Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that Appellant's sentencing proceeding complied with the constitutional protections recognized in recent decisions of the Supreme Court.In 2010, Petitioner was convicted of first-degree felony murder and other crimes for his involvement in a burglary at the age of sixteen that resulted in a murder. Petitioner was sentenced to life in prison with all but sixty years suspended for the murder conviction and will be eligible for parole at the time he is forty-two years old. In 2017, Petitioner filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, arguing that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment, as interpreted in recent decisions of this Court and the Supreme Court. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of special appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner's sentence did not amount to a de facto sentence of life without parole, and his sentence was not grossly disproportionate. View "Jedlicka v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that ambiguity in a sentencing court's remarks about a juvenile offender's post-offense conduct and character, when made before the Supreme Court issued its decisions governing the sentencing of a juvenile offender to life without the possibility of parole, requires that the offender receive a new sentencing hearing for purposes of the Eighth Amendment.Petitioner was seventeen years old when he committed a series of murders. In Maryland, Petitioner pled guilty to six counts of first-degree murder. The sentencing court sentenced him to the maximum sentence of six terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole. After the Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), Petitioner filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that because opposing inferences could be drawn as to whether the sentencing judge determined that Petitioner was not "the rare juvenile offender whose crimes reflects irreparable corruption" for whom the Eighth Amendment allows a sentence of life without parole. View "Malvo v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Appeals of Baltimore County erred in reversing an administrative law judge's determination that substantial changes existed between an original development plan and a later proposed development plan, holding that, contrary to the Board's conclusion, the doctrine of collateral estoppel did not bar approval of the later-proposed development plan.After a hearing, the Board issued an opinion concluding that the ALJ erred as a matter of law in ruling that the most recent development plan modification at issue was not barred by collateral estoppel. The circuit court reversed the Board's decision, concluding that the Board misapplied the law and misconstrued the facts in making its decision. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Board erred in concluding that collateral estoppel barred the approval of the most recent development plan. View "Becker v. Falls Road Community Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment to Defendants in this professional malpractice action, holding that the circuit court mistakenly applied Meda v. Brown, 318 Md. 418 (1990), in excluding Plaintiff's experts.In their motion for summary judgment, Defendants argued that there was no evidence or medical circumstances sufficient to allow an expert opinion "inference" that surgical negligence occurred in the underlying matter. After finding that the testimonies of Plaintiffs' expert witnesses were not admissible the Supreme Court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of special appeals reversed, finding that the trial court erred as a matter of law in excluding Plaintiff's expert witnesses. The Court of Appeals remanded the case with instructions to reverse the circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court erred in excluding the testimony of Plaintiff's expert witnesses. View "Frankel v. Deane" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's complaint seeking an injunction and declaratory relief to enjoin a student member on the Board of Education of Howard County from exercising any voting power and a declaration that the election process for the student member violates the Maryland Constitution, holding that there was no error.After relying on remote learning for schooling during the Covid-19 pandemic, at the end of 2020, the Board of Education of Howard County held votes on motions to resume in-person instruction. Each motion failed by a stalemate vote, with the student member causing the stalemate. After the Board decided to continue with remote learning Petitioners brought this action seeking an injunction and a declaration that the statute creating the student member on the Board is unconstitutional. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the Board, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the provisions of section 3-701 of the Education Article concerning the student member position on the Board do not violate the Maryland Constitution. View "Spiegel v. Board of Education of Howard County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing Defendant's sentence on the ground that the district court's failure to advise Defendant of the duration of his probation, as required by Maryland Rule 4-346(a), rendered the sentence illegal, holding that the violation of Rule 4-346(a) did not render the sentence illegal.In imposing Defendant's split sentence of twenty-five years, suspending five years, the court mentioned probation but failed to advise Defendant of the probation's duration. However, the court did include a five-year term and conditions of probation in a probation order signed by Defendant and his counsel before leaving the courtroom. The court of special appeals reversed and remanded to the circuit court to strike the five-year probation from the sentence. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the sentencing judge's error constituted clear error, but not one that rendered the sentence illegal. View "State v. Bustillo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' respective motions to dismiss the underlying survivorship and wrongful death action in which Plaintiffs sought damages arising from the death of Kyle Hancock, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Hancock was working for R.F. Warder when he was buried alive at an excavation site. Warder was an independent contractor hired by the City of Baltimore to perform the excavation work. Because Plaintiffs were barred from bringing negligence claims against Warder, Plaintiffs named as defendants the City and Keith Sutton, who was on site at the time of the accident. The circuit court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) one who hires an independent contractor is not liable to the contractor's employee for injuries caused by the contractor’s negligence in performing the work for which it was hired; and (2) the duty of a contractor or subcontractor on a construction job to exercise due care to provide for the safety of the employees of other contractors or subcontractors is owed with respect to conditions that the contractor or subcontractor creates or over which it exercises control. View "Hancock v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" 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 denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of error coram nobis, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner's coram nobis petition.Petitioner had twenty-year old convictions for forgery and fraud/identity theft, which rendered her ineligible to receive the license required to work as a mortgage loan originator under Maryland law. After three appeals, the intermediate appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, considering the legislative purpose of the Maryland mortgage loan originator license statute and the circumstances of this case, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of coram nobis. View "Smith v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Montgomery County in this workers' compensation case, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.In 2007, Petitioner, a firefighter in Montgomery County, experienced a service-related back injury, which led to his retirement three years later. Petitioner subsequently developed a compensable degree of occupational hearing loss related to his employment and sought workers' compensation benefits. Although the Workers' Compensation Commission awarded Petitioner compensation for his hearing loss the Commission determined that the entirety fo the award be offset under Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. (LE) 9-610. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner's service-connected total disability retirement benefits arising from his back injury were "similar" to his permanent partial disability benefits, and the benefits related to his occupational hearing were offset under LE 9-610. View "Spevak v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the court of special appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of one count of second-degree assault, holding that it was harmless error to fail to propound a voir dire question regarding Defendant's right to remain silent and not testify where Defendant actually testified.During trial, Defendant requested a voir dire question on her right not to testify, but the trial court declined to ask the question. During trial, Defendant testified in her defense. In reversing, the court of special appeals determined that the trial court erred under Kazadi v. State, 467 Md. 1 (2020), and that the error was not harmless. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Kazadi error in this case was subject to the harmless error doctrine; and (2) the Kazadi error was harmless. View "State v. Jordan" on Justia Law