Certified Questions to the Court of Appeals Now Online
By Michael Wein
Certified questions are an irregular part of Court of Appeals practice (averaging about 3-5 per year), usually from a Maryland Federal District Court judge or a Fourth Circuit panel asking the Maryland Court of Appeals to opine on an unsettled (but dispositive) issue of Maryland law. Theoretically any jurisdiction, state or federal, in the United States could certify a question for the Court of Appeals to decide under the Maryland Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, found at sections 12-601 to 12-613 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article. Before the recent web revamp about three months ago, unless you were a litigant in the case, it was difficult to know just from checking the judiciary web site, what, if any, certified questions were being considered in the Court of Appeals. Usually the first notice was when the case appeared on the online oral argument schedule.
Since the Blog now provides notice of Certiorari Petitions, it seemed only fair to also let the observers know that there’s a specific place one can find out about these sometimes exciting and interesting cases. As of today there are two.
One, the NVR Mortgage Finance Inc. v. Carlsen case appears to be a standard Certified question, from the Md. Federal Court to be heard in June 2014.
The other, Department of Public Safety v. Doe, is rather unusual procedurally, being a rematch of sorts on the controversial Doe case decided in March, but being listed as a Certified Question from the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. I didn’t recall offhand that there were Certified questions from the Court of Special Appeals, and confirmed my recollection by first checking the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, and finding that the section on Certified Questions involves virtually any court except the Court of Special Appeals. Fortunately, one of the fellow blog contributors indicated they thought there was a Maryland Rule on it…and they were right. It’s Rule 8-304, involving Certification from the Court of Special Appeals. Apparently, the case involves at least partially an issue of the original Doe’s Mandate, and therefore was thought by the Court of Special Appeals themselves, to justify Certification, which was subsequently accepted by the Court of Appeals. I felt less bad that I didn’t recall the Rule offhand, however, since the Annotations indicate that the last time this was done was in 1993… well before I was an attorney.