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Clear and present danger: An abused spouse can hire a contract killer and argue imperfect self-defense.

By Brad McCullough

When is a threat of mortal harm so imminent that a preemptive attack is justified or at least understandable? No, this is not a discussion of the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and the possibility of preemptive military action by the Trump administration. Instead, this is a look at the recent decision of the Court of Appeals in Porter v. State, No. 88, Sept. Term, 2016 (Md. Aug. 7, 2017), a murder case involving battered spouse syndrome and imperfect self-defense. This is a very interesting case, made even more interesting by how the members of the Court split. We sometimes see appellate courts split along liberal versus conservative lines, or between Democratic appointees and Republican appointees. But here, the Court split along gender lines, with the four female judges forming the majority and the three male judges in dissent. And that split reflected diametrically opposed views of what constitutes a threat of imminent harm. To the majority, a threat of inevitable harm can constitute a threat of imminent harm. But to the dissent, only a contemporaneous threat can constitute imminent harm. Read More…

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Judge Niemeyer’s dissent is the real headline in Maryland political gerrymandering case

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland stayed proceedings in Maryland’s political gerrymandering case, Benisek v. Lamone, pending the Supreme Court’s decision in the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, Gill v. Whitford. The real headline, though, is Fourth Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer’s dissent, which could have real implications for Gill. Read More…

A Procedurally Unusual En Banc Opinion from the Fourth Circuit

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Last Friday, in United States v. Chamberlain, the Fourth Circuit issued a unanimous en banc opinion overruling its precedents on “the pretrial restraint of a defendant’s innocent property pursuant to the federal criminal forfeiture statute.” The ruling was not a surprise, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Luis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1083 (2016).

But the ruling was a procedural oddity. Read More…

Marking #WomanJusticeDay in Maryland

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Over at the Twitter machine, Tracey Heinhold (@theinhold), Jack Metzler (@SCOTUSPlaces), and others are posting today with the hashtag #WomanJusticeDay to recognize the 126 women serving on states’ highest courts. Maryland is among the 11 states with female-majority supreme courts. The current female majority on the Court of Appeals of Maryland is four-to-three; it was briefly five-to-two before the retirement of Judge Lynne Battaglia.

Coincidentally, Steve Lash (@Steve_Lash) notes, from behind the paywall at The Daily Record, that the Court of Appeals “split along gender lines” this week in Porter v. State.  Read More…

With All Administrative Speed

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

The June 21 opinion of the Court of Appeals of Maryland in National Waste Managers, Inc. v. Forks of the Patxuent Improvement Association illustrates a serious problem with judicial review of state administrative decisions. The process takes a long time, often to accomplish very little. Read More…

Court of Appeals leaves unanswered how no-contest clauses reduced four decades of estates and trusts case law

By Michael Wein

Maryland estates and trusts law does not get its fair share of reported appellate decisions. The vast majority of estates and trusts cases are handled quickly and adroitly by the orphans’ court or, in some counties, the circuit court. Few cases are seriously litigated on appeal, and even fewer are decided by the Maryland appellate courts. A survey reveals that only 2 out of the 97 cert petitions granted by the Court of Appeals in the 2016 term fell under the category of “Estates and Trusts.”[1] In 2015, there were none.[2]

One of the two Court of Appeals cases from the 2016 term, Vito v. Grueff, was heard at oral argument on March 31, 2017. Vito highlights the lack of wills and estates case law in Maryland.

Read More…

The Final Judgment Rule: It ain’t over ’til it’s over

By Karen Federman Henry

Just when you think you know all of the rules for determining when a final judgment exists, they shift a bit.[*] The March 24 decision of the Court of Appeals in URS Corp. v. Fort Myer Construction Corporation interpreted the separate document requirement in Md. Rule 2-601 to allow a waiver of the requirement when doing so does not prejudice a party and preserves a party’s right to appeal. In some respects, the Court has returned us to some of the uncertainty that accompanied its decision in Houghton v. County Commissioners of Kent County, 305 Md. 407 (1986).

The elements of a final judgment sound simple—when all of the issues have been decided and the parties are effectively “out of court,” the time to appeal starts to run. Read More…

Twombly-Iqbal “Plausibility” and Maryland’s Pleading Requirements

Kamil Ismail Guest contributor

In a pair of decisions from 2007 and 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States established what has become known as the Twombly-Iqbal standard for a federal complaint to state a claim. With Twombly-Iqbal now entrenched in federal court, practitioners may be wondering whether that standard’s “plausibility” requirement also applies to complaints in state court. A better question, though, may be whether such a requirement was ever lacking in state court. Read More…

Fourth Circuit Weighs “Exceptional Importance” and Possible En Banc Hearing on Travel Ban 2.0

By Derek Stikeleather

President Trump’s revised “travel ban,” which targets six predominantly Muslim nations, has drawn intense media scrutiny and legal challenges across the nation. The proceedings in the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Hawaii and Washington, have garnered the lion’s share of the media spotlight. But proceedings here in the Fourth Circuit may yield the first substantive appellate court decision on the travel ban’s constitutionality.

As often happens in high-profile appeals, unusual procedural questions have also arisen. Last week, the Fourth Circuit received briefing, which it had ordered from the parties just days earlier, “on the appropriateness of initial en banc review” by the entire court. This is atypical for many reasons. Read More…

Bd. of Liquor License Comm’rs for Balt. City v. Kougl: “But I didn’t know there was prostitution at my adult entertainment club.”

By Brad McCullough

In the film classic Casablanca, Captain Renault claimed he was “shocked – shocked – to find gambling going on” in Rick’s café. Similarly, in a case recently decided by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, Steven Kougl was shocked that prostitution was being solicited in his adult entertainment establishment, The Club Harem. But the court found it unnecessary to pass on the credibility of Kougl’s claims of innocence and lack of knowledge, holding that liquor board regulations made him strictly liable for the illicit activities at his club. Bd. of Liquor License Comm’rs for Balt. City v. Kougl, No. 43, Sept. Term, 2016 (Feb. 17, 2017).

Read More…