September 2014 Maryland Certiorari Grants
With autumn right around the corner, the air in the Old Line State may be taking on a bit of a chill, but, with a new slate of cert grants, the Court of Appeals’ calendar for the year is just getting’ warmed up. Highlights this go-around include cases addressing the legality of sentences below binding plea agreements; the application of the “woodlands exception” in adverse-possession matters; the authentication standard for social-media chats; whether the value of stolen goods is an element of theft; and, as the ripples of federal Confrontation Clause jurisprudence continue to undulate through state courts, whether that constitutional provision is violated by a DNA expert’s verification of a peer’s findings. Check out this month’s winners after the jump.
Granted September 19, 2014
Tommy Garcia Bonilla v. State of Maryland – Case No. 63
Issue – Criminal Law – Did CSA err by affirming the trial court’s judgment that a sentence below a binding plea agreement constitutes an illegal sentence?
Ottis E. Breeding, Jr. v. Christian Nicholas Koste – Case No. 66
Issues – Real Property – 1) Does the “woodlands exception” apply to cases involving adverse possession as well as those involving prescription? 2) If the “woodlands exception” applies to adverse possession cases, does it apply to the facts of this case? 3) Assuming, arguendo, the “woodlands exception” does apply and the use of the property was initially permissive, did there come a time when the character of the use changed and became adverse?
Derrick Arthur Counts v. State of Maryland – Case No. 65
Issue – Criminal Law – Is the value of the goods stolen an element of theft, such that amending a charging document on the morning of trial from theft under $1,000 (a misdemeanor) to theft of goods valued between $1,000 and $10,000 (a felony) constitutes a change to the character of the offense requiring the consent of both parties?
Willie Ford v. Antwerpen Motorcars – Case No. 68
Issue – Commercial Law – Under Md. law, may a car dealer force its customers into binding arbitration of a claim arising from a vehicle sales transaction, when the vehicle sales contract does not contain an arbitration agreement and Md. regulations governing vehicle sales transactions require the vehicle sales contract to “contain all agreements of the parties”?
Jermaine Hailes v. State of Maryland – Case No. 62
Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Does C.J.P. § 12-302, which authorizes an appeal by the State from “a decision of a trial court that excludes evidence offered by the State … alleged to have been seized in violation of the Constitution of the United States, the Maryland Constitution, or the Maryland Declaration of Rights,” permit an appeal from the pretrial exclusion of evidence where the evidence was not seized and the constitutional violation will occur only if the State introduces the evidence at trial? 2) Did the victim’s statement of identification constitute a dying declaration where the victim made the statement four days after he was injured, two days after he was told that it would be unlikely if he lived for more than 24 hours, and two years before he died? 3) Does the Sixth Amendment right to confrontation bar the admission of the evidence in this case?
Tavares D. Harris v. State of Maryland – Case No. 59
Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Are one-to-one communications sent through a social networking website governed by the authentication standard, announced in Griffin v. State, 419 Md. 343 (2011), or are they excepted from the standard, as announced in footnote 13 of Griffin because they are like emails, texts and instant messages? 2) Should there remain a difference in assessing the authentication of evidence derived from social networking websites on the one hand and emails/texts/ instant messages on the other, given the identical identity-separation concerns attendant to all those forms of communication? 3) If the standard in Griffin applies, did the trial court abuse its discretion in admitting Twitter messages purportedly written by petitioner when no extrinsic evidence connected petitioner to the account or the authorship of the messages?
Carlos Alberto Monge-Martinez v. State of Maryland – Case No. 60
Petition filed by the Office of the Public Defender granted. Petition filed by Carlos Alberto Monge-Martinez pro se and the conditional cross-petition both denied.
Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Are one-to-one communications sent through a social networking website governed by the authentication standard, announced in Griffin v. State, 419 Md. 343 (2011), or are they excepted from the standard, as announced in footnote 13 of Griffin because they are like emails, texts and instant messages? 2) Should there remain a difference in assessing the authentication of evidence derived from social networking websites on the one hand and emails/texts/ instant messages on the other, given the identical identity-separation concerns attendant to all those forms of communication? 3) If the standard in Griffin applies, did the trial court abuse its discretion in admitting Twitter messages purportedly written by petitioner when no extrinsic evidence connected petitioner to the account or the authorship of the messages? 4) Did CSA err in deeming any error in this regard by the trial court harmless?
Patrick T. Morgan v. Carpenter’s Trailer Court – Case No. 61
Issue – Real Property – Did the trial court err in failing to apply the lodestar method when calculating attorney’s fees pursuant to the fee-shifting provision in R.P. § 8A-1301?
Prince George’s County v. Zimmer Development – Case No. 64
Issues- Zoning and Planning – 1) Did CSA err in its statutory construction of the “Regional District Act” (“RDA”) by holding that the District Council is vested with appellate rather than original jurisdiction over Planning Board preliminary determinations with respect to regional and legislative zoning matters? 2) Did CSA err by applying County Council of Prince George’s County v. Curtis Regency, 121 Md. App. 123, even though it involved a preliminary planning matter rather than a legislative, regional zoning matter which conflicts with this Court’s holding inCounty Council of Prince George’s County v. Dutcher, 365 Md. 399? 3) Whether the County Council’s 1996 enactment of the County Code (“PGCC”) § 27-132(f), providing that the District Council “shall exercise original jurisdiction” in its “review [of] a decision made by … the Planning Board,” is consistent with the provisions of the RDA? 4) Whether CSA’s holding improperly transfers the legislative, regional zoning authority expressly provided to the District Council by the RDA to the Planning Board, a subordinate agency? 5) Whether CSA’s holding violates the separation of powers doctrine because the judiciary has divested the legislative body of its legislative authority over regional zoning, including the applications related to zoning map amendments sought here, specifically designated by State law? 6) Whether CSA nullified the District Council’s statutory right to “remand” a case to the Planning Board for further information, and the District Council’s obligation to issue a “final” decision prior to judicial review, by holding that the District Council is limited after remand to only those issues that were remanded? 7) Assuming, arguendo, that CSA correctly held that the District Council’s standard of review of the Planning Board’s actions is the “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory or illegal” standard, then whether CSA erred by reinstating the Planning Board’s recommendations as to Zimmer’s applications, instead of remanding for the District Council to apply the correct standard of review?
State of Maryland v. Harold Albert Norton, Jr. – Case No. 67
Issue – Criminal Law – Did CSA err in determining that Norton’s right to confrontation under the federal constitution was violated where a DNA expert testified regarding the work of another DNA analyst, and that expert was a supervisor in the same lab, reviewed the work of the other analyst, and came to his own conclusion that was consistent with the conclusion of the other analyst, but the analyst herself did not testify?
WSSC v. Lafarge North America – Case No. 69
Issues – Public Utilities – 1) Did CSA err in holding that a trial court may exceed the permissible scope of judicial review when considering a “deemed” rejection of a refund claim under PUA § 25-106? 2) Did CSA err in upholding the trial court’s order mandating that WSSC’s investigative files be produced as part of the agency record pursuant to Md. Rule 7-206?
The Harris and Monge-Martinez cases on its face seem to involve almost identical legal issues of the admission and authentication of social media communiques…Most likely the Court decided to grant Cert on Harris, and the Monge-Martinez case went along with it (would also explain why the other Petitions (pro se and Conditional Cross Petition) were denied)..will be interesting to see if they are combined for arguments, particularly if both are represented by the Office of the Public Defender. In the Supreme Court, this would be handled perhaps by a ‘hold’ on one of the appeal cases, but the Supreme Court has to deal with 12 Circuits (I’m including D.C., but not the Fed Circuit).