For those staying on top of the prosecutions of the police officers implicated in the death of Freddie Gray — which Michael Wein has been covering for the Blog — last week was a big development, as the Maryland Court of Appeals postponed their trials to consider (assuming the issue is even properly appealed at all) whether defendant William Porter can be compelled to testify in those trials if his testimony won’t be used in his own upcoming retrial. As the story has been reported pretty much everywhere, we won’t recount all the details here; instead, we’ll note that, the day after the Court’s decisions, it released a bunch of other certiorari grants spanning some noteworthy issues. Check them out after the jump.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a tapestry of expression in our society, including speech, association, art, dance, attire, and music. Few exceptions exist, and when they do they are extreme—obscenity and incitement to riot are never protected, although the line does not always appear to be bright and clear. The Court of Special Appeals recently reminded us of a much simpler exception to the protection in Thana v. Board of License Commissioners for Charles County, Ct. Spec. App., Sept. Term 2014, No. 1981 (January 29, 2016): when the First Amendment issue is not preserved for appellate review.
February 13 was likely the worst day for Chief Justice Roberts since he joined the Court in 2005. He lost a good friend. He lost an ally. These developments would be awful at any time. The timing, however, turned Justice Scalia’s death into a challenge to the Chief Justice’s quest to preserve the Court’s institutional integrity. Roberts is a student of history, however, and there is precedent for him to take action to defend the judiciary. Read More…
By Michael Wein
In my January 19 post about the online Court of Special Appeals documents for the prosecution of the officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death, I indicated that, as an inherently “cert-worthy” case, it would not be surprising if one of the parties sought certiorari and it ended up in the Court of Appeals. On Wednesday, that happened, as the Attorney General’s Office sought, in multiple filings (as seen on the Court of Appeal’s “Highlighted Cases” page), expedited review and a ruling that would apply in the prosecutions of the other five officers as to whether the Supreme Court’s opinion in Kastigar v. United States and Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 9-123 allow or prevent the admission of fellow officer William Porter’s previous testimony from his mistrial given that he will be tried again. Also at issue is the authority of the trial judge to refuse to stay three of the officers’ cases after making a pretrial evidentiary ruling relying on the State’s representation that Officer Porter’s testimony was not necessary.
The applicants for Judge Hotten’s former spot on the Court of Special Appeals have been announced, and, with five total, there is about 80 percent less interest than the at-large seat that 27 bench-seekers vied for in October. Granted, Judge Hotten’s position is limited to those living in Prince George’s County — which is not a place that seems to generate many appellate aspirants as of late. But the timing does give three of the county’s circuit court judges a chance to double-dip in the appointment process.
When we hear the word “spoliation,” we tend to think about the loss of electronically stored information, such as e-mail messages or other computer generated data. That’s because the loss of that type of evidence, and the drastic sanctions that result, is highlighted and seared into our consciousness by legal-news services. But earlier this week the Court of Special Appeals decided a spoliation case that concerned the destruction of a physical object – a house – that was “itself the subject of the case.” Cumberland Ins. Group v. Delmarva Power, No. 72 Sept. Term 2015, Slip Op. at 8 (Feb. 1, 2016). Balancing the fault of the destroying party with the level of prejudice suffered by the other party, the Court held that spoliation had occurred, that sanctions were warranted, and that the circuit court had not abused its discretion by granting summary judgment in favor of the prejudiced litigant.
By Steve Klepper
You may have seen a piece in the New York Times that quoted me on the State v. Adnan Syed case. The quotations, which the reporter read back to me on the phone, were correct. But a paraphrase that preceded those direct quotations conveys an incorrect impression of what I was saying. That paraphrase has now been repeated many times on Twitter and attributed to me as a direct quote.
Because the New York Times article identified me as the editor-in-chief of the Maryland Appellate Blog, I have spoken with the editorial board, which has agreed to allow me to post my letter to the reporter. A link to the letter is here.