Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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In 2011, the La Plata Town Council passed four resolutions, including an annexation resolution acquiring a tract of land. Several citizens of La Plata subsequently published a petition to refer the Council's annexation resolution to referendum. The town manager declared that sufficient signatures had been submitted. As such, the annexation resolution was suspended and all four resolutions were referred to referendum. Several referendum opponents filed a petition for judicial review of the manager's report validating the signatures and advancing the referendum to a vote. The circuit court judge ruled in favor of the referendum opponents, holding, inter alia, that although the petition for referendum presented foremost a land annexation resolution, the inclusion of the additional resolutions invalidated the petition. The Court of Appeals vacated the opinion and remanded, holding (1) where the petition for referendum contained legislative enactments that were collateral to the land annexation resolution but did not obfuscate the subject matter of the petition for referendum, the additions do not invalidate the petition; and (2) the town manager acted within his authority when he published Town policies for the validation and verification of signatures for referendum. View "Town of La Plata v. Faison-Rosewick LLC" on Justia Law

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County Council enacted a bill providing that Appellant forfeited his councilmanic position, concluding that Appellant had moved his residence from his councilmanic district to a correctional facility in South Carolina after having been convicted of failing to file a federal tax return. Appellant challenged the authority of the County Council to expel him as a member based upon its interpretation of the term "residence" in the County Charter as a "temporary place of abode." The circuit court granted summary judgment for the County and County Council. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that "residence" in the Charter embodies the notion of domicile, such that Appellant did not move his residence by virtue of his five-month incarceration. View "Jones v. Anne Arundel County" on Justia Law

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Tiffany Alston, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, was removed as a delegate after she was convicted and sentenced for misconduct in office. Before Alston fulfilled the conditions of her sentence, the assistant attorney general declared her removed from her House seat by operation of law. Gregory Hall was nominated to fill Alston's seat. While Hall's nomination was before the Governor, the Governor requested that the Democratic Central Committee of Prince George's County (Central Committee) withdraw the nomination. Hall filed a complaint seeking to prevent the withdrawal of his nomination. Alston filed, as an intervener and third-party plaintiff in the same case, a separate complaint seeking a declaration that she had been merely suspended, rather than removed, from her House seat because her conviction and sentence had been converted into probation before judgment. The circuit court ruled (1) Alston had been removed by operation of law on the date she was sentenced for her misconduct in office conviction; and (2) the Central Committee had the power to rescind Hall's nomination at any time before the Governor made the appointment. The Supreme Court affirmed, finding no error in the circuit court's judgment. View "Hall v. Prince George's County Democratic Cent. Comm." on Justia Law

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The Town of Oxford introduced a resolution proposing to annex a number of acres of submerged lands. Petition circulators subsequently submitted a petition for referendum regarding the proposed solution. The petition was submitted before the public hearing on the annexation resolution but before the final enactment of the resolution. The Town Commissioners determined that the signatures affixed before final enactment of the resolution were invalid, and therefore, a referendum was not required. Petitioner filed this action, contending that the referendum petition was valid. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioner, holding that signatures on a referendum petition may be collected before final enactment of the targeted annexation resolution. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the court of special appeals was correct in concluding that, pursuant to Md. Code Ann. art. 23A, 19, petition signatures gathered after introduction, but prior to commencement of the forty-five day period after final enactment of the resolution, could not be counted toward petitioning the resolution to referendum; and (2) by not counting pre-enactment signatures, the referendum effort did not succeed in obtaining a sufficient number of petition signatures for a referendum election to be held. View "Koste v. Town of Oxford" on Justia Law

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This was the latest in a series of opinions by the Court of Appeals involving the constitutional provision and the implementing legislation authorizing a limited number of slot machines at specified Maryland facilities, including facilities in the area of Anne Arundel County (County). A County zoning ordinance authorized slot machines in certain areas of the County. The circuit court determined that the ordinance was not subject to referendum under the County charter. On appeal, the Court of Appeals (1) held the circuit court's judgment was appealable, as (i) the Legislature no no intention of applying the non-appealability principle of Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 12-302(a) to cases under the Election Article, and (ii) where the Election Article authorizes judicial review but is silent regarding an appeal, Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc.12-301 authorizes an appeal; and (2) reversed the circuit court's judgment and remanded with instructions to order that the ordinance be placed on the ballot at the general election in accordance with the referendum provisions of the County charter, holding that the ordinance was simply a local ordinance re-zoning an area, and as such, it was not exempt from a referendum. View "Citizens Against Slots At The Mall v. PPE Casino Resorts Md., LLC" on Justia Law

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Following the passage of Maryland's latest congressional redistricting law, SB 1, Intervenor employed a website-based initiative to gather the signatures necessary to petition SB 1 to referendum on the general election ballot in November 2012. The State Board of Elections certified the petition for referendum after determining that Intervenor had gathered the required number of valid signatures. Petitioners subsequently challenged the State's Board's certification of the petition on the grounds that Intervenor failed to submit a sufficient number of valid signatures, objecting to two classes of signatures validated by the State Board. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court also affirmed, holding (1) petition signatures obtained through the use of a third-party website do not violate the statutory requirement that an individual "include" or "provide" his or her identifying information; and (2) an individual can "self-circulate" a petition by signing both as the voter and as the circulator. View "Whitley v. State Bd. of Elections" on Justia Law

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The Maryland Dream Act seeks to exempt certain students from paying out-of-state tuition rates at higher education institutions in Maryland. Following the enactment of the Act, MDPetitions.com petitioned to refer the Act to Maryland's 2012 general election ballot. The State Board of Elections certified the petition for referendum. In response to the Board's certification, Appellants, representing a group of individuals supporting the Act, challenged its referability and sought to remove the Act from consideration on the November 2012 ballot. The trial court entered summary judgment against Appellants, finding that the Act was a proper subject for referendum. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Act was not a law "making any appropriation for maintaining the state government" within the meaning of Md. Const. art. XVI, 2, and therefore was not exempt from referendum. View "Doe v. Bd. of Elections" on Justia Law

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The Board of County Commissioners of Frederick County (BOCC) appointed a nine-member charter board in 2011. The Maryland Constitution provides that the BOCC shall hold a special election for consideration of additional nominated charter board members under certain circumstances. Petitioners, individuals who sought membership on the charter board, circulated a petition in support of nominating candidates for consideration at a special election. The Frederick County Board of Elections (the Board) determined that Petitioners did not satisfy the statutory and constitutional requirements necessary for the BOCC to call a special election. The circuit court judge affirmed the determination made by the Board that the petition contained an insufficient number of valid signatures to require the BOCC to hold a special election. The Court of Appeals granted certiorari and held (1) the Board applied the correct standard for reviewing and validating petition signatures under Md. Code An. Elec. Law 6-203(a), as interpreted by the Court in recent opinions; (2) the doctrine of collateral estoppel was not applicable to the circumstances of this case; and (3) the mandatory petition signature requirements in 6-203(a) and COMAR 33.06.03.06B(1) were not unconstitutional. View "Burruss v. Bd. of County Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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Appellees, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, enjoyed ballot access privileges from 2007 to 2010, when they were unable to show their respective memberships consisted of at least one percent of registered Maryland voters or that their nominees for Governor received at least one percent of the total vote. Appellees then submitted 10,000 petition signatures to Appellant, the State Board of Elections, to regain their ballot access privileges. Appellant determined that many of the submitted petition signatures were invalid and, thus, Appellees did not satisfy the statutory requirements. Appellees sought a declaratory judgment that Appellant incorrectly applied the law regarding validation of petition signatures and that the applicable law was whether there was "sufficient cumulative information" from which Appellant could identify a signatory on a petition as a registered voter. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Appellees. The Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court, holding (1) the court erred in relying on a supposed "sufficient cumulative information" standard, as the requirements for petition signatures under Md. Code Ann. Elec. Law 6-203(a) are mandatory; and (2) pursuant to section 6-203(b), Appellant appropriately refused to validate and count duplicate signatures of individuals who previously signed the same petition. Remanded. View "Bd. of Elections v. Libertarian Party" on Justia Law

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A year into his term as a circuit court judge, Appellant Charles Bernstein filed a complaint challenging his mandatory retirement pursuant to the Maryland Constitution, naming as defendants the State, Governor, and General Assembly. Appellant argued that Md. Const. art. IV, 3 had application only to judges who attain the age of seventy while they are in office, and thus, a person seventy years or older who was not currently serving as a circuit court judge may be appointed to fill a judicial vacancy or run for judicial office. The Court of Appeals answered questions certified to it as follows: (1) the Maryland Constitution (i) requires a sitting judge to retire upon reaching age seventy, (ii) prohibits the Governor from appointing a person seventy years of age or older to the bench, and (iii) prohibits a person seventy years of age or older from running from judicial office; and (2) the Maryland Constitution does not permit a person seventy years of age or older to run for a judicial office and, if elected, to serve out the entire term. View "Bernstein v. State" on Justia Law