Archive by Author | MdAppBlog

The Courts They Are a-Changin’

By John Grimm

Tuesday was an election night full of historic firsts for Maryland—including the first Black governor[1] and attorney general,[2] the first South Asian woman lieutenant governor,[3] and the first woman to win statewide state office independently.[4] It also marked the fruition of the seemingly quixotic legislative project of giving Maryland’s appellate courts names that make sense. By a margin of 73% to 27%, voters approved a constitutional amendment changing the name of the state’s highest court from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland (and the title of its jurists from judge to justice), and the state’s intermediate appellate court from the Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland.

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October 2022 Maryland Certiorari Grants

On Friday, the Maryland Court of Appeals granted certiorari in two appeals, one civil and one criminal.

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Maryland Appellate Courts’ “Highlighted Cases” Pages Offer a Primer on Motions Practice

By Diane E. Feuerherd

Motions are seldom the feature of an appellate opinion, but often play a prominent role in moving your case, efficiently and effectively, through the appellate process. Title 8 of the Maryland Rules, in Rules 8-431, 8-603 and others, impose requirements on the motion’s timing, scope, contents and appearance, as well as any response. The court may rule quickly, particularly when the motion is filed before the brief, and even dismiss an appeal on the court’s own initiative (see Rule 8-602(a)). While you may be looking forward to the next edition of the Appellate Practice for the Maryland Lawyer: State and Federal, for updates on the Motions Practice in State Appellate Courts chapter (as the author of that chapter, I certainly am!), consider in the meantime the “Highlighted Cases” pages of the Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals, each providing in real time examples of motions, responses and rulings. These websites are a helpful primer to appellate practitioners, whether you are seasoned or green.


In other news, the Maryland Appellate Blog wishes to congratulate one of our own, Brad McCullough, on his appointment to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. He has been a Blog editor and colleague since we started in 2013. We will miss him, but our loss is Maryland’s gain.

A haircut as destruction or concealment of evidence or consciousness of guilt—part two.

By Brad McCullough

Last fall, I wrote a post asking if a haircut could support a jury instruction regarding destruction or concealment of evidence. (October 25, 2021, “When can a haircut amount to destruction or concealment of evidence?”)  In Rainey v. State, 252 Md. App. 578 (2021), the defendant was charged with murder. At the time of the killing, he had long dreadlocks, but when he was arrested, his hair was close-cropped. The Court of Special Appeals held that the evidence at trial supported an inference that Rainey’s drastic haircut showed a consciousness of guilt. The intermediate appellate court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in giving the pattern jury instruction dealing with destruction or concealment of evidence. The Court of Appeals granted certiorari and affirmed the intermediate appellate court. Rainey v. State, No. 54, Sept. Term, 2021.

Here are the facts. The victim was found lying dead in a Baltimore alley, with multiple gunshot wounds. A witness saw two men arguing, one of whom wore his hair in long dreadlocks. The man with dreadlocks walked away. A few moments later, the witness heard several booms and saw the man with the dreadlocks with his arm raised and the other man lying in the alley. The man lying in the alley died. The man with the dreadlocks ran off. Citiwatch and surveillance video also captured these events.

Six days later, the police showed the witness a photo array of men wearing shoulder-length dreadlocks. She selected a photo of Rainey, noting that the man in the photo looked like the shooter. A month later, she saw the shooter on the street, but he now had a very short haircut. She called the police and the man was arrested. The witness “had lived in the neighborhood for several years” and “was familiar with the illicit drug trade occurring within the neighborhood and [Rainey’s] specific involvement in the local drug trade for the past twelve to eighteen months.” Slip Op. at 4. At trial, she identified Rainey as the person with dreadlocks in the video. She also testified that she was certain he was the shooter. Id. at 6. She further “testified that between the shooting and the arrest, [Rainey] cut his shoulder-length dreadlocks to a short, close-cropped hairstyle.” Id. (footnote omitted).

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Appellate Standing in Maryland’s Mail-In Ballot Dispute

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

On Friday, the Maryland Court of Appeals granted the State Board of Elections’ petition for immediate review of the challenge by Delegate Daniel Cox to the circuit court order allowing the canvassing of mail-in ballots to begin on October 1 instead of November 9. The Court of Appeals expedited the appeal, with both sides’ briefs due Tuesday, and oral argument on Friday, October 7.

The questions presented are:

In re: Petition for Emergency Remedy by the Maryland State Board of Elections – Case No. 21, September Term, 2022
Issues – Election Law – 1) Did the trial court correctly rule that the remedy sought under Md. Code § 8-103(b)(1) of the Election Law (“E.L.”) article comports with the principle of separation of powers because the remedy, an adjustment to the electoral calendar, is a function routinely entrusted to the judicial branch? 2) Did the trial court correctly rule that the incoming volume of mail-in ballots and inadequate time frame in which to process them constitute “emergency circumstances” that “interfere with the electoral process” as those terms are used in E.L. § 8-103(b)(1)?

Election Law § 8-103(b)(1) provides, without elaboration: “If emergency circumstances, not constituting a declared state of emergency, interfere with the electoral process, the State Board or a local board, after conferring with the State Board, may petition a circuit court to take any action the court considers necessary to provide a remedy that is in the public interest and protects the integrity of the electoral process.”

The State Board’s petition notes that the trial court allowed Delegate Cox, the Republican nominee for governor, to intervene as a matter of discretion, not right. The State Board welcomed his participation. A footnote states: “Delegate Cox’s intervention in the case mooted any concerns or controversies regarding the justiciability of the one-party proceeding.”

I don’t see the concern about justiciability in the circuit court. The Maryland Constitution has no “case or controversy” clause, and the State Board did not petition under a statute, such as the Declaratory Judgment Act, that requires an actual controversy. Many matters are justiciable in circuit courts when no controversy exists. For example, circuit courts decide uncontested petitions for adult name changes and can even waive the requirement of publication that would give notice to anyone who might object.

On the other hand, although I may well be missing something, I have trouble seeing why Delegate Cox has standing to appeal. Appellate jurisdiction requires a notice of appeal filed by a person aggrieved by the order or judgment, under the usual principles of legal standing. See Buchwald v. Buchwald, 175 Md. 103, 114 (1938). Standing requires a wrong different in character and kind from that suffered by the public generally.

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September 2022 Maryland Certiorari Grant

The Maryland Court of Appeals granted certiorari in one case following its September 22 conference.

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Prominent Black Attorney Denied the Same Relief Granted to Former White Governor

By Megan E. Coleman

On September 7, 2022, the Fourth Circuit issued an order denying reconsideration en banc of Kenneth Ravenell’s petition for reconsideration of the three-judge panel’s affirmance of the district court’s denial of his motion for bail and stay of sentence pending appeal.

Judge Wynn issued a dissenting opinion, joined by Judges Motz, King, and Thacker, questioning why the full court refused to reconsider the denial of Mr. Ravenell’s motion for release pending appeal when the court was willing to reconsider the denial of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s motion for release pending appeal.

Kenneth Ravenell was a prominent African American attorney in Baltimore who argued cases all over Maryland, the United States, and before the United States Supreme Court. In December, 2021, Mr. Ravenell was convicted of federal conspiracy to commit money laundering. In June, 2022, he was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.

Mr. Ravenell filed an appeal in which he alleged that the district court committed reversible error by refusing to instruct the jury on the statute of limitations because the government was required to prove that the alleged money laundering conspiracy “continued into” the applicable limitations period.

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August 2022 Maryland Certiorari Grants

Today, the Maryland Court of Appeals granted review in two civil cases and two criminal cases.

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Maryland Court of Appeals, in Irwin Industrial, Confirms Alternative Grounds for Summary Judgment, Typically Remain Unavailable to Argue in Appeals

By Michael Wein

The Court of Appeals’s recent decision in Irwin Industrial Tool Company v. Pifer (May 31, 2022, J. Watts) had as the main certiorari issue, on “[w]hether it was reversible error for the [Court of Special Appeals] to reverse the authenticity threshold applied by the Circuit Court for the admissibility of items purchased from the internet.”[i]  This encompassed about 36 pages of the 44-page unanimous decision authored by Judge Watts.  The case also featured the effective but tricky usage of demonstrative evidence at oral arguments, beginning at the 41st minute of the oral argument webcast.

However, Question Presented Two, on “[w]hether it was reversible error for the [Court of Special Appeals] to ignore the alternative grounds for summary judgment encompassed in the Circuit Court’s Order[,]” while only a few pages long, had important applications, beyond the case.  The ultimate decision confirms a reluctance by Maryland appellate courts to decide issues for the first time on appeal, especially when the trial court declines to clearly rest their decision on these alternative grounds.

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Appellate Practice Seminar in St. Mary’s County

The St. Mary’s County Bar Association will be holding an appellate practice seminar on August 5.

Date: Friday, August 5, 2022, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Location: St. Mary’s County Courthouse, 41605 Courthouse Drive, Leonardtown, MD 20650

Panelists:
Judge Jonathan Biran, Court of Appeals
Chief Judge E. Gregory Wells, Court of Special Appeals
Judge Kevin Arthur, Court of Special Appeals
Senior Judge James Kenney, Court of Special Appeals
Diane Feuerherd, Miller, Miller & Canby
Steve Klepper, Kramon & Graham

Longtime readers will note that the event is heavy on Maryland Appellate Blog editors and alumni. Beyond Diane (blog manager) and Steve (editor-in-chief), Judges Biran and Arthur were both with the blog before joining the bench.

To RSVP for the event, email smc.bar.association@gmail.com.