The Fourth Circuit has reversed Judge Boyle repeatedly for violating the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by failing to give parties proper notice and opportunity to respond when converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Despite the clear requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) (reaffirmed by Fourth Circuit precedent, Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975)) that a district court judge must give the parties notice of the transformation and an opportunity to respond, the Fourth Circuit has had to remind Boyle several times of this rule.
In Williams v. U.S., No. 4:96-CV-14-BO (E.D.N.C. 1998), Williams filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. The government responded by filing a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment. Boyle granted the government summary judgment without providing Williams notice or an opportunity to respond to the summary judgment motion. The appeals court cited two Fourth Circuit precedents to illustrate the fact that “regardless of the merits, notice and opportunity to respond [are] required prior to summary judgment,” U.S. v. Williams, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 5126, 1-2 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Roseboro and United States Dev. Corp. v. Peoples Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 873 F.2d 731, 736 (4th Cir. 1989) as precedent). The court granted a certificate of appealability, vacated Boyle’s order, and remanded the case to the district court. Id. at 2.
In Abdussamadi v. Vandiford, 5:98-HC-96-BO (E.D.N.C. 1998), the plaintiff filed a motion challenging the legality of a federal detainer lodged against him. After the government amended its motion to dismiss to include an affidavit, Judge Boyle decided to construe the government’s motion as a motion for summary judgment. Boyle then granted the motion for summary judgment without giving the petitioner any notice or chance to respond. Once again, the Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded the case, citing both Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) and Roseboro. Abdussamadi v. Vandiford, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 18663 at 2 (4th Cir. 1999).
In Lomas v. Red Storm Entertainment, No. 5:01-CV-237-BO(2) (E.D.N.C. 2001), Lomas brought suit against his employer when the employer offered him far less under a severance package than Lomas believed he was entitled to under a previous agreement with his employer. Boyle granted summary judgment to Red Storm. The appeals court found that Boyle had once again “failed to provide all parties a reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion as required by Rule 12(b).” Lomas v. Red Storm Entertainment, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 22471, at 17 (4th Cir. 2002). The court also noted that because of “apparent ambiguity” in the employee agreement, there was a “genuine issue of material fact” in the case and “the parties should be accorded an opportunity to conduct any relevant discovery, and they should be permitted to present to the court any materials pertinent to the issue” before the district court entered its judgment. Id. Again the Fourth Circuit reversed Judge Boyle for violating the Federal Rules, and remanded the case. Id. at 18.