Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals holding that a police-initiated procedure resulting in the identification of Defendant was not governed by constitutional criminal procedure law concerning out-of-court identifications made by an eyewitness, holding that the identification of Defendant was a "confirmatory identification" not subject to constitutional scrutiny. Shortly after a murder, investigating detectives focused on Defendant as the suspected killer. The detectives were aware that the murder victim's current girlfriend, Jennifer McKay, knew Defendant and until recently had been in an intimate relationship with him. When interviewing McKay at the police station the detectives asked her to review camera footage captured with a surveillance camera mounted on a building adjacent to the apartment where the murder occurred. McKay did so and determined that a person depicted on the footage looked like Defendant. Defendant moved to suppress McKay's identification of him, arguing that the identification was obtained during an impermissible suggestive process. The circuit court granted the suppression motion. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the identification at issue in this case did not implicate the constitutionally-based identification law paradigm. View "Greene v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the circuit court holding that the General Assembly's amendment of the Maryland tax code authorizing the State Comptroller to pay refunds to taxpayers affected by a provision held to be invalid and providing for the State to pay interest on those refunds at a certain rate did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause of the federal Constitution. This litigation arose when Appellants challenged the credit allowed by State law against a Maryland resident's income tax liability based on taxes the resident paid to other states on income derived from those states. The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court agreed with Appellants' argument that the tax scheme violated the dormant Commerce Clause. In response, the General Assembly amended the tax code. After the Comptroller issued Appellants a refund in compliance with the new legislation, Appellants appealed, seeking a higher rate of interest on the refunds. Following an administrative ruling in Appellants' favor, the circuit court held that the interest rate did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Appellants failed to meet their burden of showing discrimination in effect. View "Wynne v. Comptroller of Maryland" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the circuit court invalidating, on due process grounds, an order ratifying the sale of Prime Realty's vacant property, holding that Maryland Rule 3-124(o), which allows for substituted service of process on an LLC by service on the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT), satisfies a litigant's due process rights. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (the City) initiated a receivership action against Prime Realty Associates, LLC when property owned by Prime Realty fell into disrepair. The City attempted to serve Prime Realty's resident agent at the address on file with SDAT. When those attempts proved unsuccessful, the City made substitute service on SDAT pursuant to Maryland Rule 3-124(o). The property was subsequently sold, and the district court ratified the sale. Thereafter, Prime Realty moved to vacate the sale, arguing that its due process rights were violated because the City did not adequately serve Prime Realty. The district court denied the motion. On appeal, the circuit court vacated the sale of the property, holding that Prime Realty's due process were violated. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the method of substituted service upon SDAT prescribed by Maryland Rule 3-124(o) satisfies a litigant's due process rights. View "Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. Prime Realty Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the circuit court's judgment denying the petitions for writs of actual innocence filed by David Faulkner and Jonathan Smith under Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc, 8-301, holding that new trials were warranted for both Smith and Faulkner. More than a dozen years after Adeline Wilford was murdered and the case had gone cold, the Maryland State Police reopened the investigation and charged Faulkner and Smith with burglary, murder and related offenses. Both Smith and Faulkner were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Several years later, Smith and Faulkner filed petitions for writs of actual evidence, contending that, if newly discovered evidence had been provided to their juries, there was a substantial or significant possibility that the juries would have reached different results. The lower courts denied relief. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered new trials for both petitioners, holding that, in light of the newly discovered evidence discussed in this opinion, Smith and Faulkner were entitled to new trials. View "Faulkner v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of second-degree murder, holding that non-mutually admissible evidence was admitted at trial, prejudicing Defendant, and the seizure of a cell phone from Defendant's person exceeded the parameters of the Fourth Amendment and Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Defendant was tried in the circuit court along with a co-defendant for murder. Both defendants were convicted of second-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial should have been severed from that of his co-defendant since a substantial amount of the evidence against the co-defendant was not admissible against him. Defendant further argued that the trial court erred in failing to suppress a cell phone that was seized from his pocket. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that (1) the trials should have been severed because the joint trial unfairly prejudiced Defendant, and the resulting prejudice could not be cured; and (2) in the absence of a valid search and seizure warrant for the search of Defendant's person or an applicable exception to the warrant requirement, the seizure of the cell phone was unlawful. View "State v. Zadeh" on Justia Law

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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

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendant's petition for postconviction relief and ordering a new trial on the ground that Defendant's trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel by not requesting an alibi jury instruction, holding that the circumstance that Defendant's trial counsel did not request an alibi jury instruction did not prejudice Defendant. At issue was whether Defendant satisfied, under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), his burden of proving that he was prejudiced when his trial counsel did not request, and the trial court did not give, an alibi jury instruction where purported alibi witnesses testified at trial. The Court of Appeals concluded that Defendant was not prejudiced because none of the purported alibi witnesses' testimony indicated that Defendant could not have been at the murder scene, and the circumstance that the circuit court gave other instructions regarding the State's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt diminished the claim of prejudice. View "State v. Mann" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's grant of preliminary injunctive relief enjoining the State Board of Elections from certifying the 2018 general election ballot with April Ademiluyi's name listed as a candidate for circuit court judge, holding that the Libertarian Party's nomination of Ademiluyi did not comport with the requirements of Md. Code Ann. Elec. Law (EL) 5-701 and that the circuit court's grant of preliminary injunction was sufficiently supported by the appropriate factors. Ademiluyi was a registered Democrat. Upon learning of Ademiluyi's party affiliation, Appellees challenged her qualifications for nomination as a circuit court judge. The circuit court ordered that Ademiluyi's be removed from the ballot. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's grant of preliminary injunctive relief, holding that Ademiluyi's candidacy was impermissible under the relevant provisions that regulate judicial elections in Maryland because (1) Ademiluyi's candidacy was at odds with the Libertarian Party's Constitution, which requires that its candidates for office be registered Libertarians; and (2) a judicial candidate's route to access the ballot is dependent upon her party affiliation, and candidates registered with a principal party may only achieve this end through participation in primary elections. View "Ademiluyi v. Egbuono" 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 trial court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this action brought by a former tenant of a public market in Baltimore City, holding that the tenant was not a "displaced person" as that term is defined in Md. Code Ann. Real Prop. (RP) 12-201(e)(1)(i), and therefore, the tenant was not wrongfully denied moving and relocation expenses and there was no unconstitutional taking. After a rental agent for the public market advised the tenant that its business did not fit in the redevelopment plans for the market and that it should pursue other options, the tenant vacated the market. The tenant sued seeking compensation for moving and relocation expenses as a displaced person and for an unconstitutional taking. The trial court dismissed the action, concluding that the tenant did not qualify as a "displaced person" because the exemption in RP 12-201(e)(2)(iii) applied. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the tenant was both not a displaced person under RP 12-201(e)(1)(i) and exempt from qualifying as a displaced person under RP 12-201(e)(2)(iii). View "Wireless One, Inc. v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of two counts of criminal attempt for his refusal to testify in a murder trial, holding that Defendant failed to proffer sufficient evidence of duress to generate the defense of duress. Defendant was called to testify in a murder trial but refused to answer any questions on the basis of the privilege against self-incrimination. The court subsequently issued an order immunizing Defendant and directing him to testify, but Defendant continued to refuse to answer questions. Defendant was subsequently charged with contempt. During the trial, Defendant attempted to raise the common law defense of duress. The trial court rejected the defense as a matter of law and found Defendant guilty of contempt. Defendant appealed, arguing that duress can be a defense to a contempt charge for a refusal to testify. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that even assuming the defense of duress was available to Defendant, Defendant's proffered evidence failed to generate the defense of duress because the alleged threat was not "present, imminent, and impending." View "Howell v. State" on Justia Law