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Why Maryland Appellate Courts Should Send Focus Letters Before Oral Arguments

By Derek Stikeleather

Appellate practitioners continuously debate the relative value of oral argument. Although most practitioners—and many appellate judges—agree that the quality of appellate briefing matters much more than the quality of oral advocacy, opinions vary considerably on how much oral argument helps. Some contend that oral argument is more trouble it is worth. Others disagree, believing that oral argument not only often separates winning and losing on appeal but also increases everyone’s faith in the justice system. Both sides of the debate have some good points; I won’t try to declare a winner here.

One fact beyond debate is that federal appellate courts are holding significantly fewer oral arguments. Read More…

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Maryland Certiorari Statistics, September Term 2017

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

I’m often asked what percentage of certiorari petitions the Maryland Court of Appeals grants. Each year, the Maryland Judiciary publishes a statistical abstract. The most recent report includes this table:

Maryland Certiorari Statistics

I’ve begun reviewing the Court’s petition docket to get more details.  Read More…

COSA Spotlight: Judge Andrea Leahy

By Steve Klepper and Diane Feuerherd

Continuing our series profiling members of the Court of Special Appeals, we interviewed Judge Andrea Leahy, one of the eight At-Large Judges of our intermediate appellate court, in her chambers on Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis.

Read More…

COSA addresses whether heroin distribution can support a conviction for involuntary manslaughter

By Brad McCullough

Across the country, opioid use has reached epidemic proportions with often tragic results. Maryland is no different from the rest of America. To battle this deadly plague, many prosecutors are charging drug dealers with homicide when customers die from overdoses caused by the drugs sold by the dealers. And again, many Maryland prosecutors are pursuing that same strategy by lodging homicide charges against dealers. These efforts have earned media attention, as seen in articles such as Alison Knezevich, Maryland Prosecutors Pursue Manslaughter, Murder in Overdose Cases, Baltimore Sun (December 7, 2017), https://perma.cc/UJY8-QZZN; Arelis R. Hernandez, Selling Opioids in this Rural Maryland County Could Get You a Murder Charge, Washington Post (August 9, 2017), http://perma.cc/4N8D-ZF4Y; Al Baker, New Tactic in War on Opioids: Charging Dealers in Overdose Deaths, New York Times (July 23, 2017), https://nyti.ms/2tRsvTv.

Those three articles are cited in Maryland’s first reported appellate decision dealing with this issue, Patrick Joseph Thomas a/k/a Patrick Joseph Patrick v. State, No. 1115, Sept. Term, 2016 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. April 4, 2018). Read More…

June 2018 Maryland Certiorari Grants

On Friday, the Maryland Court of Appeals granted certiorari in three criminal cases and two civil cases. The grants are below. Read More…

An Additional Certiorari Grant on Marijuana Odor

On Friday, the Court of Appeals of Maryland added one case to its docket for next term. Read More…

Odds and Ends

By Karen Federman Henry

Although its status as the intermediate appellate court may lead to skimming or skipping many of the decisions issued by the Court of Special Appeals, taking the time to review them can yield points of law that often go unnoticed.  This blog post captures a few recent issues that might otherwise have escaped your attention (especially if you are a purist and focus only on the Court of Appeals or United States Supreme Court).  The nuggets found in the intermediate appellate court deserve attention in modern law practice, because many days bring out-of-the-ordinary issues to our desks. Read More…

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Apply to Company Websites?

By Ayesha N. Khan, Guest Contributor[i]

Last year, Winn-Dixie lost an ADA-compliance lawsuit—Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 257 F. Supp. 3d 1340 (S.D.N.Y. 2017)—because blind individuals, who use screen readers to navigate websites, could not effectively use the supermarket chain’s website. Winn-Dixie, which has appealed the ruling, is not alone. In the last year, litigants have filed hundreds of website-accessibility lawsuits across the country. Hospitals, clinics, retailers, restaurants, credit unions, and universities have all been targeted.  Read More…

An Excellent New Resource on the 1867 Maryland Constitutional Convention

Baltimore attorney John J. Connolly, a prolific writer, has self-published an invaluable volume, Republican Press at a Democratic Convention: Reports of the 1867 Maryland Constitutional Convention.

Connolly, who annotates the 1867 reports published by the Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser, begins with this commentary: Read More…

May 2018 Maryland Certiorari Grants

The Maryland Court of Appeals granted four writs of certiorari today:

 

Wesley Cagle v. State of Maryland  – Case No. 15, September Term, 2018

(Reported CSA Opinion by Shaw Geter, J.)

Issue – Criminal Procedure – Does a trial court err in precluding a criminal defendant from using trial testimony video in closing argument?

 

Karen McDonell v. Harford County Housing Agency  – Case No. 16, September Term, 2018

(Unreported CSA Opinion by Shaw Geter, J.)

Issues – Administrative Law – 1) Did Respondent err in terminating a voucher without affording procedural due process guaranteed under federal and MD administrative common law? 2) Does a MD charge of second degree assault constitute “violent criminal activity” and grounds for voucher termination? 3) Did Respondent err in interpreting its policy to require notice within two weeks of an unplanned and unforeseen absence from the housing rented with the voucher? 4) Is breach of a financial obligation that had been cured adequate grounds for voucher termination? 5) Did Respondent err in failing to explicitly consider all relevant facts before voucher termination?

 

State of Maryland v. Brandon Payton – Case No. 14, September Term, 2018

(Reported CSA Opinion by Beachley, J.)

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Where Respondent made specific objections to reopening the State’s case for more fingerprint-expert testimony only on the grounds that the additional fingerprint testimony would be the last thing that the jury would hear and that it would be presented in isolation, were defense counsel’s claims that reopening would be “unfair” and “extremely prejudicial”  or the trial court’s statement that the reopening could “very well … be grounds for appeal” sufficient to preserve a judicial-partiality claim? 2) Did CSA err in concluding that the trial court abused its discretion in reopening the State’s case sua sponte? 3) Where the reopening of the State’s case was based on the trial court’s incorrect assumption that there had been no testimony linking Respondent to the handprint, was any error harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the testimony was cumulative of the testimony of three prior witnesses linking Respondent to the handprint?

 

Craig Williams v. State of Maryland – Case No. 13, September Term, 2018

(Unreported CSA Opinion by Beachley, J.)

Issue – Criminal Procedure – Did the trial court abuse its discretion in denying a motion for new trial where the court gave a pattern jury instruction and, after the jury rendered its verdict, the court, prosecution, and defense all acknowledged that the instruction erroneously omitted an element of the offense for which the defendant was convicted?