Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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In this case questioning whether the addition of a definition of "lender" to the Maryland Usury Law during code revision effected a significant change in that law that lay latent for four decades before this case arose, the Court of Appeals held that code revision did not change Maryland law applicable to assignees of mortgage loans.Donna Kemp entered into a mortgage loan secured by a deed of trust on her home. The loan was later assigned to Fannie Mae, which contracted with the predecessor of Nationstar Mortgage, LLC to service the loan. Nationstar later declared Kemp to be in default. Kemp, Fannie Mae, and Nationstar entered into a loan modification agreement to resolve the default, but Kemp objected to the assessment of property inspection fees. Kemp filed a complaint, which the circuit court dismissed for failure to state a cause of action. The Court of Appeals held (1) the prohibition on property inspection fees applied to Nationstar as the agent of Fannie Mae; and (2) Kemp's complaint adequately stated a claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act. View "Nationstar Mortgage v. Kemp" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals (MSBCA) granting summary disposition as to the Maryland State Highway Administration's (SHA) claims against Brawner Builders, Inc. and Faddis Concrete Products, Inc., holding that there was no error in the MSBCA's decision to grant SHA's motion for summary decision.SHA and Brawner entered into a contract for the construction of noise barriers along a section of interstate. Faddis manufactured noise wall panels for Brawner's use in connection with the project. SHA subsequently suspended approval of Faddis-produced noise panels. Faddis filed a procurement contract claim. The MSBCA issued summary disposition to the SHA, concluding that Faddis had no standing to file such a claim. At issue on appeal was whether Faddis's status as a "pre-approved supplier" of concrete panels on construction projects administered by the SHA constituted a "procurement contract" with the State under the State Finance and Procurement Article. The circuit court reversed. The court of special appeals reversed the circuit court. The court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that the MSBCA properly dismissed Faddis's claims and entered judgment in SHA's favor. View "Brawner Builders, Inc. v. Maryland State Highway Administration" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals reversing the ruling of the circuit court that Baltimore City police detective Adam Lewellen had acted within the scope of his employment and that the Baltimore City Police Department was liable for the judgment against him, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.Plaintiff sued Lewellen for several torts, and the circuit court found Lewellen liable for negligence, violations of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and civil conspiracy. The court awarded damages in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $167,008. The court did not make any finding as to whether Lewellen was acting within the scope of his employment for purposes of the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA), Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc 5-301 et seq. Plaintiff later filed a motion seeking to collect from the Police Department, pursuant to the LGTCA, the damages he had been awarded against Lewellen. The circuit court granted the motion. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Lewellen's actions were motivated at least in part to further the Police Department's interests. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the court of special appeals' opinion was unassailable in its analysis and conclusions. View "Esteppe v. Baltimore City Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Baltimore City had breached its contract with two out of three sub-classes of police officers and firefighters and finding that Ordinance 10-306 retrospectively divested the members of those sub-classes of benefits they had earned, holding that there were no factual or legal errors in the circuit court's rulings.Baltimore City maintained a Fire and Police Employees' Retirement System (the Plan) to provide pension benefits to members of the City's police and fire departments. In 2010, the City enacted Ordinance 10-306, under which the City changed some of the key terms of the Plan. Plaintiffs commenced a class action lawsuit alleging claims for declaratory relief and breach of contract. The circuit court certified a class of plaintiffs and three sub-classes: a retired sub-class, a retirement-eligible sub-class, and an active sub-class. The circuit court granted judgment for all but the active sub-class, ruling that, as to currently employed members who had not yet reached retirement eligibility, Ordinance 10-306 did not affect vested benefits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Ordinance retrospectively divested retired and retirement-eligible members of the benefits they had earned. View "Cherry v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the order of the post-conviction court awarding Petitioner a new trial on all counts and instead remanding the case for a new trial solely on an attempted second-degree murder charge, holding that the court of special appeals did not err.Petitioner was convicted of attempted second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence, and other charges. Petitioner later petitioned for post-conviction relief, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court granted the petition and awarded a new trial on all counts based on the cumulative effect of trial counsel's errors. The court of special appeals remanded for a new trial on the attempted second-degree murder charge only, concluding that the limited cumulative effect theory did not warrant a reversal of all of Petitioner's convictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the deficient performance of Petitioner's counsel warranted a new trial on the attempted second-degree murder charge only. View "Wallace v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's convictions and sentences for home invasion, first-degree assault and reckless endangerment, holding that the trial judge abused his discretion by denying Defendant's request to postpone sentencing.Following the jury's verdict, Defendant requested a postponement of the trial court's move to sentencing in order to prepare mitigating information for the court's consideration. Defendant specifically requested an order for a long-form presentencing investigation report, indicating that additional time would allow his mother to testify on his behalf. The trial court denied Defendant's request and imposed a sentence in his mother's absence. The court of criminal appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case with directions to vacate Defendant's sentence, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the trial judge abused his discretion by refusing to postpone Defendant's sentencing process. View "Mainor v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that the holding in Lee v. State, 311 Md. 642 (1988), in which the Court held that the predecessor statute to Md. Code Crim. Law (CR) 4-203(a)(1)(I) imposed strict liability for wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun on or about the person, was still good law and that CR 4-203(a)(1)(I) sets forth a strict liability offense.Defendant was convicted of wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun on or about the person. Defendant moved for a new trial, arguing that the trial court improperly ignored the mens rea element of wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun. The court of special appeals affirmed, holding that "knowledge" was not an element of wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun on or about the person. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that "knowledge" is not an element of the crime charged. View "Lawrence v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this dispute between a municipality seeking tax setoffs and a county that refused to grant them, the Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusion of the court of special appeals that Md. Code Tax-Prop. ** 6-305 and 6-306 do not fall within a category of constitutionally prohibited legislation, holding that the provisions are permissible within the scope of article XI-E, 1 of the Maryland Constitution.Ocean City, the second largest municipality in Worcester County, repeatedly requested tax setoffs for the money that the city spent on governmental services, such as fire, police, and ambulance services. In lieu of granting Ocean City's requested tax setoffs, Worcester County provided discretionary funding to the city in the form of annual grants. Ocean City then filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that TP 6-305 and 6-305, which granted the county the ability to deny municipal tax setoff requests, were unconstitutional as violating Md. Const. Art. XI-E, 1. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Worcester County. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that TP 6-305 and 6-306 are constitutional within the language of Article XI-E, Section 1. View "Ocean City v. Worcester County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's convictions, holding that, under article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, a statement contained in a scientific report is testimonial if a reasonable declarant would have understood the primary purpose for the creation of the report to be to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later criminal prosecution.Defendant was indicted on charges of first-, third-, and fourth-degree burglary, theft, and malicious destruction of property. At the scene of the reported burglary, a police officer swabbed the burglar's suspected blood from the window frame and a curtain. Thereafter, Molly Rollo, a forensic scientist, conducted a DNA analysis of the samples and produced a report providing a DNA profile for a male contributor. A subsequent DNA records database search identified Defendant as a possible match. At trial, the court admitted Rollo's report into evidence and allowed a different forensic scientist, Tiffany Keener, to convey the report's results to the jury without requiring that Rollo be available for cross-examination. The Court of Appeals reversed the convictions, holding that the trial court violated Defendant's rights to confrontation and cross-examination under Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. View "Leidig v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of first-degree rape and other offenses, holding that the trial court did not violate Defendant's constitutional rights by allowing the technical review of a report analyzing DNA evidence to testify about the results of that analysis without requiring the primary author of the report to be available for cross-examination.In 2008, an unidentified assailant sexually assaulted a nineteen-year-old woman in her apartment. Forensic evidence was collected from the woman's body and from her apartment, and forensic scientists generated a DNA profile from the evidence for an "unknown male #1." Nine years later, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System produced Defendant as a match for "unknown male #1." Defendant was subsequently convicted with several offenses relating to the sexual assault. Thomas Hebert was the primary author of two reports that analyzed and/or compared DNA evidence relevant to this case. The State did not call Hebert as a witness and instead offered the testimony of two other Forensic Services Division analysts in Hebert's stead. The court of special appeals reversed the convictions, concluding that the trial court violated Defendant's constitutional rights to confrontation. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Defendant's constitutional rights were not violated under the circumstances of this case. View "State v. Miller" on Justia Law