Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

by
In this case concerning the discretion of a court to dismiss a probation violation petition and to terminate probation the Court of Appeals held that the circuit court had discretion to terminate Defendant's probation before it would otherwise expire and remanded the case to the circuit court for any necessary proceedings in which the court may either exercise its discretion, indicate that it had already done so, or take any other appropriate action. Defendant pled guilty to theft and was sentenced to three years supervised probation. Defendant was later charged with violating the conditions of his probation. After noting that Defendant had already been incarcerated for longer than the presumptive sanction of fifteen days' imprisonment the court dismissed the probation violation petition without determining whether Defendant had committed the alleged probation violations. The court never declared that Defendant's probation had "expired" and was "over." Because the record did not indicate that the circuit court in fact exercised its discretion to terminate Defendant's probation before it would otherwise expire, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the circuit court for any necessary proceedings in which the court may either exercise its discretion, indicate that it had already done so, or take any other appropriate action. View "State v. Alexander" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
In this summary ejectment proceeding, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the judgment of the district court precluding Tenant from asserting and litigating defenses under the implied warranty of habitability and the rent escrow statutes, holding that Tenant was statutorily entitled to raise such defenses during the proceeding and to have them fully considered. Landlord brought his summary ejectment proceeding alleging that Tenant had failed to pay rent for five months and seeking repossession of the property. Tenant moved to dismiss the complaint on grounds that Landlord did not have use and occupancy permit, which the district court denied. Tenant also attempted to assert defenses to summary ejectment, which the district court denied. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court properly denied the motion to dismiss; but (2) a claim for breach of the warranty of habitability or under the rent escrow statutes may be raised as a defense in a summary ejectment proceeding. View "Pettiford v. Next Generation Trust Service" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant
by
The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the court of special appeals and remanded with directions to reverse the judgment of the circuit court certifying a settlement class and approving a settlement reached by the parties with respect to that class, holding that the circuit court erred in approving the proposed settlement. The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 100 individuals who had assigned structured settlement annuity benefits they were entitled to receive from certain tortfeasors to Petitioner or its affiliates or designees based on allegations that the assignments were the product of fraud. Ultimately, the circuit court approved the proposed settlement. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment below and concluded that the circuit court erred in approving the proposed settlement under the facts and circumstances of this case. View "Linton v. Consumer Protection Division" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
by
The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the circuit court's decision determining that it had personal jurisdiction over Defendant and entering a judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the factors weighed against the constitutional reasonableness of causing Defendant to defend this suit in Maryland. This case was filed by Defendant's stepson, who was a North Carolina resident, against Defendant, who was also a North Carolina resident. Plaintiff ultimately obtained a default judgment against Defendant in the amount of $99,856.84. The court of special appeals reversed the circuit court's decision with respect to the finding of personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant's act of filing a sole lawsuit through counsel did not rise to the level of a "persistent course of conduct" to justify the assertion of personal jurisdiction over her in this matter. View "Pinner v. Pinner" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's convictions of volume possession of a controlled dangerous substance under Md. Code Crim. Law (CR) 5-612, holding that CR 5-612 is unambiguous and that Defendant's sentence was not illegal because the maximum term of imprisonment under the statute is twenty years. In connection with his conviction, Defendant was sentenced to a total sentence of fourteen years' imprisonment, the first five years without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Defendant argued that his sentence was illegal because the express language of CR 5-612 failed to state a maximum potential term of imprisonment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant's sentence was legal because it fell within the permissible range of years for which an individual may be sentenced - five to twenty years' of imprisonment. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
In this appeal concerning whether a school board was liable for a judgment against its employee when the board was dismissed from the case prior to trial the Court of Appeals held that, under Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-518, even if a board is entitled to substantive dismissal from a case the plaintiffs are required to maintain the board as a party or request that the board be brought back into the case to indemnify an employee. As a matter of trial strategy in a case against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, counsel for Plaintiffs decided to not appeal the dismissal, via summary judgment, of the Board from the case and to avoid joinder of the Board under after the conclusion of the trial. After the trial, Plaintiffs filed motions to enforce the judgments, arguing that the Board was obligated to satisfy the judgments pursuant to section 5-518. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motions. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in order to force a county school board to indemnify a judgment against a county board employee, the mandatory joinder requirement under section 5-518 requires that a county board be joined as a party throughout the entire litigation. View "Neal v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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
by
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

by
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