Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the court of special appeals concluding that Appellant had waived his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress, holding that Appellant did not waive his right to appeal the suppression ruling.After he had been convicted of a crime of violence Appellant was indicted on charges of possessing a regulated firearm. Appellant filed a motion to suppress the gun and the loaded magazine recovered by law enforcement officers while conducting a warrantless search of his hotel room. Thereafter, the State filed a superseding indictment under a new case number to add additional charges. Appellant subsequently renewed his motion to suppress in the new case. The trial court denied the motion, and Appellant was convicted of first-degree assault and other crimes. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that Appellant waived his challenge to the denial o this motion to suppress. The Court of Appeals remanded the case for further consideration, holding that defense counsel did not waive Appellant's right to appellate review of the denial of his motion to suppress. View "Huggins v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals agreed with the conclusions of the circuit court and the court of appeals that the record containing the "code key" assigning each judge a code for purposes of access to information about court proceedings and filings did not fall under the exception from public access in the Maryland Rules, holding that the code key was disclosable in response to the records request in this case.An online database Case Search, which is overseen by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), provides public access to information regarding court proceedings. For cases in the District Court sitting in Baltimore City, the judge is identified by an alphanumeric code called the code key. The code key does not appear anywhere that is accessible to the public. Abell Foundation requested a copy of the code key from the AOC under the Maryland Public Information Act, but the AOC did not comply, citing the the exception for certain administrative records in Maryland Rule 16-905(f)(3), as it existed at the time. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Abell on judicial review, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the code key was disclosable in response to Abell's public records request and was not exempt from disclosure under the Maryland Rules. View "Administrative Office of the Courts v. Abell Foundation" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals denied Petitioners' exceptions to the special magistrate's recommendation that their challenges to the most recent districting plan adopted by the General Assembly be rejected, holding that Petitioners' evidence fell short of the proof needed to establish the unconstitutionality of a redistricting plan.Early in 2022, the General Assembly adopted a new plan for State legislative districts. After four separate petitions were filed challenging the validity of that plan, a special magistrate enlisted by the Court conducted hearing and recommended that the challenges be rejected. The Court of Appeals denied the petitions, holding that Petitioners did not rebut the presumption of validity applied the legislative redistricting. View "In re 2022 Legislative Districting" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that an injured tort claimant's rights under a general liability insurance policy do not vest until the claimant has obtained a judgment against, or entered into a qualifying settlement with, an insured.CX Reinsurance Company issued commercial general liability policies to several Baltimore residential Landlords that included coverage for bodily injuries resulting from lead paint exposure at the Landlords' rental properties. CX field contract rescission actions against the Landlords, which the parties settled. Under the terms of the rescission settlements, the coverage for lead paint-related losses was substantially reduced. Claimants alleged they suffered bodily injuries from lead paint exposure while residing in the Landlords' rental properties, but the majority of claimants had not obtained final judgments against, or entered into settlements with, the Landlords before CX and the Landlords settled. The lower courts ruled that the Claimants were intended beneficiaries of the polices. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) the Claimants who did not hold final judgments against or enter into approved settlement agreements with the Landlords were not the intended beneficiaries under the policies; and (2) the Claimants who obtained final judgments against their Landlords prior to the settlements of the applicable rescission cases may enforce the pre-settlement terms of the policies. View "CX Reinsurance Co. v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress the fruits of the warrantless search of his backpack and the warranted search of his cell phone, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on appeal.After a school resource officer broke up a fight in which Defendant was involved, Defendant's backpack dropped to the ground. When the officer picked up the backpack Defendant ran from the scene. The officer subsequently searched the backpack and discovered a stolen firearm and three cell phones. The officers obtained a warrant to search one cell phone. Thereafter, Defendant was charged with robbery and other offenses. After the trial court denied Defendant's suppression motion as to both searches Defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and wearing, carrying, and transporting a handgun. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Defendant abandoned his backpack the warrantless search of his backpack was constitutionally permissible; and (2) the warrant authorizing the search of the cell phone did not comply with the particularity requirement of the Fourth Amendment, but the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied to the fruits of the cell phone search. View "Richardson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals ruling that it was error to admit a video recording in the underlying criminal trial but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, holding that the admission of the challenged video was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of second-degree sexual offense and one count of sexual abuse of a minor by a household or family member. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred by admitting a video recording of a conversation the victim had with her biological grandmother repeating allegations of abuse. The court of appeals concluded that the admission of the video recording was error but that the error was harmless. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the error in no way influenced the jury's verdict. View "Gross v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals vacated Defendant's convictions for second-degree assault and second-degree child abuse by a custodian, holding that Defendant, an Afrian American man, was prejudiced by the fact that the Sheriff's deputies who served as courtroom bailiffs during his trial wore thin blue line face masks, as required by the Sheriff.On appeal, Defendant argued that the bailiffs' display of the thin blue line flag on their face masks violated his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. The court of special appeals affirmed the convictions, concluding that the display of the thin blue line flag did not violate Defendant's right to a fair trial. The Court of Appeals vacated Defendant's convictions, holding that the bailiffs' display of the thin blue line flag and the pro-law enforcement message that it conveyed was inherently prejudicial to Defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial. View "Smith v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this case involving violent peer conflicts between adolescents in middle school, holding that the circuit court erred.Plaintiffs filed a five-count complaint against several school defendants and the Board of Education for Dorchester County, alleging violations of their daughter's state constitutional right to due process and other causes of action stemming from their daughter's bullying by other students. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendants, and the court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Act does not preempt CJ § 5-518, and Plaintiffs' negligence claims against the individual school employees were not preempted by federal law; (2) the educational malpractice doctrine does not apply to Plaintiffs' negligent supervision claims; and (3) material disputes of fact precluded the entry of summary judgment. View "Gambrill v. Bd. of Education of Dorchester County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the Forest Conservation Act of 1991 (the Act) and regulations promulgated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) required a right to appeal the approval of a forest conservation plan and that a county agency's approval of a forest conservation plan is a "final decision" for appeal purposes.At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether the approval of a forest conservation plan, as well as an associated waiver that authorizers a developer to remove trees that would otherwise be protected under the Act, is a final agency decision subject to independent judicial review under the Harford County Forest Conservation Program. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the court of special appeals with directions to remand the case for further proceedings in the circuit court, holding that the Act and regulations promulgated by DNR require a right to appeal the approval of a forest conservation plan and that a county agency's approval of a forest conservation plan is a "final decision" for appeal purposes. View "Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Inc. v. CREG Westport I, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that Petitioner's claim did not fall within the category of claims cognizable under Maryland Rule 4-345(a).In 2002, Petitioner pled guilty to committing two murders when he was seventeen years old and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Citing the Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and its progeny, Petitioner asserted that his sentence did not include a "meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation" because Maryland parole laws do not provide a right to State-furnished counsel to assist an inmate during the parole process. The lower courts rejected Petitioner's arguments. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner's argument that he has a right to State-furnished counsel at a future parole hearing was not cognizable as grounds for a motion to correct an illegal sentence. View "Farmer v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law