MD Court of Appeals Begins 2022-2023 Session

Underscoring three high-profile cases, the Daily Record published a primer on the Maryland Court of Appeals’ 2022-2023 session.

The seven-member Court of Appeals is Maryland’s highest court and will feature “its first full session with Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader and Judge Angela M. Eaves.” Both judges were nominated to the Court in February of this year. According to the Daily Record, Chief Judge Fader “will likely recuse himself from the many appeals the high court will hear this term from the Court of Special Appeals, due to his service on the intermediate court when those cases were decided.”

Showcasing the most notorious topics of the current session, the Daily Record piece includes cases concerning fleeing from law enforcement, racial bias in court opinions, and environmental regulatory standards. The cases and questions posed before the Court are as follows:

Washington v. Maryland

Criminal Law – 1) In light of the legitimate reasons why young Black men may be afraid of interacting with the police, what weight, if any, should “unprovoked” flight from the police be given in the reasonable suspicion analysis? 2) Does flight from the Baltimore police by a young Black man in Baltimore City give police reasonable suspicion to make a Terry stop? 3) Did CSA err by holding that the stop of Petitioner did not violate Petitioner’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, despite recognizing the “problematic implications” of relying on flight from the police in the reasonable suspicion analysis? 4) Did CSA err by holding that the stop of Petitioner did not violate Petitioner’s rights under Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and, if so, does a violation of Article 26 require the exclusion of the illegally seized evidence? 5) Should the detectives’ observations of a “bulge” in Petitioner’s waistband and that Petitioner was “manipulating something at his front as he’s running” be imputed to the arresting officer and considered in the reasonable suspicion analysis under the collective knowledge doctrine?

The Washington case follows an incident wherein a Baltimore City resident fled from law enforcement upon seeing them. Law enforcement then pursued the man and found an illegal gun in his possession, for which he was criminally charged. Washington raises racial equity concerns regarding historical distrust of law enforcement and whether fleeing from the police should be per se grounds for pursuit, especially in light of a “2016 U.S. Justice Department report that the Baltimore Police Department used enforcement tactics that had an “unjustified” impact on Blacks.”

Belton v. Maryland

Constitutional Law – 1) As a matter of first impression, does a criminal defendant’s right to a fair and impartial judge and the appearance of a fair and impartial judge extend to appellate proceedings? 2) Does dicta in CSA’s reported opinion violate Petitioner’s right to fair and impartial judges and the appearance of fair and impartial judges? 3) Did CSA err in denying Petitioner’s Motion to Recall and Reconsider Reported Opinion where the opinion denies Petitioner’s right to fair and impartial judges and the appearance of fair and impartial judges? 4) Did CSA err in holding that the trial court’s erroneous exclusion of Petitioner’s testimony regarding the victim’s statement, “This is my block,” which was critical to Petitioner’s self-defense and defense-of-others defenses, constituted harmless error?

Belton more directly confronts the issue of racial equity in the justice system. Regarding an opinion issued by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which sits just below the Court of Appeals, another Baltimore City resident claims a series of “racial tropes” used by the Court prove the proceedings were biased against him. The Daily Record quotes an assistant public defender who questioned the Court’s opinion for containing “derogatory contrasts of Baltimore city to other locales and comparisons with distinctive racial overtones of characters from works of literature and fine art to the participants in this case.”

Maryland Department of the Environment v. Assateague Coastal Trust

Environmental Law – 1) Was the Department’s final determination to require individualized assessments of gaseous emissions for poultry houses and other animal feeding operations covered by the general permit supported by substantial evidence in the record and not arbitrary and capricious? 2) Did the Department err in issuing a General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations without including controls for ammonia emissions, when Md. water pollution control laws unambiguously require regulation of ammonia emissions 3) Do the Clean Water Act and the more stringent Md. water pollution control laws require water discharge limitations that take into account impaired receiving waters (i.e. water quality-based effluent limitations) where effluent limitations based solely on minimum levels of treatment achieved by technology are ineffective

Assateague concerns the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) unwillingness to “set an ammonia emission limit in its general discharge permit for poultry feeding operations in the state.” The agency argues there is limited scientific authority available to help establish a threshold for ammonia emissions. Regardless, advocates argue, “MDE is owed no deference and entitled to no discretion because Maryland environmental law and regulations classify ammonia as a water ‘pollutant’ and ‘waste’ that cannot be discharged ‘regardless of volume’ without a standard-setting permit.”

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In addition to what is highlighted above, several other cases being heard by the Court of Appeals feature compelling questions regarding procedures and practices followed by counties:

Dzurec v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs of Calvert Cnty

Local Government – 1) If a county commissioner is voting to enact a Comprehensive Plan in violation of the Calvert County Ethics Ordinance, is that vote ultra vires? 2) Does the Calvert County Ethics Ordinance include an implied cause of action for citizens with standing?

Montgomery Park v. Dept. of General Services

State Finance & Procurement – 1) Is it arbitrary or capricious for a procurement officer to cancel the proposed award of a procurement contract without making independent “written findings” required by Maryland law to support that decision, and instead relying on someone else’s findings that were not supported by the administrative record? 2) Did Petitioner have standing to challenge the unlawful award of a sole source contract to a different applicant?

Abruquah v. Maryland

Criminal Law – Is firearm identification methodology sufficiently reliable to allow an examiner to identify a specific firearm as the source of a questioned bullet or casing, or should the examiner be permitted to testify, at most, that a firearm cannot be excluded as the source of the questioned projectile?

Walker v. Maryland

Public Safety – 1) Do the destruction and expungement provisions of the Maryland DNA Collection Act, Md. Code § 2-511 of the Public Safety (“P.S.”) apply to DNA samples collected from a person pursuant to a search warrant after the person is arrested and charged, or do those provisions apply only to so-called “arrestee” samples, as the Act has been interpreted in regulations promulgated by the Department of State Police? 2) Did the lower courts err in concluding that P.S. § 2-511 does not contain an exclusionary rule for violations of the destruction and expungement provisions of the Act? 3) Assuming, arguendo, that the destruction and expungement provisions in P.S. § 2-511 apply only to arrestee samples, was the trial court’s finding of fact, that the DNA sample at issue here was not an arrestee sample, clearly erroneous; or, in the alternative, if the record is unclear as to whether the DNA sample was an arrestee sample, should the case be remanded for an evidentiary hearing, pursuant to Md. Rules 8-604, so that the court can receive evidence and make findings of fact as to whether the DNA sample was an arrestee sample or was collected from Petitioner pursuant to a search warrant for his DNA? 4) Did the trial court err in denying Petitioner’s motion to suppress DNA evidence?

The Court of Appeals’ 2022-2023 session will have wide-ranging consequences concerning public safety, regulatory authority, and day-to-day operations for the State of Maryland and its local governments. Conduit Street will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Read the full Daily Record article.

See the full 2022-2023 Court of Appeals docket. 

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