Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Crim. Proc. (CP) 3-121(e), which sets forth the process for issuing a hospital warrant and recommitment pending a hearing on a petition for revocation or modification, does not violate due process under either the United States Constitution or the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Upon pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, Appellant was found not criminally responsible and committed to the Health Department. After Appellant was conditionally released pursuant to court order the State filed a petition for revocation or modification of her conditional release on the basis that she had violated a condition of her release. The circuit court issued a hospital warrant, acting pursuant to CP 3-121. Appellant was subsequently recommitted to a mental health facility in anticipation of a required hearing. Appellant filed a petition for habeas corpus arguing that recommitment of a person alleged to have violated conditional release must include a finding that the committed person was currently danger to self or to the person or property of others. The habeas court denied the petition. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that CP 3-121 appropriately balances the interests of society against a committed individual's conditional liberty interest. View "Simms v. Maryland Department of Health" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court entering judgment as a matter of law against Plaintiffs on their Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (MCDCA) claims, holding that, in the context of debt collection activity, not all services provided by a lawyer or a law firm fall within the "professional services" exemption under the CPA. Plaintiffs brought this action against their homeowners association (HOA) alleging violations of the CPA and MCDCA in connection with the HOA's attempt to collect delinquent HOA assessments, fines, penalties, and attorney's fees. The HOA hired a law firm to undertake debt collection activities for delinquent HOA assessment accounts. Plaintiffs filed suit against HOA challenging its debt collection practices. The circuit court entered judgment as a matter of law against Plaintiffs on their CPA and MCDCA claims. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) when a lawyer is engaged in debt collection activities, not all of the lawyer's services fall within the "professional services" exemption of the CPA; and (2) where the professional services exemption does apply to the lawyers' professional services, the statutory exemption does not flow to the client. View "Andrews & Lawrence Professional Services, LLC v. Mills" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court, holding that a confessed judgment is not an enforcement tool that an homeowners association (HOA) has at its disposal when seeking to collect delinquent HOA assessments, costs, and attorney's fees. Defendant became delinquent in her HOA assessment payments and signed a promissory note for the repayment. The document included a mortgage secured by Defendant's property and contained a confession of judgment provision. The HOA later filed a confessed judgment complaint attempting to recover the debt memorialized in Defendant's promissory note. The circuit court found that the payments and collection of homeowners association dues constituted a consumer transaction under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and that the use of a confessed judgment promissory note to collect the payments was prohibited. The Court of Appeals held (1) the collection of HOA assessments falls within the purview of the CPA; (2) the promissory note containing the confessed judgment clause constituted an extension of credit to Defendant to pay delinquent HOA assessments;" and (3) because the HOA lacked the legal authority to file a confessed judgment complaint the appropriate remedy under Maryland Rule 3-611(b) was dismissal of the case without prejudice to file a separate breach of contract action. View "Goshen Run Homeowners Ass'n v. Cisneros" on Justia Law

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In this case involving application of Maryland's "implied consent" statute, Md. Code Ann., Trans. (TR) 16-205.1(b), the Court of Appeals held that Defendant was fully advised of his rights under TR 16-205.1(b)(1) despite two police officers speaking to him simultaneously, because he was not prevented from understanding his rights and the sanctions for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test, as outlined by the Motor Vehicle Administration's DR-15 "Advice of Rights" form. Defendant's driver's license was suspended because he refused to take a blood alcohol concentration test after being detained for suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol. An ALJ upheld the order of suspicion, finding that Defendant had been advised in conformity with the DR-15. The circuit court reversed, holding that Defendnat was not fully advised of his rights because he was distracted while trying to understand his rights. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court improperly substituted its judgment for that of the ALJ in determining that Defendant incur no sanctions for his violation of the implied consent statute. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Barrett" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder and other offenses, holding that this Court's holding as to voir dire questions in Twining v. State, 198 A.2d 291 (Md. 1964), is based on outdated reasoning and has been superseded by significant changes in the law and is hereby overruled. In this case, Defendant requested, unsuccessfully, that the circuit court ask during voir dire whether any prospective jurors were unwilling or unable to follow jury instructions on the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof, and the defendant's right to testify. The Court of Appeals held (1) to the extent the Court of Appeals held in Twining that it is inappropriate to ask on voir dire questions concerning the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof, and a defendant's right to remain silent, the holding in Twining is overruled; (2) on request, during voir dire, a trial court may ask the questions at issue; and (3) absent additional circumstances, the status of a State's witness as an undocumented immigrant, or the existence of a deportation order applicable to the witness, do not show the character of the witness for untruthfulness or demonstrate a motive to testify falsely. View "Kazadi 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 denying a motion to dismiss an appeal, holding that, to constitute an effective judgment under Maryland Rule 2-601 and start the thirty-day appeal period set forth in Maryland Rule 8-202(a), the entry of judgment must satisfy both rule 2-601(b)(2) and (b)(3). Petitioner obtained a default judgment against Respondent and submitted a request to file notice of lien based on the federal judgment. More than a decade later, Petitioner filed a request to renew judgment. The clerk entered a notice of renewed judgment on the docket. Respondent filed a motion to vacate renewal of judgment. The circuit court denied the motion. However, the date of the entry of judgment was not entered in the docket entries. Respondent then noted an appeal. Petitioner moved to strike the notice of appeal as untimely. The Court of Appeals held that the notice of appeal, although initially premature, had become ripe and vacated the renewal of the judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the initial docket entries concerning the denial of the motion to vacate failed to satisfy the requirements of rule 2-601(b) and that the trial court erred in denying the motion to vacate the renewal of the judgment. View "Lee v. Lee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction for murder and firearms offenses, holding that the administrative judge did not abuse his discretion in finding good cause for the continuance of the trial date. Under the Hicks rule, a criminal trial in a circuit court must commence within 180 days of the first appearance of the defendant or defense counsel in the circuit court. This deadline is known as the Hicks date. A continuance of the trial beyond the Hicks date may be granted only for good cause. Here, the administrative judge found good cause to postpone Defendant's trial from the original trial date based on the State's need to provide additional discovery to the defense. Defendant's trial began approximately forty days after the Hicks date, but the court believed that the deadline under the Hicks rule was tolled for the period of time during which evidence was at a lab for DNA analysis. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the "Hicks rule" does not incorporate a mechanism for tolling or extending the Hicks date; but (2) the administrative judge properly found good cause for the continuance, and Defendant did not carry his burden of demonstrate that there was an inordinate delay in the new trial date. View "Tunnell v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Defendant did not drive under the influence of alcohol in violation of Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1 but instead used his vehicle as a "shelter," holding that the ALJ erred when she failed to consider the detaining officer's reasonable grounds. The detaining officer found Defendant in his vehicle after responding to a trespassing call, woke Defendant, and noticed his eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred. When Defendant refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, the detaining officer detained Defendant, confiscated his license, and issued an order of suspension. The ALJ concluded that the suspension was not warranted because the Motor Vehicle Administration did not prove that Defendant was in "actual physical control" of his vehicle. The circuit court upheld the ALJ's decision. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the ALJ must determine whether the detaining officer had reasonable grounds to believe that Defendant was driving or attempting to drive his vehicle while under the influence. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Pollard" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ) concluding that an officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that Respondent was driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle while impaired, holding that the ALJ erred in imposing his credibility determinations and inferences to make the legal determination at issue. Following a traffic infraction, the officer in this case approached the vehicle, observed Respondent sitting in the driver's seat, and smelled alcohol on her breath and person. The officer requested that Respondent take an alcohol concentration test. Respondent refused to submit to the breath test, and the officers confiscated her driver's license. The ALJ took "no action" on the order of suspension, and Respondent's driving privileges were reinstated. The circuit court affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the detaining officer had reasonable grounds to suspect Respondent was driving or attempting to drive while impaired or under the influence of alcohol. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Medvedeff" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendant's petition for postconviction relief and ordering a new trial on the ground that Defendant's trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel by not requesting an alibi jury instruction, holding that the circumstance that Defendant's trial counsel did not request an alibi jury instruction did not prejudice Defendant. At issue was whether Defendant satisfied, under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), his burden of proving that he was prejudiced when his trial counsel did not request, and the trial court did not give, an alibi jury instruction where purported alibi witnesses testified at trial. The Court of Appeals concluded that Defendant was not prejudiced because none of the purported alibi witnesses' testimony indicated that Defendant could not have been at the murder scene, and the circumstance that the circuit court gave other instructions regarding the State's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt diminished the claim of prejudice. View "State v. Mann" on Justia Law