Tag Archive | Maryland Court of Appeals

Looking for the Next Big Case, Part II: The Court of Appeals Decides B.J.’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Rosen

By Brad McCullough

Four months ago, as part of looking for “the next big case,” I previewed two cases that were scheduled for argument in the Court of Appeals in September and October. One of those cases was BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Rosen, No. 99, September Term, 2012. About six weeks ago, the Court decided that case, reversed the Court of Special Appeals, and held that a parent’s pre-injury waiver of a minor child’s negligence claim against a commercial enterprise does not violate public policy. Read More…

Who Is on the Court Of Appeals: The Role of Retired Judges

By Kevin Arthur

As most Maryland lawyers probably know, the Court of Appeals consists of seven judges from the various geographical regions in the state. But because the Maryland Constitution requires judges to retire at age 70 and then permits retired judges to be recalled into service, the Court of Appeals currently has as many as six additional members who serve provisionally on a case-by-case basis . After Judges Battaglia and Harrell are required to retire over the next two years, the Court may have more provisional, retired members than it has active members.

In recent years, retired judges have had an outsized role in some of the Court’s most prominent and controversial decisions. Most notably, in Tracey v. Solesky, 427 Md. 627 (2012), two retired judges provided the decisive votes in support of a 4-3 opinion that held that landlords could be held strictly liable for injuries caused by their tenants’ pit bulls. One of the retired judges authored the divisive opinion, which spurred a successful motion to reconsider some of the majority’s more expansive pronouncements (concerning liability for so-called “pit bull mixes”), unsuccessful efforts at corrective legislation in a special session of the General Assembly in 2012, the acrimonious collapse of a legislative compromise at the end of the 2013 legislative session, and additional legislative proposals in the upcoming session. Read More…

In re 2012 Legislative Districting and the Permanence or Expedience of Judicial Review

By Alan B. Sternstein

Every ten years, after each national census, provisions in the Maryland Constitution (Art. III, § 5) require that the State’s 47 Legislative Districts be reviewed for reapportionment. Those same provisions require the Governor to submit to both houses of the State legislature, the Senate and the House of Delegates, a plan for the 47 Districts, making boundary changes to the District in response to population changes and as necessitated by and consistent with state and federal constitutional requirements. Failing the General Assembly’s adoption of its own plan, the Governor’s plan becomes law, and that became the case for Governor O’Malley’s plan in response to the 2010 census (“2012 Plan”), which became the law on February 24, 2012.

The reapportionment provisions of the Maryland Constitution also vest the Court of Appeals with original jurisdiction to review any registered voter’s constitutional challenge to the legislative redistricting plan (Art. III, § 5). On March 6, 2012, the Court of Appeals issued an order in Matter of 2012 Legislative Districting of the State, 429 Md. 301, 55 A.3d 713 (2012), setting forth procedures to accommodate such challenges and appointed retired Court of Appeals Judge Alan M. Wilner as the Court’s Special Master, to conduct any necessary hearings. Eventually, after hearings before the Special Master, the submission of his recommendations, the taking of exceptions thereto, and argument before the Court, the Court issued a one page order on November 9, 2012, rejecting all challenges to the 2012 Plan, with opinion to follow. The Court (Bell, C.J., ret.) issued that opinion (cited herein as “Slip Op.”) on December 10, 2013. Read More…

Certified Questions to the Court of Appeals Now Online

By Michael Wein

Certified questions are an irregular part of Court of Appeals practice (averaging about 3-5 per year), usually from a Maryland Federal District Court judge or a Fourth Circuit panel asking the Maryland Court of Appeals to opine on an unsettled (but dispositive) issue of Maryland law. Theoretically any jurisdiction, state or federal, in the United States could certify a question for the Court of Appeals to decide under the Maryland Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, found at sections 12-601 to 12-613 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article. Before the recent web revamp about three months ago, unless you were a litigant in the case, it was difficult to know just from checking the judiciary web site, what, if any, certified questions were being considered in the Court of Appeals. Usually the first notice was when the case appeared on the online oral argument schedule. Read More…

Maryland Court of Appeals to Follow SCOTUS Policy of Deciding Argued Cases by Term’s End

By Michael Wein

New Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, after her appointment in July by Governor O’Malley, announced her objective of having the Court of Appeals issue opinions no more than one year after oral arguments. Though unsaid, this new policy was clearly intended to refute criticism, including from the Baltimore Sun and The Maryland Daily Record, about how some cases in the Court of Appeals seemed to languish for years under Chief Judge Bell’s tenure. Read More…

What Is a Majority Opinion?

By Michael Wein

After eagerly awaiting the outcome this summer on whether Maryland would retain contributory negligence, or adopt comparative negligence as exists in 46 other States, the Court of Appeals of Maryland on July 9, 2013, kept contributory negligence. What is less clear is an unusual procedural question arising from the Court’s decision in Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia: Which opinion was the majority opinion? Read More…