes shall be
returned to Plaintiff and the photocopies retained for the record. If Plaintiff seeks redactions
beyond those already redacted in these volumes, she shall file proposed redacted versions within
fourteen (14) days, with a description of each additional redaction.
The Court deferred ruling for fourteen (14) days as required under Loc. R. 115 and
received no objections. Because the relief encompassed documents beyond those in Plaintiff’s
Motion to Seal, to protect the minor child under Rule 5.2, the Court will consider objections to
the additional redactions filed within fourteen (14) days.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration shall be DENIED. Plaintiff’s Motion to Seal shall
be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The following sections of the record will be
redacted: ECF Nos. 1-6, 1-7, 1-11, 1-12, 7-8, 7-10, 7-13, 7-14, 7-16, 7-18, 7-21, and 7-24. The
Clerk shall file publicly the redacted versions and keep the originals under seal. The Clerk shall
file under seal photocopies of the documents filed as ECF No. 4 and return the originals to
Plaintiff. If no additional redactions are proposed within fourteen (14) days, the Clerk shall
unseal the photocopies of the documents originally filed as ECF No. 4.
A separate order shall issue.
Dated: August 30, 2013
Paul W. Grimm
United States District Judge
appendices 115 and 256 in Exhibit 16, and Appendix 130 in Exhibit 17. These three documents
were available at the time of filing and were not filed.
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