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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…

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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…

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…

Update: The End of Frye-Reed Draws Closer

By Derek Stikeleather

In my lengthy October 2017 post, The End of Frye-Reed, I traced the history of Maryland’s Frye-Reed jurisprudence on expert testimony and explained my view that Frye-Reed is now “on its last legs.” A recent published Court of Special Appeals opinion, Sissoko v. State,[1] suggests that Frye-Reed’s death has drawn even closer. It notes Maryland’s “drift” towards applying Frye-Reed to scientific conclusions, rather than only techniques, and treats the Frye-Reed and Rule 5-702 inquiries as tests that not only “overlap” but perhaps have even “melded into one.”[2] In doing so, the opinion elevates, from well-considered dicta to controlling Maryland law, many points in the concurring opinion in the Court of Appeals’ August 2017 decision Savage v. State.[3]

The analysis in my original post ended with Savage v. State, which is proving itself to be a landmark opinion. Read More…

Oral Argument in Benisek v. Lamone: An Alleged Wrong Without a Remedy, Regardless?

By Alan B. Sternstein

The Supreme Court’s most pressing dilemma today is, arguably, the choice between heeding constitutional and practical considerations of justiciability, on the one hand, and, on the other, applying constitutional cures for the evident dysfunction by which partisan redistricting has defiled electoral processes and our democracy. The views of the majority of the electorate on several major policy issues facing this country are demonstrably out of line with the current holders of power in Congress and the Presidency, gun control and health care, being, perhaps, the best examples of this.

In other matters involving the integrity of the electoral process, the Court has often not cowed at confronting the dilemma. See, e.g., Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010); Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347 (1976); Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976); Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964) and Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962). The institutional risk, still, to federal courts is their supplanting state legislatures in a function that the Constitution expressly assigns to those bodies and the assumption of that function’s burdens by a judiciary ill-equipped, ill-informed and ill-positioned to perform it.

Most recently, the Court recurred to the problem of reviewing redistricting challenges in last month’s oral argument in Benisek v. Lamone, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136208 (D. Md. Aug. 24, 2017), appeal docketed, No. 17-333 (U.S. Sept. 1, 2017). Read More…

The #MeToo Movement and Arbitration Clauses

By Ayesha N. Khan, Guest Contributor[i]

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the #MeToo movement has seized the cultural zeitgeist. Thousands of women have come forward to tell their stories and many powerful people have lost their positions on the heels of serious accusations. The entertainment industry, the political sphere, corporate boardrooms, and the judiciary have all been affected.

One corporation that has felt the heat is the ridesharing company Uber. After employee Susan Fowler sparked an uproar with allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, an internal investigation led to more than 200 employee complaints and 20 terminations. Fowler will presumably sue Uber, but it remains to be seen whether she will join forces with others in doing so because, like many employers, Uber requires employees to sign a contract that commits them to resolving disputes through private, individual arbitration.

In a trio of consolidated cases – Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, No. 16-285; Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, No. 16-300; and NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., No. 16-307 – the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to address whether provisions like the one in Fowler’s employment contract will be given effect. The decision may have a greater impact on businesses and their employees than any other decision this term. Read More…

Strong Cert Candidate in the Supreme Court, May Counsel Delay in Pending Juvenile “Equivalent to Life” Sentences in States like Maryland.

By Michael Wein

The United States Supreme Court has before it, a case out of the Supreme Court of Missouri, Bostic v. Dunbar, that may affect similar pending cases in state and federal courts.  This includes the case in the Maryland Court of Appeals of Matthew McCullough v. Maryland, which had oral arguments in February.  Read More…

Free to leave? Maryland courts should rethink how they determine whether a car’s occupants are seized under the Fourth Amendment

By Sam Cowin and Eleanor Erney
Guest Contributors[1]

Suppose you’re sitting in a parked car, waiting for a friend on the street outside her house, when a uniformed police officer suddenly parks behind you, approaches your car on foot, and starts to question you. If you’re like us, your heart would be in your stomach before the police officer even reached your car, and you certainly wouldn’t think that driving away from the scene in the middle of the questioning was an option. The empirical evidence suggests we are not alone: In a 2009 survey, for example, most people (regardless of gender, age, or race) responded that they would not feel free to leave if they were approached and questioned by a police officer on the street.[2] Tellingly, a number of survey respondents who knew they had a right to leave a police encounter nevertheless reported that they would not feel free to exercise that right.[3]

Yet in determining whether the police seized a person in her parked car (therefore entitling that person to Fourth Amendment protection), the Maryland courts continue to operate in a fictional world in which people ordinarily feel free to drive away when a uniformed police officer unexpectedly approaches and questions them. Read More…

Judicial Impartiality Can Be Difficult to Maintain

By Karen Federman Henry

Many litigators have experienced those situations where a judge becomes interested in the case and asks a witness a follow-up question.  It goes with the territory, right?  So what about when a judge reopens your case instead of outright dismissing it?  The Court of Special Appeals has an answer—the judge needs to be cautious when doing so or risk crossing the line of impartiality.  See Payton v. State, CSA No. 2115, Sept. Term, 2016 (February 1, 2018).

Read More…