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Problems with Modern Electronic Legal Research—the Importance of “Rosetta Stones”

By Michael Wein

The ancient Egyptians – the builders of the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids, and rulers of much of the “fertile crescent” for millennia —  were a mystery civilization for one main reason: No one could decipher their hieroglyphic writing. That changed in the early Nineteenth Century, when Napoleon’s Army stumbled upon a marker holding Ptolemy’s Decree: the Rosetta Stone.  The Rosetta Stone contained writing in three languages on the same tablet:  (1) Egyptian Hieroglyphics (which no one alive for centuries understood or read), (2) Egyptian “Demotic” cursive writing, and (3) Ancient Greek, which was still used regularly by scholars.  And because it was a “translation” of the same decree, it became the “key” in 1822 for understanding Hieroglyphics (mostly for working back the translation through Ancient Greek), it began a reinvigoration in interest in the Egyptian history that was once thought lost.

Legal research in our modern era, now through online databases like Westlaw and Lexis, may appear distant from the ancient Hieroglyphics (depending on the case you’re working on). But there is a lesson in the Rosetta Stone for us.

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Maryland high court to hear challenge to COVID-related tolling orders

The Maryland Court of Appeals has accepted the following certified question from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland: “Did the Court of Appeals act within its enabling authority under, inter alia, the State Constitution and the State Declaration of Rights when its April 24, 2020 Administrative Order tolled Maryland’s statutes of limitation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?”

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July 2021 Maryland Certiorari Grants

On Friday, July 9, the Maryland Court of Appeals granted certiorari in three cases:

Broadway Services, Inc. v. Comptroller of Maryland – Case No. 19, September Term, 2021 (Reported COSA Opinion, by Gould, J.)

Issues – Tax-General – 1) Where tangible personal property is purchased by an intermediary contractor for the use of a non-profit charitable institution in carrying on its exempt purpose, are those purchases exempt from Maryland sales and use tax in light of John McShain, Inc. v. Comptroller, 252 Md. 68 (1953) under Md. Code § 11-204 of the Tax-General Article? 2) Were the Maryland Tax Court’s factual findings supported by substantial evidence such that the purchases in question are exempt from Maryland sales and use tax?

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June 2021 Maryland Certiorari Grants

The Court of Appeals today granted certiorari in three criminal appeals and three civil appeals.

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Recoverable damages for killing a pet.

By Brad McCullough

The Court of Appeals was recently faced with a tragic case involving the senseless slaying of a dog and the resulting spirited debate over the interpretation of a statute that addresses damages for the injury or death of a pet. In Anne Arundel Cty. v. Reeves, No. 68, Sept. Term, 2019 (Md. June 7, 2021), Chief Judge Barbera authored the majority opinion, holding that the statute unambiguously limits compensatory damages to the amount specified by that statute and does not allow recovery of noneconomic compensatory damages for the tortious injury or death of a pet. In a forceful dissent, Judge Hotten urged a broader reading of that statute that would allow recovery of noneconomic compensatory damages for the grossly negligent killing of a pet.

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In-Person Appellate Oral Arguments Ended Suddenly with a Bang, and are Restarting Slowly with Anticipated Full Strength in the Fall.

By: Michael Wein

What happened in March 2020 was an abrupt departure for everyone, and a surprisingly long segue from normal.  This post provides an update.   As outlined in detail in previous posts for this Blog,  the Maryland and Federal Appellate Courts (which include Maryland), suddenly postponed Oral arguments in March 2020.  They also had the unenviable task transitioning to Remote Oral Arguments for the first time.  It’s been that way for about a year.

Assuming T.S. Eliot is a legal authority (he’s not, but fun to quote) and as a matter of transitive logic, a “bang” wouldn’t signify the end of the world…only a whimper.   Thus, there will be a resumption of normal. [1]

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The Institution of the Judiciary and Judicial Review, American Democracy’s Lifeline

By Alan B. Sternstein

Until recently, the social and political institutions of the United States long enjoyed, largely, the respect and the fealty of its citizenry. Though their raison d’etre vary, our institutions our schools, houses of worship, courts, legislatures and more all serve a common and fundamental function. They facilitate the conduct of orderly and rational discourse aimed at achieving consensus of purpose, in, importantly but not exclusively, matters of education, worship, governance, and commerce. Plainly, however, institutions do not guarantee discourse having such quality and effect. That depends, instead, on the character of each institution’s members. Given their essential function and the vital purposes, how is it that our most important institutions, those of government, have fallen so far in function and repute? Certainly bearing responsibility, at the federal and even state levels, has been the Supreme Court’s insensitivity to, if not abdication of, the unique position it occupies to protect our democratic form of government, which judicial proclivity is the subject of this post. We start first, though, with some political theory.

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Divergence Between the Fourth Circuit and Maryland in Extending Arizona v. Gant to Non-Vehicular Searches Incident to a Lawful Arrest

By Megan E. Coleman

Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009) involved the search of a vehicle after the driver had been lawfully arrested, handcuffed, and locked in a patrol car. The Supreme Court rendered two holdings, the first, which is relevant for this post, held that the police may not use the search incident to a lawful arrest exception to the warrant requirement to search a vehicle incident to a recent occupant’s arrest after the arrestee has been secured and cannot access the interior of the vehicle.

Gant’s first holding was premised upon Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969), a non-vehicular search case in which it was determined that police may search incident to arrest only the space within an arrestee’s “immediate control”, meaning “the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.” The Chimel holding was then applied to vehicle searches in New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454 (1981).

However, the Gant Court limited Belton’s reach, based upon Chimel, since the purpose of allowing a search to prevent a suspect from gaining possession of a weapon or destroying evidence would be rendered nugatory where the suspect has already been secured and cannot access the interior of the vehicle.

For the past decade, in Maryland and in the Fourth Circuit, the holding in Gant has been applied exclusively to vehicle searches.

But on May 7, 2021, in United States v. Howard Davis, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit joined three other federal circuits in concluding that the holding in Gant applies to searches of non-vehicular containers as well. Now, police can conduct warrantless searches of non-vehicular containers incident to a lawful arrest, but “only when the arrestee is unsecured and within reaching distance of the [container] at the time of the search.”

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Scent of Marijuana Alone Does Not Provide Reasonable Suspicion to Seize a Person in Maryland

By Megan E. Coleman

Since Maryland decriminalized possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana in 2014, Maryland’s appellate courts have been tasked with determining how this non-criminal, but non-legal substance, factors into the reasonableness of warrantless searches and seizures where evidence of marijuana is present. 

On April 28, 2021, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided In re: D.D., holding, as a matter of first impression, that the odor of marijuana, by itself, does not provide reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and therefore, a stop based on this circumstance alone is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

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Court of Appeals Clears Baltimore City Excise Tax on Clear Channel’s Billboards

By Alan B. Sternstein

In Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. Dep’t of Finance, No. 9, September Term, 2020 (decided Mar. 15, 2021), the Court of Appeals recently affirmed the January 2020 decision of the Court of Special Appeals, which had ruled that Baltimore’s excise tax on billboards did not violate the First Amendment or Article 40 of the Maryland Constitution. Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. Dep’t of Finance, 244 Md. App. 304, 223 A.3d 1050 (2020). An April 15, 2020 post on this Blog previously discussed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals. The decision of the Court of Appeals, though affirming the Court of Special Appeals, provides important clarification with regard to assessing the constitutionality of speech constraints effected by regulation of the means, as opposed to the content, of speech.

Specifically, in reaching its decision, the Court of Special Appeals implied that regulation which limited or burdened only the means of communication was without First Amendment significance.  As will be reviewed in this post, the April 15, 2020 post argued otherwise, in principle and discussing relevant Supreme Court precedents.  In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals was clear that such regulation, though impacting only the noncommunicative, means of speech, also required First Amendment attention.

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