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May 2022 Maryland Certiorari Grants

On Friday, the Court of Appeals granted cert in these four cases:

Ernest and Maryann Elsberry v. Stanley Martin Companies, LLC  – Case No. 6, September Term, 2022 (Unreported CSA Opinion by Zarnoch, J.)

Issues – Real Property – 1) May a court rely on legislative history unrelated to the specific statutory text at issue to override the consumer protections granted in the plain language and tabulation of Md. Code § 14-117(a)(3) of the Real Property (“RP”) Article, an unambiguous remedial statute? 2) Did CSA violate Article III, Section 29 of the Maryland Constitution by using the title of the bill “Prince George’s County – Deferred Water and Sewer Charges Homeowner Disclosure Act of 2014” to contradict the plain language of RP § 14-117(a)(3)(ii)?

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When Unstoppable Allegations of Fraud Meet an Immovable Arbitration Clause, which will give first?

By Meaghan C. Murphy, Guest Contributor

In January, the Court of Special Appeals reported a case where an arbitration clause was held to be moot because of allegations of fraud and misrepresentation to the court in order to approve transfers of structured in exchange for a discounted lump sum cash payment. The class of people who transferred their structured settlements sued Access Funding LLC and its associated entities, asserting claims of negligence, misrepresentation, fraud, and conspiracy. See Chrystal Linton, et al. v. Access Funding LLC, et al., 253 Md. App. 507 (2022) (“Linton 2”). This was the second time these parties had appeared before the Court of Special Appeals. See Linton v. Consumer Protection Division, 467 Md. 502, 521-22 (2020) (“Linton 1”).

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April 2022 Maryland Certiorari Grants

Yesterday, the Court of Appeals of Maryland granted certiorari in four cases.

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MSBA Panel Reviews Recent Notable Maryland Appellate Decisions

By Derek Stikeleather

On April 13, the MSBA’s Appellate Section hosted its annual program on recent notable Maryland appellate decisions. I was pleased to moderate (via Zoom) three panelists: Judge Gary Bair (retired), Carrie Williams of the OAG’s Criminal Appeals Division, and Kamil Ismail. The panel discussed six recent decisions:

Leidig v. State, 475 Md. 181 (2021): The Leidig opinion held that Article 21 of the Maryland constitution provides even broader protection than the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. It held that a criminal defendant whose DNA was taken from blood spilled at a crime scene had the right to confront the author of the DNA report that identified him. Applying the fractured opinions from the Supreme Court’s 2012 Williams v. Illinois decision, Judge Biran and Judge Watts discussed conflicting styles of Confrontation Clause analysis including DNA analysis that was “nonaccusatory” and analysis marked by “formality and solemnity.” Noting the strong influence of retired Judge Eldridge in Maryland’s Sixth Amendment jurisprudence as well as the recent arrival of four new judges on the Court of Appeals, Judge Bair explained that Article 21 renders a DNA report “testimonial” if the report’s author would reasonably understand that the report’s primary purpose would be to establish facts potentially relevant to future prosecutions.

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Governor Appoints Matthew J. Fader as New Chief of the Court of Appeals

Today, the day after Chief Judge Joseph Getty‘s 70th birthday and formal retirement from the State’s highest court, Governor Larry Hogan appointed Judge Matthew J. Fader to succeed him, as the next Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. In the same press release, quoted in full below, the Governor also officially designated Judge E. Gregory Wells as Chief Judge of the Court of Special Appeals:

Governor Larry Hogan today swore in Judge Matthew J. Fader as Chief Judge for the Court of Appeals, and officially designated Judge E. Gregory Wells as Chief Judge for the Court of Special Appeals.

“I am proud to designate Judge Fader and Judge Wells to preside over the state’s highest courts,” said Governor Hogan. “They are both highly respected and experienced jurists who serve with distinction and an unwavering dedication to the law.”

In total, the governor has made 163 judicial appointments during his tenure. He has focused on ensuring that the composition of the courts better reflects the diversity of the state. Earlier this week, he swore in Judge Angela M. Eaves as the first Hispanic to serve on the Court of Appeals. Today, Judge Wells became the first African American to serve as chief judge of the Court of Special Appeals, and the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as chief judge of either of Maryland’s appellate courts.

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SCOTUS Resolves Circuit Split in § 1983 Claims, Dissent Claims Majority Created a New Tort

By Megan E. Coleman

On April 4, 2022, the Supreme Court issued Thompson v. Clark, et al, No. 20-659, 596 U.S. ____ (2022), holding that to demonstrate a favorable termination of a criminal prosecution for purposes of the Fourth Amendment claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for malicious prosecution, a plaintiff need not show that the criminal prosecution ended with some affirmative indication of innocence, rather, a plaintiff need only show that his prosecution ended without a conviction.

This holding resolved a split among the Courts of Appeals over how to apply the favorable termination requirement of the Fourth Amendment claim under § 1983 for malicious prosecution. Justice Kavanaugh delivered the opinion of the Court and was joined by Roberts, C.J, and Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Barrett, JJ. The opinion is characterized as resolving a “narrow dispute in this case concern[ing] one element of the Fourth Amendment claim under § 1983 for malicious prosecution.”

The problem with the majority’s opinion and holding, according to the dissent, is that the majority created a new tort altogether because the Fourth Amendment offers no protection for claims of malicious prosecution. The dissent was authored by Justice Alito, and joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, JJ.

The majority’s opinion is an easy read with a straight-forward holding that makes the plaintiff’s burden easier because the plaintiff no longer has to rely on the prosecutor or judge making a statement on the record about why the criminal charges were dismissed. But the dissent got me thinking – the majority may have impermissibly used the Fourth Amendment as a catch-all net to capture a malicious prosecution claim, when a malicious prosecution claim is distinct from an unreasonable seizure claim.

I will attempt to explain both sides and you can decide for yourself.  

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March 2022 Maryland Certiorari Grants, Batch 2

The Maryland Court of Appeals today granted certiorari in one additional case, the first to be assigned to its regular docket for its next term, starting September 1, 2022.

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COSA Spotlight: The Honorable E. Gregory Wells

By Diane Feuerherd and Steve Klepper

In late February, we sat down via zoom with Judge Gregory Wells, to learn more about him, his path to the bench and his chambers in Prince Frederick. What we did not know at that time, was that Governor Hogan was preparing to announce, the day after our interview, that he is appointing Judge Wells to be the next Chief Judge of the court. In that role, he will succeed Chief Judge Matthew Fader, who will be elevated to the Court of Appels in April. That we were able to profile Judge Wells at such a moment was, in a word often and graciously used by him in this interview, “serendipitous.”

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March 2022 Maryland Certiorari Grant, with an Update on Redistricting Cases

The Maryland Court of Appeals today granted certiorari in one case, a criminal appeal.

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Maryland’s Discretionary Standard for Applications for Leave to Appeal

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Maryland has an unusual procedure for appeals in post-conviction cases. The losing party, whether the State or the criminal defendant, must apply for leave to appeal. Our intermediate appellate court, the Court of Special Appeals (COSA), has unreviewable discretion whether to grant merits review of the decision. Our high court, the Court of Appeals, lacks statutory authority to review COSA’s discretionary decision to deny merits review.[1] No rule, statute, or decision tells us what standard governs that exercise of discretion.

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