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October 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants, Part 2

The Maryland Court of Appeals granted one additional certiorari petition from its October 17 conference. Read More…

October 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants

Last week, the Court of Appeals granted certiorari in four cases, including one bypass, to squarely address whether Maryland should adopt the Daubert standard for admitting expert testimony:

 

Jonathan Hemming v. State of Maryland – Case No. 48, September Term, 2019

(Unreported CSA Opinion by Wells, J.)

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Does a trial court have discretion under Md. Rule 4-253 to bifurcate separate counts between judge and jury in a single trial? 2) Did the trial court mistakenly believe that it had no authority under Rule 4-253 to bifurcate separate counts between judge and jury in a single trial and, as a result, fail to exercise its discretion under the rule? 3) Assuming, arguendo, that the trial court recognized and exercised its discretion, was the court’s refusal to bifurcate the counts charging possession of a regulated firearm by a disqualified person and possession of ammunition by a disqualified person from the remaining counts of the indictment an abuse of discretion under the circumstances of this case?

Read More…

Harford County v. Maryland Reclamation Associates: A $45 Million Lesson on the Running of Statutes of Limitation

By Alan B. Sternstein

Maryland Reclamation Associates (“MRA”) purchased 62 acres of land in Harford County, with the intention of constructing and operating a rubble landfill on the parcel. Harford County thereafter enacted a series of zoning ordinances and made administrative rulings singularly aimed at precluding the parcel’s use for that purpose. The administrative and judicial review proceedings the controversy engendered have lasted some 20 years, so far, and have included four appeals to the Court of Appeals. In MRA’s last administrative effort to save its plans from the dumps, the Harford County Board of Appeals (“Board of Appeals”) affirmed a lower level administrative ruling denying MRA’s request for variances from the ordinances that would have permitted the landfill. The Board of Appeals did so by a unanimous board vote on June 5, 2007. In the Court of Appeals’ fourth decision, on March 11, 2010, the court affirmed the Board’s denial. Maryland Reclamation Assocs. v. Harford C’ty, 414 Md. 1, 994 A.2d 842 (2010) (“MRA IV”).

On February 19, 2013, MRA filed an action in the Circuit Court for Harford County, alleging that the County’s actions constituted a regulatory taking, in violation of the Maryland Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The Circuit Court declined to dismiss the action as time barred pursuant to Maryland’s three-year general statute of limitations for civil actions. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101. After a jury trial, the Circuit Court entered judgment for MRA in the amount of $45,420,076, in April 2018. The Court of Special Appeals, in Harford C’ty v. Maryland Reclamation Assocs., No. 788, September Term, 2018 (Md. App. decided Aug. 1, 2019) (“MRA V”), vacated MRA’s judgment and remanded the case for entry of judgment in the County’s favor. Read More…

September 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants, Part 2

The Court of Appeals today granted certiorari in one additional case. Also, on September 17, it docketed a certified question from the District of Maryland. The cases, with questions presented, are below. Read More…

The Court of Appeals Continues Defining the Fourth Amendment Implications of the Odor of Marijuana in a Post-Decriminalization Maryland

By John R. Grimm

In 2014, the General Assembly decriminalized possession of small amounts of  marijuana; rather than being a crime, possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana is now a civil offense punishable by a fine.[1]  Courts have been grappling with the effects of this change ever since.  Most notably, since the possession of marijuana is no longer categorically a crime, courts have had to clarify the rules for whether the odor of marijuana still constitutes probable cause sufficient to justify a search or arrest.  Several recent Court of Appeals decisions define the contours of the Fourth Amendment with respect to the odor of marijuana in a post-decriminalization world, and a recent cert grant seems poised to confirm Fourth Amendment limits on marijuana-related arrests. Read More…

Court of Special Appeals Endorses Absolute Immunity for Administrative Adjudicators

By Peter Sheehan, Guest Contributor[i]

On June 26, 2019 the Court of Special Appeals published a scholarly 110-page opinion on an issue of first impression in Maryland: whether administrative adjudicators and prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity.  Bd. of Physicians v. Geier, 241 Md. App. 429 (2019).  In Geier, the court held that members of the Maryland Board of Physicians were entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity for adjudicative and prosecutorial acts and, as a result, the Board itself was entitled to immunity.  (The case previously had been in the Court of Special Appeals in 2015 (Geier I) and the Court of Appeals in 2017 (Geier II), but the procedural context of those appeals did not present an opportunity for the courts to resolve the absolute immunity question.)  In the simplest of terms, the case arose out of a public cease and desist order issued by the Board in 2012.  The plaintiffs, a physician and his family, sued the Board and numerous Board personnel, alleging federal constitutional claims under Section 1983 and state common law claims under the Maryland Tort Claims Act.  After a series of perceived discovery failures, the trial court ordered default as to the liability of all defendants and then, following a bench trial on damages, awarded the plaintiffs $1.25 million in compensatory damages, $1.25 million in punitive damages, and $2.4 million in attorneys’ fees.  Id. at 449.  The trial court, which itself issued a 112-page memorandum opinion, was not persuaded by federal case law recognizing and applying absolute quasi-judicial immunity, and it considered Section 5-715(b) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, which grants the Board and its agents qualified immunity for actions taken without malice, to be at odds with the principle of absolute quasi-judicial immunity.  Id. at 467.  Ultimately, the trial court found that multiple defendants had acted with malice.  Id. Read More…

Ten apply for vacancy on Court of Appeals

Yesterday was the close date for applications for the Court of Appeals seat vacated by the retirement of Judge Clayton Greene, Jr. Applicants must be residents of the Fifth Appellate Judicial Circuit, which includes Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles & St. Mary’s Counties.

Ten lawyers and judges applied: Read More…

Maryland Court of Appeals Criminal Cases by the Numbers, 2018 Term

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

For the most recent Court of Appeals term, which ran from September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019, I began tracking the Court’s merits docket across a number of categories. The Court’s criminal docket offers an interesting data set, because the State of Maryland is a party to every case, and the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) represents about 60% of defendants.

Going by bottom-line judgments, the State prevailed approximately half the time, maybe more, depending on how you count them. Read More…

September 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants

The Maryland Court of Appeals today granted review in four criminal appeals, including two cases regarding writs of actual innocence; and two civil appeals, including a constitutional challenge to Baltimore’s regulation requiring food trucks to operate more than 300 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants.

The grant list, including the questions presented and links to the opinions below, appears after the jump. Read More…

August 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants & Certified Questions

With the new term right around the corner, the Court of Appeals granted certiorari in nine cases, and the Court of Special Appeals certified questions of law in another one:

Darlene Barclay v. Sadie M. Castruccio – Case No. 30, September Term, 2019

(Unreported CSA Opinion by Nazarian, J.)

Issues – Torts – 1) Did the trial court err when it ruled that the cause of action for intentional interference with an expectancy is not a cause of action under Maryland law? 2) Did Petitioner adequately plead facts to succeed on a claim of intentional interference with an expectancy? Read More…