By Michael Wein,
Well, we’re one week away until the Maryland Court of Appeals’ self-imposed deadline of Monday, August 31, 2015, for deciding all cases in the September Term. Per the “Pending Cases” page on the Court of Appeals’ website, four, count that, only four, decisions are left, one from April (State v. Dykes), one from May (State v. Waine), and two from June (State v. Westray and Wicomico County Department of Social Services v. B.A.). The two from June may not reflect any particular disagreements between the judges, but are pending simply because they were the most recently argued, or, in the case of Westray, because it will be decided in tandem with the Dykes case from April, as both involve issues about the right to discharge counsel. The “Questions Presented,” as posed on the Court of Appeals’ web page, for all remaining cases are listed below.
On August 5, a divided panel of the Fourth Circuit decided United States v. Graham, a Hobbs Act robbery case originating in the District of Maryland. Although the Appellants raised several challenges to their convictions, the most interesting issue was whether the Court should extend Fourth Amendment protections to records about where and when a mobile phone connected to antennas and electronic communications equipment on a cellular network, data called “cell-site location information” (CSLI). Senior Judge Andre Davis, one of the Fourth Circuit judges from Maryland, wrote the majority opinion, holding that users of cellphones have a reasonable expectation of privacy in historical CSLI, at least where such information covers an extensive period of time. Judge Davis was joined by Judge Thacker in that conclusion. One of the other Maryland judges on the Court, Judge Diana Motz, dissented from that portion of the majority opinion.
In an article here in January, I wrote about the doctrine of official or government speech. The post was prompted by the appeal pending in Montgomery County v. Fraternal Order of Police, Md. Ct. Spec. App., No. 175, which was decided by the Court of Special Appeals in April. Slip Op. (decided Apr. 3, 2015). The court’s decision reversed, among other things, the Circuit Court’s ruling that the Appellants, Montgomery County and certain of its officials, had acted beyond their power and authority by making substantial use of public funds and resources to campaign in a general-election referendum in favor of legislation that the County Council had passed and that the County Executive had signed into law. According to the Circuit Court’s “Findings of Fact,” Appellants had unlawfully “engaged in electioneering and conducted a political campaign.” Id. at 11.