Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Baltimore County and the Fraternal Order of Police have entered into numerous collective bargaining agreements over the years. This case arose out of a dispute over the interpretation of a provision in some of those agreements that provided for a fixed subsidy of health insurance costs for officers who retired during certain years. The dispute proceeded to binding arbitration. The FOP won the arbitration, but the County sought to overturn the arbitration award in the courts. Among other things, the County argued that the arbitration award was invalid because it was subject to the County’s executive budget process. The Circuit Court rejected the County’s various challenges to the award – a decision ultimately upheld by the Maryland Supreme Court. When the case returned to the Circuit Court, the County balked at complying with the arbitration award arguing that the award, even if valid, was unenforceable because it was subject to the County’s executive budget process. That argument was indistinguishable from one of the issues that the County had advanced on its prior trip up the appellate ladder and that the Supreme Court had previously rejected. The repetition of the issue from the prior appeal allowed the lower courts to dispose of the issue under the "law of the case" doctrine. However, the Supreme Court held that the lower courts properly applied the law of the case doctrine here. "An arbitration award that arises from a grievance process under an MOU previously approved by the County Executive and County Council and that interprets the provisions of the MOU is not subject to the executive budget process in the same way as an interest arbitration award that resolves an impasse in negotiations." The judgment of the Court of Special Appeals was affirmed. View "Baltimore Co. v. FOP Lodge No. 4" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, United Insurance Company of America and the Reliable Life Insurance Company, filed a declaratory action against Respondents, the Maryland Insurance Administration, et al., (“MIA”) challenging the retroactive enforcement of Md. Code (2011 Repl. Vol., 2015 Supp.) sections 16-118 of the Insurance Article (“Ins.”). Section 16-118 imposed a duty on an insurer who “issues, delivers, or renews a policy of life insurance or an annuity contract . . .” in the State to “perform a comparison of [their] in-force life insurance policies, annuity contracts, and retained assets accounts against the latest version of a death master file to identify any death benefit payments that may be due. . . .” on a regular or semi-annual basis. Prior to this legislation, insurers were under no obligation to research whether a policyholder had died, and the statute did not indicate whether its provisions applied retroactively to existing insurance policies. The circuit court dismissed Petitioners’ action based on the failure to exhaust administrative remedies afforded by the Insurance Article. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Special Appeals agreed, and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. After its review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed. View "United Insurance v. MD Insurance Admin." on Justia Law
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The Maryland Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for a writ of certiorari in this case to decide whether the Uniform Postconviction Procedure Act (“UPPA”) granted the Court of Special Appeals the authority to reopen a postconviction proceeding if doing so was “in the interests of justice.” The Supreme Court "easily" concluded that the UPPA did not. However, the Court of Special Appeals was statutorily authorized to review a circuit court's denial of a motion to reopen for abuse of discretion, and could remand the matter back to the circuit court with instruction to award appropriate relief if the circuit court abused that discretion. In 1978, Respondent James Leslie Adams-Bey, Jr., was convicted by a jury of first degree rape and related offenses, for which he was sentenced to life plus ten years of incarceration. Respondent petitioned unsuccessfully for postconviction relief in 2010. In 2012, Respondent moved pro se to reopen his postconviction proceedings on the ground that jurors at his criminal trial were given advisory-only instructions in violation of his constitutional rights to due process. Respondent argued that those instructions were unconstitutional because the jury was not instructed to follow the court’s explanation of the law and the court did not inform the jury of the binding nature of its instructions on the State’s burden of proof or the presumption of innocence. The circuit court denied Respondent’s motion without a hearing. On appeal of that denial, Respondent argued the circuit court abused its discretion by denying his motion to reopen. The Court of Special Appeals granted Respondent's application, and addressed the merits of his appeal, and reversed the circuit court's denial. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Special Appeals, finding it correctly concluded that the circuit court abused its discretion by denying Respondent's motion to reopen. View "Maryland v. Adams-Bey" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of murder and related offenses arising from a failed armed robbery in 1994. Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2013, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of actual innocence under Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. 8-301, claiming newly discovered evidence in that the State’s ballistics expert falsely testified about his academic credentials at Petitioner’s trial. The circuit court concluded that Petitioner was not entitled to relief under section 8-301. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the hearing judge did not abuse his discretion in ruling that, under the circumstances of this case, Petitioner was unable to prove that the expert's lies about his academic credentials created a substantial or significant possibility that the outcome at trial may have been different. View "McGhie v. State" on Justia Law
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The well-known author Thomas Clancy (Decedent) died in 2013. Decedent was survived by his second wife (Mrs. Clancy), a minor child by that marriage, and four adult children from Decedent’s first marriage. Decedent left a will and various amendments. At issue in this case was which beneficiaries, if any, were obligated to pay a portion or all of federal estate taxes. Mrs. Clancy petitioned in the Orphans’ Court for a declaratory judgment in which she sought a determination that a Family Trust was not obligated to pay any estate taxes. The Orphans Court concluded that Decedent’s predominant intent was that the Family Trust be free of any federal estate tax liability. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the property conveyed in the Family Trust as identified in Decedent’s will and second codicil could not be burdened by the payment of federal estate taxes. View "Bandy v. Clancy" on Justia Law
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After a trial, Defendant was found guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained after a Terry frisk because the law enforcement officers did not have reasonable suspicion to justify the frisk. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress, concluding that the facts created reasonable suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous and that he had committed or was planning to commit a crime. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officers did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to frisk Defendant, and therefore, the Court of Special Appeals erred in concluding that the evidence was correctly suppressed. View "Sellman v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of, among other crimes, first-degree murder. As relevant to this appeal, the jury found Defendant not guilty of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and attempted robbery. Defendant filed a motion to strike, arguing that the felony murder guilty verdict was inconsistent with the acquittals of robbery and attempted robbery. The circuit court denied the motion to strike. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that, by failing to object before the jury was discharged and the verdicts became final, Defendant waived any issue as to the allegedly inconsistent verdicts. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, to preserve the issue of legally inconsistent verdicts for appellate review, a defendant in a criminal trial by jury must object or make known opposition to the allegedly inconsistent verdicts before the verdicts become final and the trial court discharges the jury. View "Givens v. State" on Justia Law
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Defendant was indicted for several drug offenses. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized by police officers from his person, alleging that his detention in handcuffs while in a car that he had been driving was searched constituted an unlawful arrest and that the evidence obtained by the officers were the fruits of that arrest. The motion to suppress was denied. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the police officers possessed reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant and ask him to leave the vehicle based upon their belief that Defendant may have been armed and dangerous; and (2) the use of handcuffs per se does not ordinarily transform a Terry stop into an arrest, and the continued use of handcuffs by the police officers in this case constituted a Terry stop because of an ongoing concern for officer safety. View "Chase v. State" on Justia Law

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Baltimore County zoning regulations provide for a planned unit development (PUD) approval process that is partly legislative and partly quasi-judicial or adjudicative. Whalen Properties, LLC, the developer of a proposed PUD, submitted a PUD application to First District Councilman Thomas Quirk of Baltimore County. Thereafter, Stephen Whalen, the owner and principal of Whalen Properties, distributed $8,500 of the company’s money to several individuals with instructions that they deposit the sums into their own accounts and to donate those amounts to Councilman Quirk’s campaign committee. An adjacent landowner challenged the subsequent approval of the PUD, alleging that the appearance of impropriety generated by the donations invalidated the approval process. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the introduction and passage of a resolution is a legislative action, the legislative intent is subject to limited judicial review; and (2) an alleged appearance of impropriety generated by illegal campaign contributions does not negate the presumption of validity of the legislative act. View "Kenwood Gardens Condos., Inc. v. Whalen Props., LLC" on Justia Law

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Brenda Smith slipped on the floor in the course of her employment and landed on her left knee when she fell. Smith filed a workers’ compensation claim seeking benefits from Delaware North Companies and its insurer (together, Delaware North) for a full knee replacement. The Workers’ Compensation Commission denied her claim. Smith filed a petition for judicial review and requested a jury trial. During trial, Smith presented the expert testimony of Dr. Kevin McGovern. Delaware North, in turn, sought to admit a consent order that Dr. McGovern entered into with the Maryland Board of Physicians in order to impeach Dr. McGovern’s testimony. The trial court admitted into evidence a portion of the consent order. Based on the jury verdict, the trial judge affirmed the decision of the Commission. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) Md. Code Ann. Health Occ. 14-410 generally prohibits the admission of a Board of Physicians’ consent order into evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding; and (2) the trial court erred as a matter of law in admitting a redacted version of the consent order in this case, causing prejudice to Smith’s case. View "Smith v. Delaware North Cos." on Justia Law