Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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This suit arose from the actions of iStar’s Board of Directors in modifying performance-based executive compensation awards, which were granted in the form of stock. Petitioners filed suit against current and former members of iStar’s Board and senior management, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, waste of corporate assets, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel. The circuit court dismissed all of Petitioners’ claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Petitioners’ claims were properly dismissed by the circuit court for failure to overcome the business judgment rule presumption; and (2) furthermore, Petitioners’ claims for breach of contract and promissory estoppel are derivative claims that are subject to the business judgment rule. View "Oliveira v. Sugarman" on Justia Law

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Before October 1, 2014, under Maryland law, possession of less than ten grams of marijuana was a misdemeanor that carried a maximum penalty of ninety days of incarceration and a fine of $500. As of that date, possession of less than ten grams of marijuana became a civil offense punishable by participation in a drug education program, an assessment for substance abuse disorder, possible substance abuse treatment, and a fine. In separate cases, each of three petitioners moved to suppress evidence that had been found in a vehicle that he had been driving or had possession of, arguing that, due to decriminalization of possession of less than ten grams of marijuana, a law enforcement officer no longer has probable cause to search a vehicle when the officer detects an order of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. The circuit court denied the motion to suppress in each case. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) notwithstanding the decriminalization of less than ten grams of marijuana, marijuana remains contraband, and the order of marijuana gives rise to probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of a crime; and (2) there was probable cause to search the vehicles in question in this case. View "Robinson, Williams & Spriggs v. State" on Justia Law
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Through Chapter 35 of the 2016 Laws of Maryland, the General Assembly amended Md. Code Ann., Educ. 3-110(b), which governs the School Board Nominating Commission of Anne Arundel County, to eliminate the ability of the Governor to appoint members to the Nominating Commission. The amendment changed the Nominating Commission to a body that is comprised of members who are appointed by various specific entities other than the Governor. Four of the five gubernatorial appointees filed suit contending that the General Assembly unconstitutionally removed them from their positions as members of the Nominating Commission. The circuit court agreed and issued a preliminary injunction against implementation and enforcement of Chapter 35, concluding that Chapter 35 violates Article II, Section 15 of the Maryland Constitution and Article 8 of the Declaration of Rights. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in issuing the preliminary injunction because Chapter 35 is not unconstitutional but, rather, restructures or reconstitutes the Nominating Commission. View "State v. Falcon" on Justia Law
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Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP, the owner and operator of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, applied to FERC and the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) for authorization to expand the terminal into a facility that could both import and export LNG. Because the expansion project included the proposed construction of a 130-megawatt electric generating station, PSC approval, through the grant of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), was required. Petitioner, a consortium dedicated to protecting local waterways, was allowed to intervene in the proceeding to oppose Dominion’s application. PSC granted the CPCN subject to approximately 200 conditions. The circuit court and court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) two of the conditions imposed by PSC in its grant of the CPCN did not constitute taxes or mandatory payments; (2) Petitioner’s argument that PCS’s alleged failure to identify the value it assigned to positive economic value in favor of the CPCN prevented Petitioner from effectively challenging the PSC decision was without merit; and (3) PSC’s valuation of the economic benefit created by the generating station was supported by substantial evidence in the record. View "Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Community Council, Inc. v. Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Roderick Colvin was convicted of felony murder and other crimes. Colvin later filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-345(a). In this motion Colvin argued, for the first time, that the verdicts supporting his convictions were not unanimous, in violation of Maryland Rule 4-327(a), because the jury foreperson was not polled individually after she announced the jury’s verdicts. The circuit court denied the motion, determining, as a preliminary matter, that the alleged defect in the polling process was not a cognizable claim under Maryland Rule 4-345(a). The court of special appeals affirmed, ruling that the claim was cognizable but failed on its merits. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the court of special appeals, holding that the procedural error alleged in this case did not come within the narrow meaning of Rule 4-345(a) and, therefore, was not a cognizable claim under the rule. View "Colvin v. State" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of attempted second-degree murder and other offenses. Defendant appealed his conviction of attempted second-degree murder, challenging the trial judge’s finding that defense counsel’s explanations for striking jurors were a pretext for racial discrimination. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the trial judge’s finding that defense counsel’s peremptory challenges were a pretext for racial discrimination was clearly erroneous; and (2) the evidence was insufficient for a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt specific intent for the crime of attempted second-degree murder. Remanded for a new trial as to all remaining counts except for the count charging attempted second-degree murder. View "Spencer v. State" on Justia Law

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Under the rent escrow statute, if a tenant is successful in showing that a landlord was aware of certain conditions or defects in the rental property and failed to correct them, the tenant may be entitled to an abatement or reduction of the rent or other relief. Landlord in this case filed a summary ejectment action against Tenant to collect unpaid rent and to regain possession of the unit. During trial, Tenant attempted to submit evidence of alleged defects in the rental property. The circuit court declined to accept the proffered evidence, concluding that it would be relevant only in an affirmative rent escrow action, which, according to the court, must be filed as a separate action. The circuit court proceeded to enter judgment in favor of Landlord. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment, holding that Tenant could present her evidence and contentions under the rent escrow statute in defense of the summary ejectment action brought by Landlord and was not required to present them in a separate action. Remanded. View "Cane v. EZ Rentals" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant seeking damages for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. During trial, the circuit court ruled, as a matter of law, that Defendant was entitled to a conditional privilege for the allegedly defamatory statements. The circuit court then instructed the jury that the applicable standard of proof to overcome the conditional privilege was clear and convincing evidence. The jury found in favor of Defendant. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, concluding that the circuit court erred in instructing the jury that the standard of proof in overcoming the conditional privilege was clear and convincing evidence rather than a preponderance of the evidence. Defendant filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which the Court of Appeals granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in a purely private defamation action, an individual asserting a defamation claim must overcome a common law conditional privilege by a preponderance of the evidence. View "Seley-Radtke v. Hosmane" on Justia Law
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In 1990, Petitioner was indicted on fifteen charges related to a sexual assault. Petitioner entered an Alford plea to first degree rape and kidnapping and was sentenced to life imprisonment plus thirty years. In 2008, Petitioner filed a petition for DNA testing alleging that newly discovered slides containing cellular material from swabs taken from the victim needed to be tested. The circuit court granted the motion, and the testing was conducted. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate conviction and contemporaneously filed a petition for writ of actual innocence. The circuit court denied the motions after a hearing. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner could not avail himself of a petition for DNA testing because he entered a plea rather than going to trial. View "Jamison v. State" on Justia Law
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This case involved a joint criminal trial of two codefendants - Dorrien Allen and Tevin Hines. Hines appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion for a severance, arguing that he was prejudiced by the admission into evidence of a statement made by Allen, which was inadmissible against Hines. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, holding that Hines was prejudiced by having to defend himself against evidence that would not have been admissible had he been tried separately. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trial court committed reversible error in denying Hines’s motion for severance because the statement that was inadmissible against Hines implicated him and therefore caused him to suffer prejudice from the joinder. View "State v. Hines" on Justia Law
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