Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In this dispute over constitutional limits on the governor’s power to make recess appointments, the Court of Appeals held that a provision in the state budget bill passed by the general assembly that precluded two gubernatorial appointees from being paid a salary exceeded the authority of the legislature was was invalid and unenforceable. In 2016, the governor appointed the two appointees as secretaries for two departments. The governor withdrew his nomination of the appointees during the 2017 legislation session but later reappointed the two secretaries. Anticipating that prospect, the general assembly passed a provision in the state budget bill forbidding payments to administration appointees who were nominated but not confirmed by the Maryland Senate. The cabinet secretaries filed suit demanding pay for their work. The circuit judge ruled that the governor had the authority to make the two recess appointments and ordered the treasurer to pay the cabinet secretaries. The Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded for entry of a declaratory judgment declaring that the appointees were entitled to be paid the salaries set forth in the fiscal year 2018 budget for the times they served as secretaries of their respective departments and for entry of an order enjoining the state from interfering with the payment of those salaries. View "Kopp v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, which held that the police did not have probable cause to search the trunk of a car owned and driven by Respondent. The suppression court denied Respondent’s motion to suppress, ruling that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion that the individuals in the vehicle were involved in criminal activity, permitting the continued detention, and that by the time the officers searched the trunk of Respondent’s vehicle they had amassed probable cause - based in part on drug evidence found on the person of Respondent’s front-seat passenger - to believe the trunk contained evidence of drug-related activity. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, holding that the intermediate appellate court failed to review, in their entirety, the facts and circumstances that led the police to search the trunk of Respondent’s car and instead isolated certain facts while ignoring or minimizing others. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, which held that the police did not have probable cause to search the trunk of a car owned and driven by Respondent. The suppression court denied Respondent’s motion to suppress, ruling that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion that the individuals in the vehicle were involved in criminal activity, permitting the continued detention, and that by the time the officers searched the trunk of Respondent’s vehicle they had amassed probable cause - based in part on drug evidence found on the person of Respondent’s front-seat passenger - to believe the trunk contained evidence of drug-related activity. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, holding that the intermediate appellate court failed to review, in their entirety, the facts and circumstances that led the police to search the trunk of Respondent’s car and instead isolated certain facts while ignoring or minimizing others. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court affirming the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Respondent was coerced into submitting to an alcohol breath test required by Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1. In affirming, the circuit court concluded that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s decision that Respondent did not voluntarily submit to the testing. The ALJ found, specifically, that the due process afforded to Respondent was insufficient and that the officer’s actions impermissibly induced Respondent to submit to an alcohol breath test. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the ALJ’s determination was erroneous because Respondent failed to establish that there was an insufficient advisement of rights in violation of her due process protections. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court affirming the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Respondent was coerced into submitting to an alcohol breath test required by Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1. In affirming, the circuit court concluded that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s decision that Respondent did not voluntarily submit to the testing. The ALJ found, specifically, that the due process afforded to Respondent was insufficient and that the officer’s actions impermissibly induced Respondent to submit to an alcohol breath test. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the ALJ’s determination was erroneous because Respondent failed to establish that there was an insufficient advisement of rights in violation of her due process protections. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Smith" on Justia Law

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In the context of a probable cause determination, the issue of a drug detection dog’s reliability is a legal question to be reviewed de novo. Sergeant Christopher Lamb initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle that Petitioner had been driving. A drug detection dog arrived at the scene of the traffic stop, scanned the vehicle, and alerted to it. Sergeant Lamb searched the vehicle and found drugs inside. The circuit court determined that the drug detection dog was reliable. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the ultimate question of probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle based on a drug detection dog’s alert is reviewed de novo, but the issue of a drug detection dog’s reliability is a factual question, and accordingly, an appellate court reviews for clear error a trial court’s determination as to whether a drug detection dog is, or is not, reliable; and (2) the circuit court in this case did not clearly err in determining that the drug detection dog was reliable, and under the totality of the circumstances, that the arresting officer had probable cause for the search. View "Grimm v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case were the Dabbs Class’s claims demanding refunds of impact fees collected by Anne Arundel County between fiscal years 1997-2003. Anne Arundel County imposed road and school impact fees according to County districts beginning in 1987. Those who paid impact fees might become eligible for refunds of those fees under certain circumstances. The Dabbs Class sought refunds on the ground that the impact fees at issue were not expended or encumbered in a timely manner under section 17-11-210(b) of the Anne Arundel County Code and that the amendments to the Impact Fee Ordinance in Bill No. 27-07 and Bill No. 71-08, which codified the County’s procedures for calculating capital expenditures and encumbrances and removed prospectively the refund provision provided in section 17-11-210, unconstitutionally interfered with their vested rights in refunds. The circuit court entered a declaratory judgment for the County. The intermediate appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the lower courts did not err in (1) concluding that the rough proportionality test/rational nexus test of Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994), did not apply; and (2) permitting the retroactive application of the legislation and not finding an unconstitutional taking. View "Dabbs v. Anne Arundel County" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case were the Dabbs Class’s claims demanding refunds of impact fees collected by Anne Arundel County between fiscal years 1997-2003. Anne Arundel County imposed road and school impact fees according to County districts beginning in 1987. Those who paid impact fees might become eligible for refunds of those fees under certain circumstances. The Dabbs Class sought refunds on the ground that the impact fees at issue were not expended or encumbered in a timely manner under section 17-11-210(b) of the Anne Arundel County Code and that the amendments to the Impact Fee Ordinance in Bill No. 27-07 and Bill No. 71-08, which codified the County’s procedures for calculating capital expenditures and encumbrances and removed prospectively the refund provision provided in section 17-11-210, unconstitutionally interfered with their vested rights in refunds. The circuit court entered a declaratory judgment for the County. The intermediate appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the lower courts did not err in (1) concluding that the rough proportionality test/rational nexus test of Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994), did not apply; and (2) permitting the retroactive application of the legislation and not finding an unconstitutional taking. View "Dabbs v. Anne Arundel County" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether victim impact evidence in the form of a video displaying more than one hundred photographs of Defendant’s victims, with accompanying music, is permissible at a sentencing hearing. Defendant entered an Alford plea to two counts of first-degree murder, one count of robbery, and one count of child kidnapping. During sentencing, Defendant moved to exclude a video with approximately 115 photographs of the two victims set to background music. The sentencing judge allowed the video to be played. The Court of Appeals held that showing the video at the sentencing hearing did not violate Defendant’s constitutional rights. Specifically, the Court held (1) a sentencing judge has discretion to permit any additional form of victim impact evidence outside the constraints of Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. (“CP”) 11-402 and CP 11-403; (2) all prepared victim impact evidence, not including victim impact testimony, must be limited to the content prescribed under CP 11-402(e); (3) the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit a sentencing judge from considering victim impact evidence at a defendant’s noncapital sentencing proceeding; and (4) Defendant’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were not violated because the disputed victim impact evidence did not inflame the passions of the sentencing judge more than the facts of the crime. View "Lopez v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that the Dormant Mineral Interests Act (the Act), Md. Code Ann. Envir. 15-1201 through 15-1206, is constitutional and terminating Petitioners’ mineral interests. The Act authorizes a circuit court, under certain circumstances, to terminate a dormant severed mineral interest, thus effecting a merger of that mineral interest with the estate overlying it. Owners of surface estates (Respondents), invoked the Act, seeking termination of dormant mineral interests held by Petitioners. The circuit court entered a final order merging the terminated mineral interests of Petitioners into the surface estates of Respondents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Act does not violate Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights or Article III, section 40 of the Maryland Constitution because the Act is not retrospective and vested rights are not subject to Maryland’s enhanced protection rule. View "Ellis v. McKenzie" on Justia Law