Articles Posted in Constitutional 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

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Hartford County Housing Agency (HCHA) terminating Petitioner’s voucher, holding that the HCHA complied with procedural due process procedures under Maryland law and the United States Constitution and that the record contained substantial evidence. Petitioner sought judicial review of the HCHA’s decision to terminate Petitioner’s voucher. The circuit court determined that the record contained substantial evidence to justify the HCHA’s decision and upheld the termination. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the HCHA is not an “agency” for the purposes of the Maryland Administrative Procedure Act, and therefore, Petitioner was not entitled to a contested case hearing; and (2) Petitioner was afforded due process through an informal hearing and the HCHA’s written decision. View "McDonell v. Harford County Housing Agency" on Justia Law

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At issue was three crimes that were committed when each of three Petitioners was a juvenile and whether each Petitioner was effectively serving a sentence of life without parole because the laws of Maryland do not provide him with a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” See Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). None of the sentences imposed in these cases was explicitly “life without parole.” In all three cases each Petitioner filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Court of Appeals concluded that one Petitioner was entitled to be resentenced to a legal sentence, holding (1) with respect to the two Petitioners serving life sentences, their sentences are legal under the laws governing parole of inmates serving life sentences in Maryland; but (2) with respect to the Petitioner serving a 100-year sentence, the sentence is effectively a sentence of life without parole in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "Carter v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals finding that the trial court did not deny Petitioner due process by permitting the State to question him about his failure to disclose an alibi defense after he invoked Miranda. Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and other crimes. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the trial court denied him due process by allowing the prosecutor to question him about “what he did not tell the police about his alibi defense, even though the omissions were a result of [Petitioner’s] post-arrest, post-Miranda invocation of silence and were not inconsistencies with his trial testimony.” The State countered that even statements taken in violation of Miranda can be used to impeach a witness’s prior inconsistent statement. The Court of Appeals held that an invocation of Miranda does not preclude the State from impeaching a witness concerning prior inconsistent statements, even after a suspect invokes his right to remain silent. View "Reynolds v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a circuit court’s exercise of its coercive powers to incarcerate a drug court program participant is subject to appellate review and can violate a participant’s right to due process. Respondents in the two underlying cases participated in the circuit court’s drug court program as a special condition of probation. Each respondent violated the program conditions, and the circuit court imposed immediate sanctions. The Court of Special Appeals concluded that Respondents had the right to seek appellate review of the incarceration sanction and held that the circuit court’s procedure did not comply with due process requirements. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a participant in a drug court program seeking to appeal from the circuit court’s imposition of sanctions may do so by filing an application for leave to appeal pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Judgment. Proc. 12-302(g); (2) when a circuit court administering a drug court program considers imposing a sanction involving the loss of liberty or termination from the program, it must provide minimum due process protections; and (3) the process followed by the circuit court in imposing sanctions violated constitutional due process guarantees. View "State v. Brookman" on Justia 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