By Michael Wein
It’s time for the Annual* “Blockbuster” Court of Appeals decision watch. Three years ago, with about one week to go before the Maryland Court of Appeals’ self-imposed deadline of August 31st for deciding all cases in the term, the Court had only four cases left to decide. Two years ago, with two weeks before the Court’s deadline, there were 11 decisions left undecided. With a little more than two weeks to go before this year’s deadline, nine (9) decisions remain undecided, per the “Pending Cases” page on the Court of Appeals’ web site, with four (4) of those cases related to the topic of juvenile life sentences (that will likely involve some form of consolidated opinion, or opinions that will cross-reference each other). Of these 9 cases, one is civil, five are criminal, and three involve an Attorney Grievance matter. A listing of these cases’ Questions Presented from the Court of Appeals’ website, can be found at the bottom of this post.
The case: Porter v. State, Sept. Term 2013, No. 1916 (Oct. 25, 2016)
The questions: Does Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. (“CJP”) § 10-916 permit a defendant implicated in a murder-for-hire scheme to introduce evidence of battered-spouse syndrome? Did the evidence in the case establish that the defendant had a subjective belief of an apparent imminent or immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm?
The case: Murphy v. Ellison, Sept. Term 2015, No. 0822 (Aug. 23, 2016) (unreported)
The questions: Can a plaintiff in a lead-paint case establish a property as a reasonably probable source of exposure without expert testimony or inspections of the property? Can the age of a house or its components establish that the property probably had lead paint? Can evidence of lead paint on the exterior of a home be evidence of lead paint on the interior?
The case: Norman v. State, Sept. Term 2015, No. 1408 (Aug. 11, 2016)
The questions: Was the odor of marijuana effectively the only justification for a police officer’s alleged belief that a passenger in a vehicle was armed and dangerous? If so, is that belief reasonable for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment?
The case: Crawley v. State, Sept. Term 2013, No. 0467 (Aug. 8, 2016)
The questions: If a plea agreement would be invalid without the inclusion of probation, is probation an implied term of the agreement? If a plea agreement is invalid because it provides for an illegal sentence, can a trial court, sua sponte, increase the sentence to make it legal? If a plea agreement is invalid for failure to include probation, is a defendant’s renegotiation of the plea limited to the addition of probation, or can he renegotiate the entire agreement?
By Michael Wein
Last year, with about one week to go before the Maryland Court of Appeals’ self-imposed deadline for deciding all cases in a September term by the following August, the Court had only four cases left to decide. Per the “Pending Cases” page on the Court of Appeals’ web site, with two weeks to go before this year’s deadline, 15 decisions are left to decide. Of these 15 cases, seven are civil, six are criminal, one is an Attorney Grievance matter (which the oral arguments indicate was, interestingly, remanded back to the trial judge for additional findings and re-argued in the same term), and one is a Bar application case.
The case: State v. Johnson, Sept. Term 2015, No. 0189 (June 29, 2016)
The questions: Does a circuit court have fundamental jurisdiction to acquit a defendant after the grant of a mistrial? Does such an acquittal bar further prosecution even if court relies on evidence that is technically not before it?
The case: Lapole v. State, Sept. Term 2014, No. 2169 (June 27, 2016)
The questions: Can a voir dire question about bias regarding testimony of police officers reference other professions as well? Is the failure to properly give that question subject to harmless-error review?
[Dissents in the Court of Special Appeals are, as we’ve noted here before, an infrequent thing — but quite useful. Many times, disagreement in the intermediate court portends consideration and resolution by the Court of Appeals, or highlights thorny issues that appellate practitioners can take up in future cases. In this new feature, the Blog tracks and analyzes split decisions at the Court of Special Appeals.]
The case: Old Republic Ins. Co. v. Gordon, No. 1020 (Sept. Term 2014)
The question: Did the circuit court err in its construction of the phrase “collection agency” under BR § 7-101(c)?
The facts: Old Republic Insurance Company sold Countrywide Home Loans a “credit insurance policy,” pursuant to which Old Republic would pay for losses caused by defaults in loans held by Countrywide; in return, Countrywide would subrogate its rights of recovery to Old Republic. Countrywide submitted a claim for Nancy Gordon’s default on her approximately $70,000 loan, and Old Republic paid it. Old Republic then exercised its subrogation rights to pursue repayment.
The company filed suit in circuit court and moved for summary judgment. Ms. Gordon opposed the motion on the grounds that, under Maryland law, Old Republic was barred from bringing its claims because it was acting as a collection agency subject to the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act but wasn’t licensed to do so. The court agreed and granted summary judgment to Ms. Gordon.
Rationales on the way for per curiam orders in the cases of officers charged in death of Freddie Gray
By Michael Wein
On March 8, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued two per curiam orders, found here and here, in the cases of the police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray — yet the reasons underlying the orders (which permitted the State to have Officer William Porter testify, prior to his own retrial, against all his fellow officers) remain a mystery. As reported in various media outlets, that became a problem for the trial judge last week when, based on the per curiam orders, he granted the State’s request to have another officer testify as a witness before his trial. The defense counsels reserved the right to reargue the matter after the high court provided its rationales for the orders.