[Editor’s Note: Portions of this post were previously quoted in “Lead Paint Evidence Clarified in Maryland; Causation, Injury Source Proof Distinguished,” Expert Evidence Report, Bloomberg BNA, Vol. 15, No. 21 (Nov. 9, 2015) (also available here).]
By finding that the circuit court in Roy v. Dackman, Md. Ct. App., Sept. Term 2015 (Oct. 16, 2015), abused its discretion by excluding lead-paint medical causation testimony, Maryland’s highest court seemed to curtail the wide discretion that trial judges typically enjoy when ruling on the admissibility of such testimony. In Roy, the plaintiff designated a board-certified pediatrician with “more than 20 years in practice,” Dr. Eric Sundel, to opine that the plaintiff had been exposed to lead more than a decade earlier at the defendants’ property and that the exposure had caused his alleged brain injuries. The trial court initially denied the defendants’ Rule 5-702 motion to exclude Dr. Sundel’s lead-source and medical causation opinions.
The new Adele record wasn’t the only exciting thing to be released Friday: The Court of Appeals also released a new round of certiorari grants! Check out the seven new cases — which include questions about tax refunds, administrative law, disability discrimination, and appellate review of suppression rulings — after the jump.
By Michael Wein
One of the consequences of the greater availability and ubiquity of legal opinions online is that authors can directly hyperlink to sources, including other online decisions, and thus provide immediate access to the source material. This has led to the unintended consequence of “link rot” in appellate decisions — that is, the inclusion of links that are no longer valid. As noted in a 2013 New York Times article, at that time, 49 percent of links in online U.S. Supreme Court decisions were inoperative.
For the second straight year, the American Bar Association’s Ankerwyke imprint is releasing an entertaining novel for the U.S. Supreme Court enthusiast on your holiday shopping list. Last year’s release was David Lat’s Supreme Ambitions, a tale of intrigue among elite federal appellate law clerks competing for Supreme Court clerkships. This year’s treat is Jay Wexler’s Tuttle in the Balance, the story of a Supreme Court justice experiencing a delayed midlife crisis at age 62. Lat’s novel had an irreverent tone but did not play for laughs; in Tuttle in the Balance, however, the laughs come early and often.
Update (11/11/2015): I figured my “crude, imperfect manual count” would miss something, and, sure enough, I failed to catch a dissent in an unusual per curiam unreported opinion in Spencer v. State, Sept. Term 2014, No. 0493 (Oct. 2, 2015) (Nazarian, J., dissenting). That brings the totals to nine dissents in the 726 cases — which is still a rate of about 1 percent — and six of the 15 judges who wrote a dissent between May and October.
Between May 1, when unreported Court of Special Appeals opinions began being posted online, and the close of October, a half-year of complete decisions of the intermediate appellate court were, for the first time, made available to Maryland court-watchers. That’s a sufficient sample size to do a crude, imperfect manual count and generate some data about the rate of reporting. It’s also useful for a few observations about the infrequency of disagreement among the three-judge panels.
Although the Court of Appeals of Maryland’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure meets regularly, and the Court routinely considers proposed changes to the Maryland Rules, their activities impact the appellate rules with less frequency than a blue moon.* In September, however, the Court of Appeals adopted a number of modifications to the appellate rules that will apply to practitioners beginning January 1, 2016.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Congressional Representative Christopher Van Hollen recently jointly announced separate but complementary campaigns to encourage other states to enact laws similar to certain Maryland firearms laws. Those laws, among other things, prohibit the sale of particular semiautomatic weapons and require fingerprinting and background checks at the time of a handgun purchase, dealers to forward a regulated firearm’s sample shell casing to the Maryland State Police for inclusion in a ballistics database, private sales of firearms to occur at a State Police barracks, and a license to purchase handguns. According to Attorney General Frosh, despite Maryland’s laws, the state’s efforts to curb gun violence continue, not surprisingly, to be compromised by laxer laws in other jurisdictions.
Businesses often desire the certainty and predictability of rules expressed in stark, absolute terms. But as the Court of Special Appeals recently reminded us, some legal questions are not best answered with black‑and‑white tests, but instead must often sort out facts that appear in various shades of gray. In Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc. v. Andrews, Sept. Term 2014, No. 935 (Oct. 1, 2015), the Court rejected a judgment creditor’s effort to garnish a bank account jointly owned by the judgment debtor and refused to adopt the per se rule urged by the creditor.