Maryland Court of Appeals continues its cautious approach to finding implied private causes of action
On May 20, 2016, in Fangman v. Genuine Title, LLC, a case certified from federal court, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. (“RP”) § 14-127 – which generally prohibits kickbacks and similar arrangements with respect to real-estate settlement business – does not create a private cause of action. Judge Watts wrote the opinion for the unanimous Court, which continued a winning streak in the Court of Appeals for defendants arguing against recognizing implied private rights of action.
Last summer, I reviewed the decision of the Court of Appeals in Shader v. Hampton Improvement Ass’n, Inc., 443 Md. 148 (2015), and the decision of the Court of Special Appeals in Garrity v. Maryland State Bd. of Plumbing, 221 Md. App. 78 (2015), and posed the following question: In addition to being used defensively as a shield, may non-mutual collateral estoppel be used offensively as a sword? In Garrity, the Court of Special Appeals had embraced the use of offensive non-mutual collateral estoppel, at least in the context of successive proceedings brought by separate administrative agencies. But I noted that the Court of Appeals on a number of occasions had neither embraced nor rejected offensive use of the doctrine, and, in Shader, had skirted the question, holding that the case did not require an answer to it. I suggested that the issue needed to make its way back to our highest court so that the Court could have the final word on the subject. Having granted certiorari in Garrity, the Court of Appeals a few weeks ago issued an opinion permitting offensive non-mutual collateral estoppel.
By John Grimm
One of the challenges of a criminal practice in the Maryland District Court is deciding how best to position your client for appeal. A typical day in the District Court can be a busy, if not hectic, affair, requiring lawyers to wrangle witnesses, work out plea deals, examine discovery, and, not uncommonly, meet and interview their clients for the first time. Although it can be hard to devote attention to preserving appellate issues, or even thinking about appellate strategy, the District Court’s unique jurisdictional status presents both appellate risks and benefits, and, during your trial preparation, it’s worth giving a little thought to what you’d want your criminal appeal to look like.
[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.
A little more than a month after nine applied for Judge Battaglia’s seat on the Court of Appeals, the pool has been whittled to five nominations. Unsurprisingly, the only sitting Court of Special Appeals judge, the Hon. Kathryn Grill Graeff, got a golden ticket, as did the Hon. Donald E. Beachley of the Washington County Circuit Court, a former magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Two private practitioners are in the mix as well: Thomas Edward Lynch, III, a principal at Miles & Stockbridge, and Andrew David Levy, a partner at Brown Goldstein Levy and co-author of Appellate Practice for the Maryland Lawyer.
At this point, that the Court of Appeals of Maryland is intent on taking fewer cases is old news, but it still feels a little jarring when (essentially) only three cases get through in a month. On Friday, the Court agreed to hear questions regarding polling of jurors, declaratory judgment actions, and expert testimony for certain types of DNA evidence. Check out the specifics after the jump.
Now that Judge Battaglia is preparing for her impending departure, change is occurring rapidly at the Court of Appeals. With Judge Hotten being appointed in December, Judge Watts joining the Court in 2013, and Judge McDonald donning the red robe in 2012, within a month’s time, a majority of the Court’s members will have been there for less than five years. Having gotten in applications before Thursday’s deadline, nine individuals are seeking to be next through the revolving door.
By Michael Wein
As previous Blog posts of January 19, February 12, and February 22 indicated would occur, expeditious Court of Appeals of Maryland arguments in the prosecution of the officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death will occur today, and are available for view by webcast. Officer William Porter initially sought relief in the appellate courts after being ordered by the trial judge to give testimony, pending his retrial, in the cases of Officers Caesar Goodwin and Alicia White, and was previously designated by the Court of Special Appeals, pursuant to Md. Rule 8-111, as the appellant in the case. Notably, after that court consolidated the appeal with those of Officers Goodwin and White, there was some disagreement about the correct caption and confusion as to whether it was appropriate to call them “Respondents” in the Court of Appeals. In any case, the four oral arguments to be heard today will address legal issues related to the cases of all six officers charged in Mr. Gray’s death.
For those staying on top of the prosecutions of the police officers implicated in the death of Freddie Gray — which Michael Wein has been covering for the Blog — last week was a big development, as the Maryland Court of Appeals postponed their trials to consider (assuming the issue is even properly appealed at all) whether defendant William Porter can be compelled to testify in those trials if his testimony won’t be used in his own upcoming retrial. As the story has been reported pretty much everywhere, we won’t recount all the details here; instead, we’ll note that, the day after the Court’s decisions, it released a bunch of other certiorari grants spanning some noteworthy issues. Check them out after the jump.