January 2016 Maryland Certiorari Grants

Last month we noted that the Court of Appeals had only granted 80 certiorari petitions for its September 2015 Term, meaning either: (1) that the Court of Appeals would hear dramatically fewer cases this term, or (2) that, in a break from the recent past, it would schedule January grants for argument this term rather than hold them for the September 2016 Term. The Court of Appeals chose Door #2 with a vengeance, today granting 14 petitions and assigning all of them to its September 2015 Term docket.

In likely the biggest news out of today’s orders, the Court of Appeals will address the effect of evidence undermining Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis testimony. The full list of grants, with questions presented, appears after the jump.

Troy Robert Allen v. State of Maryland – Case No. 92, September Term, 2015

Issue – Criminal Law – Did the trial court err when it ordered Petitioner to have no unsupervised contact with his biological, infant son as a condition of probation, thereby infringing on his fundamental right to parent, when Petitioner was convicted of sexually abusing a pre-teen girl who was not related to him and when the State failed to demonstrate that Petitioner was a threat to his son?

Michelle Bandy, et al. v. Alexandra Clancy – Case No. 93, September Term, 2015

Issues – Estates & Trusts – 1) Did the Orphans’ Court err in construing the decedent’s last will and testament to require the personal representative to fund the family trust prior to the payment of estate taxes, such that the older children’s trusts will bear the burden of all the estate’s federal and state estate taxes? 2) Did the Orphans’ Court err in finding that a marital deduction savings clause in a codicil to decedent’s will had the effect of overriding and eliminating the fundamental structure created by the will?

Ira Chase v. State of Maryland – Case No. 85, September Term, 2015

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Does reasonable suspicion that an individual is engaged in drug activity, by itself, constitute reasonable suspicion that the individual is armed and dangerous? 2) Under this Court’s case law recognizing that a display of force by the police, such as placing a suspect in handcuffs, constitutes an arrest requiring probable cause absent reasonable suspicion that the suspect is armed and dangerous, was Petitioner under arrest when he was removed from his vehicle and placed in handcuffs? 3) If the police had reasonable suspicion to believe that Petitioner was armed and dangerous when he was removed from his vehicle and handcuffed, was that reasonable suspicion dispelled when the officers patted him down and found no weapons, thereby rendering his continued detention an arrest that was not supported by probable cause?

Dominic Givens v. State of Maryland – Case No. 88, September Term, 2015

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Did the trial court err in refusing to strike the verdict for felony murder? 2) Is a motion to strike an inconsistent verdict waived if not made before the discharge of the jury?

Carville A. Hollingsworth, et al. v. Severstal Sparrow Point, LLC, et al. – Case No. 95, September Term, 2015

Issue – Labor & Employment – Does a workers’ compensation award for permanent disability which resulted from an accidental injury survive the death of the claimant under § 9-632 of the Labor & Employment Art., so that it is payable to his dependents in a case where he was found to have additional disability due to a pre-existing condition which caused him to be permanently totally disabled?

Henry Immanuel v. Comptroller of Maryland – Case No. 87, September Term, 2015

Issues – Commercial Law – 1) Does the prohibition against providing financial information in response to Public Information Act (“PIA”) requests prohibit disclosure of information concerning comparative values when interpreted in light of the legislative scheme and purpose of the Abandoned Property Act? 2) Was it proper for CSA to affirm the modification of Petitioner’s PIA request, as to number and age of accounts, and thus interfere with Petitioner’s ability to profit from his work? 3) Was it proper for CSA to affirm the trial court’s vacating its earlier sealing of the case to protect Petitioner’s trade secret?

Kenwood Gardens Condominium, Inc., et al. v. Whalen Properties, LLC – Case No. 86, September Term, 2015

Issues – Zoning & Planning – 1) Does the County Board of Appeals have the authority and responsibility to review whether an “appearance of impropriety” taints and invalidates a County Council Resolution approving the initiation of a favorable Planned Unit Development (“PUD”) Zoning process consistent with its responsibility to review all procedural and constitutional issues per Prince George’s County v. Ray’s Used Cars, 398 Md. 632 (2007)? 2) Is there a serious and extraordinary problem of “appearance of impropriety” when there is an undisputed e-mail record linking the PUD Developer’s illegal campaign contributions to the County Council member with the Council member’s sponsoring of the PUD resolution? 3) Pursuant to the Baltimore County Charter Section, 1009 and MD case law is the County Council’s adoption of a PUD Resolution as to this specific property substantially an administrative action, even though not the final action in the process, and so clearly reviewable for a serious “appearance of impropriety”? 4) Consistent with County Council for Montgomery County v. District Land Corp., 274 Md. 691 (1975), even if County Council Resolution #108 is legislative in character, is it still subject to review where there is undisputed evidence of an “impropriety” which the reviewing administrative agencies and CSA all criticized and said should not be condoned? 5) Is the “appearance of impropriety” compounded where a County Council member mentioned in the State Prosecutor’s Statement of Facts was raising dollars for an election campaign and then followed up the PUD Resolution by sponsoring and facilitating the approval of legislation (Bill 38-12) which relaxed the long-standing relevant compatibility standard applicable particularly to this PUD, and favoring it in a way which had no rational relationship to compatibility?

Austria Kponve v. Allstate Insurance Company – Case No. 91, September Term, 2015

Issue – Insurance Law – Is Allstate Ins. Co. v. Miller, 315 Md. 182 (1989) still good law?

Patrick Long v. Injured Workers’ Insurance Fund, et al. – Case No. 90, September Term, 2015

Issue – Labor & Employment – Whether the Average Weekly Wage of a sole proprietor who elects covered employment status under MD’s Workers’ Compensation Act should be calculated based upon gross profits/earnings and not net profits?

Motor Vehicle Administration v. Sundar Seenath – Case No. 82, September Term, 2015

Issue – Transportation Law – Does the standard Advice of Rights form (DR-15) provide the necessary information to a driver who holds a commercial driver’s license of the consequences of submitting to a test of blood alcohol content if the driver’s results are 0.08 or more?

Adam Santo v. Grace Santo – Case No. 89, September Term, 2015

Issue – Family Law – Do the “Taylor factors” (Taylor v. Taylor, 306 Md. 290, 304-11 (1986)), constitute binding legal parameters, circumscribing the discretion of a custody court faced with a “joint” versus “sole” legal custody decision?

Donzel Sellman v. State of Maryland – Case No. 84, September Term, 2015

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Did CSA err in finding the police had reasonable suspicion to believe Petitioner was armed and dangerous, simply because he was stopped for generally suspicious conduct in a high crime area where thefts from cars had been reported at some unspecified time in the past? 2) Did CSA err in finding that the crime of theft from cars implies the use of a deadly weapon?

Kevon Spencer v. State of Maryland – Case No. 94, September Term, 2015

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Did the trial court commit reversible error by reseating three jurors who had been struck by the defense where there was no evidence to support a finding of racial discrimination and where counsel’s explanations advanced the defense’s strategy and have previously been accepted by the courts as valid, race-neutral explanations for striking a juror? 2) Was the evidence sufficient to support a finding of specific intent for a conviction of attempted second-degree murder?

State of Maryland v. Gary Ward – Case No. 83, September Term, 2015

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Was evidence undermining Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis (“CBLA”) testimony “newly discovered” evidence in 2012? 2) May judges exercise discretion under C.P. §8-301 in assessing the “substantial possibility” of a different result in cases involving CBLA evidence?

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