Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's motion to reinstate her appeal and her motion to reconsider that denial, holding that the circuit court incorrectly applied the "good cause" standard when it denied Appellant's motion to reinstate her appeal.Appellant was convicted for failing to send her child to school. Appellant appealed, and the circuit court scheduled the case for a trial de novo. Thereafter, the COVID-19 pandemic required the circuit court to postpone several criminal cases on its docket, including Appellant's appeal for a trial de novo. During a status hearing which Defendant was unable to attend, the circuit court dismissed Appellant's appeal. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, under the undisputed facts in the record, the circuit court would abuse its discretion if it did not reinstate the appeal. View "Tengeres v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Ts. & Jud. Proc. (CJP) 11-1110 limits the recovery for compensatory damages to the amount specified by that statute and does not allow for recovery of noneconomic compensatory damages stemming from the tortious injury or death of a pet.A police officer shot and killed Respondent's dog in the front yard of Respondent's home. Respondent brought suit, alleging that the officer committed a trespass to Respondent's chattel, acted with gross negligence, and violated Respondent's rights under Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Respondent. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding (1) CJP 11-110 did not bar Respondent from recovering noneconomic damages related to the death of his dog, and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict that the officer acted with gross negligence. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) CJP 11-110 defines and caps the recovery of compensatory damages in the case of the tortious death or injury of a pet; and (2) under the single recovery rule, Respondent may not recover any damages under the gross negligence claim. View "Anne Arundel County v. Reeves" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that, under the unique circumstance of the late Joseph Kopera's deception of Maryland's courts and defendants for decades in a number of criminal cases in which he testified as an expert in the field of firearms ballistics, due diligence did not require defense counsel to unearth Kopera's fraud prior to 2007.In 2007, an attorney working for the innocence project discovered that Kopera gave perjured testimony in hundreds of criminal trials concerning his credentials. Ronnie Hunt later filed a second amended petition for writ of actual innocence, arguing that had Kopera's fake credentials been known, it was reasonably probable that the outcome of his trial would have been different. The circuit court denied the petition on the ground that Kopera's false testimony concerning his credentials was not newly discovered evidence. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) in this and all similarly situated cases tried prior to the discovery of Kopera's fraud, due diligence did not require defense counsel to unearth the charade prior to 2007; and (2) remand was required for the trial court to determine whether Hunt could establish a substantial possibility that, had Kopera's false testimony been known at the time of his trial, the result of Hunt's trial may have been different. View "Hunt v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the court of special appeals did not err in holding that the placement and use of a GPS tracking device was legal.In investigating suspected drug distribution activities Harford County Narcotics Task Force applied for and received an "application for court order" to install a GPS tracking device on Defendant's vehicle. The Task Force detectives subsequently applied for a received a search warrant for Defendant's vehicle and suspected residence. After the search warranted was executed, Defendant was indicted on drug-related charges. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the GPS tracking of his vehicle was unconstitutional. The circuit court held that the search warrant lacked probable cause but that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. Defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea. The court of appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the use of the GPS tracking device was legal because the GPS order satisfied the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement; (2) the issuing judge had substantial evidence for finding probable cause; and (3) the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applied in this case. View "Whittington v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM) in this negligence complaint, holding that Ashley Hector and Alyaa Hector alleged sufficient facts for their claim against BNYM in its individual capacity to go to the jury.The Hectors lived as children in a row house that contained lead-based paint. The Hectors' landlord had taken out a mortgage on her interest in the property that became part of a residential mortgage backed securitization trust. When the landlord's interest in the property was sold at foreclosure BNYM as trustee as the purchaser. The Hectors filed a negligence complaint against BNYM. The circuit court granted summary judgment to BNYM, concluding that the Hectors erroneously named BNYM in its individual capacity as opposed to its fiduciary capacity. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) a trustee may be held individually liable for a tort committed in the course of trust administration if the trustee is personally at fault; and (2) the Hectors produced facts from which a jury could find that BNYM breached a duty it owed to the Hectors as the "owner" of the property. View "Hector v. Bank of New York Mellon" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals agreed with the recommendation of the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities that the Court issue an order removing Amy Leigh Nickerson, a judge of the Orphans' Court for Kent County, holding that Judge Nickerson's conduct violated several provisions of the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct and that her removal from office was appropriate.The Commission's investigative counsel filed charges against Judge Nickerson originating from allegations of sanctionable conduct arising from a traffic stop of Judge Nickerson that resulted in her arrest. Further, the Commission directed its investigative counsel to investigate a previous outstanding tax lien and judgement entered against Judge Nickerson in favor of the Maryland Comptroller. Judge Nickerson consented to the disposition of the investigations through the entry of a conditional diversion agreement (CDA) and reprimand. When Judge Nickerson failed to satisfy the terms and conditions, the Commission revoked the CDA and recommended that the Court issue an order removing Judge Nickerson from office. The Court of Appeals determined that Judge Nickerson's removal from office was the only outcome that would preserve the integrity of the judiciary, discourage others from engaging in similar conduct, and assure the public that the judiciary will not abide judicial misconduct. View "In re Judge Nickerson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's sentence that was imposed in connection with his convictions for illegal possession of an assault weapon and possession of a firearm by a person disqualified from possessing a firearm as a result of a prior felony drug conviction, holding that merger of the convictions was not required.In sentencing Defendant, the circuit court imposed the maximum sentence on each charge, to be served consecutively. At issue was whether Defendant's convictions for statutory offenses must be merged for purposes of sentencing under either the "required evidence test" or the "rule of lenity." The court of special appeals rejected Defendant's arguments that the two convictions should merge for purposes of sentencing and affirmed Defendant's sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that it was within the discretion of the circuit court to impose consecutive sentences for Defendant's two convictions. View "Clark v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals vacating a jury award of $500,000 against Dr. Shabbir Choudhry for loss of household services, which Petitioner alleged she would have received from her adult daughter, who died after having received medical treatment by Dr. Choudhry, holding that the court of appeals did not err.In vacating the jury award, the court of appeals held that, in a wrongful death action, a parent could recover economic damages for loss of household services but that Petitioner had presented insufficient evidence to have the claim submitted to the jury. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in order for a parent of a deceased child to recover pecuniary damages for household services under the Wrongful Death Act, Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. 3-901 to -904, the parent must present evidence not only that they reasonably expected to receive services from the adult child but that the child intended to continue providing those services. View "Fowlkes v. Choudhry" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the court of special appeals dismissing an amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, holding that Petitioners' amended complaint adequately set forth a cause of action under Md. Code Real Prop. (RP) 7-113.Petitioners, occupants of residential property that they owned or leased, brought this action against Respondents, a mortgage servicer and a real estate broker, after Respondents posted eviction notices on Petitioners' properties in an attempt to gain possession of the properties without a court order. Petitioners claimed that Respondents violated RP 7-113 and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), Md. Code Comm. Law 13-101 et seq. The circuit court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) Petitioners set forth a cause of action under RP 7-113; and (2) this Court has not established a more demanding standard for pleading damages in private actions brought under the MCPA. View "Wheeling v. Selene Finance LP" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the tax court determining that, between 2003 and 2011, Travelocity.com LP was liable for sums due under the sales and use tax pursuant to Md. Code Tax-Gen. 11-102(a), holding that Travelocity was not liable to pay the sales and use tax during the relevant audit period.The Comptroller of Maryland issued a tax assessment of almost $6.5 million. The tax court upheld the assessment, concluding that Travelocity's business of facilitating vehicle rentals and hotel room reservations was included in the sale of tangible personal property in Maryland, rendering Travelocity liable for the tax during the audit period at issue. The circuit court affirmed. The court of special appeals reversed. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Travelocity was not liable for the tax during the audit period at issue. View "Travelocity.com v. Comptroller" on Justia Law