December 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants

Happy holidays from the Maryland Appellate Blog! Yesterday, the Court of Appeals granted review in three criminal cases and five civil cases. One of the civil cases, MIA v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co., centers on uninsured motorist coverage and will be consolidated with a certified question raising the same issue. Read More…

The Fourth Circuit Emoluments Case Proceeds En Banc: A Non-Partisan Guide for Lawyers

By Derek Stikeleather

On December 12, the en banc Fourth Circuit will re-hear oral argument in the “emoluments” case brought against President Trump by the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia. They allege that his ongoing business interests in the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. violate the Constitution’s Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses. In July, a three-judge panel of the court unanimously held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a lawsuit to enforce the Emoluments Clauses, and it remanded the case to be dismissed with prejudice. In re Trump, 928 F.3d 360 (4th Cir. 2019). Despite the unanimous panel ruling, a majority of the court’s active (i.e., non-senior status) judges voted to allow rehearing en banc. 780 F. App’x 36 (4th Cir. 2019).

The case is genuinely newsworthy for many reasons. Read More…

Jonathan Biran Appointed to Court of Appeals

Today Governor Larry Hogan appointed Jonathan Biran to the Court of Appeals of Maryland. Biran will take the seat reserved for the Fifth Appellate Circuit (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties), replacing recently retired Judge Clayton Greene, Jr. This is the second time one of the blog’s original seven editors has been appointed to the state appellate courts.

Governor Hogan’s press release states: Read More…

Bubba Gump reminds us that quasi-contract is not an equitable claim and is not available where a real contract exists

By Brad McCullough

When lawyers bring lawsuits alleging a breach of contract, they often include claims for unjust enrichment. As the Court of Special Appeals recently explained, however, those efforts are often doomed to failure. In AAC HP Realty, LLC v. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurants, Inc., __ Md. App. __ (Oct. 31, 2019), in an opinion authored by Judge Kevin Arthur, the Court reminded the bar of two points that pertain to unjust enrichment. The first is “the general rule that unjust enrichment is unavailable when the parties have an enforceable contract.” Slip Op. at 5. And the second is that an unjust enrichment claim seeking a money judgment is not an equitable claim (despite a widespread mistaken belief to the contrary), but is instead a quasi-contractual claim that is an action at law. Id. at 8 n.5.

Bubba Gump is a seafood restaurant in Baltimore’s Harborplace. It leases space from AAC, pursuant to a lease that obligates Bubba Gump to pay monthly rent, “without deduction or set-off.” Id. at 2. The lease requires AAC to maintain the common areas, which the lease calls “Joint Use Areas,” and to keep those areas in “good order and repair.” Read More…

November 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants

Last week, the Maryland Court of Appeals granted review in three civil cases and two civil cases. Two of the civil cases are on petitions by Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis.  The third is from a Court of Special Appeals opinion (criticized in a post by Alan Sternstein) that reversed a $45 million judgment against Harford County.

Read More…

Three Nominated for Court of Appeals Vacancy

On Tuesday, the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission interviewed the applicants for the Court of Appeals seat vacated by the retirement of Judge Clayton Greene, Jr. That seat is designated for residents of the Fifth Appellate Judicial Circuit, which includes Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles & St. Mary’s Counties.

Yesterday, the Commission forwarded three nominees to the Governor:

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Say what you mean and mean what you say

By Karen Federman Henry

Energetic discovery disputes during litigation occur frequently, frustrating the parties, their attorneys, and the judges who rule on the disputes along the way.  When the violations are exceptionally egregious, sanctions may be imposed ranging from new deadlines for compliance to dismissal of the lawsuit in its entirety.  Recently, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of a case based on perceived discovery violations in Colvin v. Eaton Corp., No. CSA-REG-2103-2016 (Oct. 4, 2019).  The reversal reflected the importance of clear communication, both in the details of a discovery order and from the attorneys representing a party when there are changes during litigation. Read More…

October 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants, Part 2

The Maryland Court of Appeals granted one additional certiorari petition from its October 17 conference. Read More…

October 2019 Maryland Certiorari Grants

Last week, the Court of Appeals granted certiorari in four cases, including one bypass, to squarely address whether Maryland should adopt the Daubert standard for admitting expert testimony:

 

Jonathan Hemming v. State of Maryland – Case No. 48, September Term, 2019

(Unreported CSA Opinion by Wells, J.)

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Does a trial court have discretion under Md. Rule 4-253 to bifurcate separate counts between judge and jury in a single trial? 2) Did the trial court mistakenly believe that it had no authority under Rule 4-253 to bifurcate separate counts between judge and jury in a single trial and, as a result, fail to exercise its discretion under the rule? 3) Assuming, arguendo, that the trial court recognized and exercised its discretion, was the court’s refusal to bifurcate the counts charging possession of a regulated firearm by a disqualified person and possession of ammunition by a disqualified person from the remaining counts of the indictment an abuse of discretion under the circumstances of this case?

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Harford County v. Maryland Reclamation Associates: A $45 Million Lesson on the Running of Statutes of Limitation

By Alan B. Sternstein

Maryland Reclamation Associates (“MRA”) purchased 62 acres of land in Harford County, with the intention of constructing and operating a rubble landfill on the parcel. Harford County thereafter enacted a series of zoning ordinances and made administrative rulings singularly aimed at precluding the parcel’s use for that purpose. The administrative and judicial review proceedings the controversy engendered have lasted some 20 years, so far, and have included four appeals to the Court of Appeals. In MRA’s last administrative effort to save its plans from the dumps, the Harford County Board of Appeals (“Board of Appeals”) affirmed a lower level administrative ruling denying MRA’s request for variances from the ordinances that would have permitted the landfill. The Board of Appeals did so by a unanimous board vote on June 5, 2007. In the Court of Appeals’ fourth decision, on March 11, 2010, the court affirmed the Board’s denial. Maryland Reclamation Assocs. v. Harford C’ty, 414 Md. 1, 994 A.2d 842 (2010) (“MRA IV”).

On February 19, 2013, MRA filed an action in the Circuit Court for Harford County, alleging that the County’s actions constituted a regulatory taking, in violation of the Maryland Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The Circuit Court declined to dismiss the action as time barred pursuant to Maryland’s three-year general statute of limitations for civil actions. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101. After a jury trial, the Circuit Court entered judgment for MRA in the amount of $45,420,076, in April 2018. The Court of Special Appeals, in Harford C’ty v. Maryland Reclamation Assocs., No. 788, September Term, 2018 (Md. App. decided Aug. 1, 2019) (“MRA V”), vacated MRA’s judgment and remanded the case for entry of judgment in the County’s favor. Read More…