Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court vacating original development approvals by the Frederick Council Council so that the Council could proceed with a de novo reconsideration proceeding, holding that the circuit court did not err in vacating the development approvals after the Developers refused to participate in a de novo reconsideration proceeding.A local citizens group opposed the Developers' rezoning and development application and sought judicial review. The circuit court found that a former member of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners had violated the ethics statute by engaging in an ex parte communication and remanded the case for reconsideration. The Frederick County Council reconsidered the Developers' application in a de novo proceeding, but the Developers refused to participate. Thereafter, the circuit court vacated the original development approvals and remanded the matter. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the County Council had the discretion to determine the scope of the reconsideration proceeding; (2) the doctrine of zoning estoppel does not apply under the facts of this case; and (3) there is no ambiguity in the Ethics Statute. View "75-80 Properties v. RALE, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that a circuit court asked to enforce an administrative order based on a final administrative decision under the State Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is not precluded from considering whether the relief ordered would violate the law on which the administrative decision is based.The Motor Vehicle Administration denied Karl Geppert's application for a learner's permit because he did not have a social security number. Geppert, however, was eligible for a social security number. An administrative law judge (ALJ) ordered that a learner's permit be issued to Geppert. Geppert requested a writ of mandamus to enforce the ALJ's ruling. The circuit court concluded that the ALJ's decision was based on an incorrect legal premise and denied the writ. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court was barred from considering the legal soundness of the ALJ's decision. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court did not err in declining to afford binding effect to the ALJ's erroneous legal conclusions. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Geppert" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals agreed with the judgment of the hearing examiner granting line-of-duty (LOD) retirement benefits to Petitioner, a retired Baltimore City police officer, based on a finding of fact that Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a mild traumatic brain injury, holding that the hearing examiner did not err.Police officers are potentially eligible for two different levels of disability benefits - a less substantial non-line-of-duty (NLOD) level of benefits or a more substantial LOD level of benefits. Benefits for NLOD disability may be awarded on the basis of a mental or physical incapacity, but benefits for LOD disability can only be awarded based on a physical incapacity. Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a concussion in the course of his duties. The hearing examiner granted Petitioner LOD disability benefits, concluding that he was permanently physically incapacitated. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Petitioner's incapacities were mental rather than physical. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner was entitled to LOD benefits. View "Couret-Rios v. Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of City of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that, under exhaustion of administrative remedies jurisprudence, a landowner may not withhold a claim alleging an unconstitutional taking arising from the application of a zoning regulation from the administrative agency's consideration and present the claim to a jury in a separate action invoking the court's original jurisdiction.This appeal arose out of litigation between Maryland Reclamation Associates, Inc. (MRA) and Harford County, Maryland (the County) in connection with MRA's efforts to construct and operate a rubble landfill on property located in Harford County. Earlier litigation concluded with a 2010 Supreme Court opinion upholding all the factual determinations and legal conclusions of the Harford County Board of Appeals (the Board). After losing on each substantive claim, MRA filed a separate inverse condemnation case alleging an unconstitutional taking. The jury found that MRA's inability to operate a rubble landfill was a regulatory taking and awarded MRA damages. The court of special appeals concluded that the takings claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals affirmed but on other grounds, holding that MRA's takings claim should b dismissed based on MRA's failure to raise this constitutional issue in any administrative proceeding. View "Maryland Reclamation Associates, Inc. v. Harford County, Maryland" on Justia Law

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In this case involving application of Maryland's "implied consent" statute, Md. Code Ann., Trans. (TR) 16-205.1(b), the Court of Appeals held that Defendant was fully advised of his rights under TR 16-205.1(b)(1) despite two police officers speaking to him simultaneously, because he was not prevented from understanding his rights and the sanctions for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test, as outlined by the Motor Vehicle Administration's DR-15 "Advice of Rights" form.Defendant's driver's license was suspended because he refused to take a blood alcohol concentration test after being detained for suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol. An ALJ upheld the order of suspicion, finding that Defendant had been advised in conformity with the DR-15. The circuit court reversed, holding that Defendnat was not fully advised of his rights because he was distracted while trying to understand his rights. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court improperly substituted its judgment for that of the ALJ in determining that Defendant incur no sanctions for his violation of the implied consent statute. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Barrett" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Defendant did not drive under the influence of alcohol in violation of Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1 but instead used his vehicle as a "shelter," holding that the ALJ erred when she failed to consider the detaining officer's reasonable grounds.The detaining officer found Defendant in his vehicle after responding to a trespassing call, woke Defendant, and noticed his eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred. When Defendant refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, the detaining officer detained Defendant, confiscated his license, and issued an order of suspension. The ALJ concluded that the suspension was not warranted because the Motor Vehicle Administration did not prove that Defendant was in "actual physical control" of his vehicle. The circuit court upheld the ALJ's decision. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the ALJ must determine whether the detaining officer had reasonable grounds to believe that Defendant was driving or attempting to drive his vehicle while under the influence. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Pollard" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ) concluding that an officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that Respondent was driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle while impaired, holding that the ALJ erred in imposing his credibility determinations and inferences to make the legal determination at issue.Following a traffic infraction, the officer in this case approached the vehicle, observed Respondent sitting in the driver's seat, and smelled alcohol on her breath and person. The officer requested that Respondent take an alcohol concentration test. Respondent refused to submit to the breath test, and the officers confiscated her driver's license. The ALJ took "no action" on the order of suspension, and Respondent's driving privileges were reinstated. The circuit court affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the detaining officer had reasonable grounds to suspect Respondent was driving or attempting to drive while impaired or under the influence of alcohol. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Medvedeff" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to the action of the Prince George's County Council sitting as the District Council approving a special exception and variance sought by Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust regarding an existing store located in the Woodyard Crossing Shopping Center in Clinton, Maryland, the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the District Council has extensive authority to regulate and establish zoning laws and procedure, which includes special exception and variance application. The ZHE issued a decision denied an application for a special exception and variance sought by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart filed exceptions to the Zoning Hearing Examiner's (ZHE) decision and requested that the District Council hear the case. Petitioners responded in opposition to Wal-Mart's exceptions. The District Council proceeded to approve Wal-Mart's application for a special exception and variance. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the District Council's decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the District Council is authorized to delegate the preparation of its opinion and order to its staff attorney; (2) the District Council rightfully exercises original jurisdiction when hearing zoning cases from the ZHE; and (3) Petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence that the District Council violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act. View "Grant v. County Council of Prince George's County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court determining that state law preempted a local zoning authority with respect to solar energy generating systems (SEGS) that require a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) issued by the Maryland Public Service Commission and that the Commission had exclusive jurisdiction to approve the type of SEGS proposed by Perennial Solar, LLC in this case.Perennial applied to the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals (Board) for a special exception and variance to construct a SEGS. The Board granted the variance and special exception. Aggrieved landowners sought judicial review, and Washington County intervened. While the petition for judicial review was pending, Perennial moved for pre-appeal determination challenging the subject matter jurisdiction of the circuit court. The circuit court granted the motion, determining that Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. (PU) 7-207 preempted the Washington County zoning ordinance. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that PU 7-207 preempts by implication local zoning authority approval for the siting and location of generating stations that require a CPCN. View "Washington County v. Perennial Solar, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission modifying an order that provided Officer Peter Gang, who was injured working as a correctional officer for Montgomery County, a compensation award for a permanent partial disability resulting from his injury, holding that the Commission was authorized to retroactively modify the compensation award.Specifically, the Commission retroactively adjusted the rate of compensation because, as a public safety employee, Officer Gang had been entitled to a higher rate of compensation than that which he initially received. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Commission was not statutorily authorized to retroactively modify Officer Gang's rate of compensation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under section 9-736(b) of the Workers' Compensation Act, the Commission may modify the compensation award within five years from the date of the last compensation payment; and (2) because Officer Gang applied for the correction before the statutory five-year period expired the Commission properly exercised its continuing jurisdiction to retroactively correct the rate of compensation in Officer Gang's award for permanent partial disability based on an error of law. View "Gang v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law