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The Court of Appeals held that a proposed municipal annexation that encompassed an area consisting entirely of tax-exempt properties did not require consent from the owners of such properties pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Loc. Gov't (LG) 4-403(b)(2) and that an proposed annexation plan did not attempt to usurp law enforcement jurisdiction over certain lands contained within the proposed annexation area that were owned and managed by Maryland—National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). The circuit court invalidated two resolutions of the Town of Forest Heights that, collectively, annexed into the Town 737 acres of land. All of the annexed lands were tax-exempt, and the owners of the lands were not required to provide their consents to the annexation. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the twenty-five percent property owner consent requirement of LG 4-403(b)(2) does not encompass tax-exempt property owners; and (2) the language contained within the annexation plan was appropriately conditioned so as to avoid any usurpation of law enforcement jurisdiction over properties owned and managed by MNCPPC. View "Town of Forest Heights v. Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming Defendant's conviction, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by asking compound "strong feelings" questions during voir dire and refusing to ask properly-phrased "strong feelings" questions.. The Court of Criminal Appeals reaffirmed its holding in Pearson v. State, 86 A.3d 1232, 1235 (2014), that, on request, a trial court is required to ask a properly-phrased "strong feelings" question during voir dire and that it is improper for a trial court to ask the "strong feelings" question in compound form. The Court then held that, in this case, the circuit court abused its discretion by asking compound "strong feelings" during voir dire and that the circuit court did not cure its abuse of discretion by asking the jury properly-phrased "strong feelings" questions after the conclusion of voir dire and opening statements. View "Collins v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision to admit text messages that Defendant sent to his wife's cell phone, holding that the confidential martial communications privilege does not attach to communications relating to child abuse. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree child abuse, and neglect of a minor child. On appeal, the Court of Appeals remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting text messages between Defendant and his wife because the State did not rebut the presumption of confidentiality. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) courts should narrowly construe privileges, including the marital communications privilege; (2) text messages between spouses are presumed to be confidential unless the party advocating for their admission can establish that they were not; (3) because individuals are under a legal duty to report child abuse, communications made to a spouse concerning child abuse cannot be reasonably presumed confidential; and (4) the text messages in this case were properly admitted against Defendant. View "State v. Sewell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for accessory after the fact to murder and remanding the case for a new trial, holding that application of whether particular evidence may be admitted based on the legal principle of "opening the door" is reviewed de novo, that Defendant opened the door to otherwise inadmissible evidence, but that the State used the evidence at issue in a manner that exceeded the scope of the doctrine. In reversing, the Court of Special Appeals held that the trial court erred in permitting the State to question Defendant regarding his participation in a previous, unrelated incident during which a knife had been brandished because the door had not been opened for questioning by the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed on other grounds, holding that, in applying a de novo standard of review, defense counsel opened the door for the State to introduce rebuttal evidence but that the State's questioning during cross-examination exceeded the scope of the open door doctrine. View "State v. Robertson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this prosecution under environmental laws the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals finding that Defendant was deprived of the right to the effective assistance of counsel, holding that counsel's failure to object to a non-pattern jury instruction violated the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Defendant was charged with and convicted of "disposing of sewage in any manner which may cause pollution" and "failing to dispose of sewage in accordance with an approved permit" in violation of Md. Code Ann. Env. 9-343(a)(1) and (3) and former COMAR 26.04.0202.E, now D and former COMAR 26.04.02.02.F, now E. Defendant filed for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's failure to object to a "continuing violation" instruction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the language of the statute and regulations were so plainly contrary to the State's theory that counsel's failure to object to the instruction at issue violated the Strickland standard. View "State v. Shortall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals vacating in part the juvenile court's order and determining that the juvenile court erred in ordering $65 in restitution to rekey three household locks where the corresponding keys were stolen during an armed robbery, holding that, pursuant to the "direct result" requirement of Md. Crim. Proc. (CP) 11-603(a), the restitution award was proper. G.R. pleaded involved to charges of robbery, second-degree assault, and openly carrying a dangerous weapon. The circuit court found G.R. liable for $120 in restitution, including $65 to rekey the locks of three homes of which the keys were stolen. The Court of Appeals vacated the restitution order, concluding that the costs of rekeying the locks was not a direct result of the underlying robbery. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that G.R.'s robbery directly resulted in a substantial decrease of value of the locks because it brought into question the underlying security of the homes the stolen house keys belonged to, and therefore, the decision to rekey the locks was not an intervening act but a necessary action taken to maintain the security of the homes to which the keys belonged. View "In re G.R." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Petitioners, Baltimore County taxpayers, lacked standing to challenge the County's operation of the Baltimore County Animal Shelter and alleged waste at the facility, holding that Petitioners demonstrated specific injury and thus possessed standing to pursue their claim against Baltimore County under the taxpayer standing doctrine. The circuit court granted the County's motion for summary judgment, holding that Petitioners' alleged pecuniary injury was not developed enough to survive summary judgment. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Petitioners possessed the requisite taxpayer standing to pursue their claim against the County because they established pecuniary harm derivative of waste and mismanagement, a nexus between that harm and the alleged illegal government act, and sufficiently quantified the alleged harm. View "George v. Baltimore County, Maryland" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting the motion to dismiss filed by Respondent, the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, as to Taxpayers' complaint for declaratory judgment challenging a new comprehensive rezoning and a new zoning map, as enacted through two ordinances, holding that the circuit court properly determined that Petitioners failed to establish the requisite taxpayer standing to proceed with this case. Specifically, the Court held (1) Petitioners failed to show a special interest in the subject matter of this case distinct from that of the general public by failing to sufficiently allege illegal or ultra vires acts by Respondent that may result in a pecuniary loss or an increase in taxes; and (2) Petitioners failed to demonstrate a nexus between any alleged potential pecuniary harm and the allegedly illegal or ultra vires act. View "Floyd v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Court of Appeals explained in this opinion its reasons underlying its December 7, 2018 order, in which the Court issued an order reversing the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion for an order that included all requisite "Special Immigrant Juvenile" (SIJ) status findings, holding that the circuit court applied a far too demanding and rigid standard in this case. In a proceeding before the circuit court, Petitioner sought sole custody of his seventeen-year-old son (Child), an undocumented minor and Guatemalan native. Petitioner further requested that the circuit court issue an order containing factual findings illustrating Child's eligibility for SIJ status, namely that reunification with Child's mother was not viable due to neglect. The circuit court granted Petitioner custody of Child but concluded that Petitioner failed to establish that reunification with the mother was not viable due to neglect. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that returning Child to the custody of the mother, who inadequately cared for and supervised him, could not be a reunification that was viable. View "Romero v. Perez" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming in part and reversing in part the judgment of the post-conviction granting Respondent a new trial, holding that certain actions on the part of Respondent’s trial counsel did not violate Respondent’s constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. Respondent was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. Respondent later filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief. The intermediate appellate remanded the case. On remand, the post-conviction court concluded that Respondent’s trial counsel’s performance was deficient and that this deficiency prejudiced Respondent. As a result, the post-conviction court vacated the convictions and granted Respondent a new trial. The court of appeals reversed in part, but the court’s ultimate disposition left the new trial granted by the circuit court in place. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that trial counsel’s deficient performance in one aspect of her representation did not prejudice Respondent within the meaning of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). View "State v. Syed" on Justia Law