Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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The Court of Appeals held that the Public Service Commission (Commission) acted within its authority when it approved the acquisition of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI) and its utility subsidiaries by Exelon Corporation (Exelon). The General Assembly has provided for judicial review of decisions of the Commission assessing and either approving or rejecting an acquisition of a company that supplies electricity in the State, including a merger with another utility. At issue here was the Commission’s approval of the acquisition of PHI and its utility subsidiaries by Exelon. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals concluded that the Commission acted within its authority when it approved the transaction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Commission properly considered the factors listed in Md. Code Pub. Util. Cos. 6-105(g)(2) and exercised its discretion as to what weight to accord factors other than those specifically listed in the statute; and (2) the Commission acted neither arbitrarily nor capriciously in evaluating harm to renewable and distributed generation markets. View "Office of People's Counsel v. Maryland Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeals was the correct interpretation of Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. (PU) 4-210, known as the STRIDE statute, which allows Maryland gas companies more timely cost recovery if they submit plans that increase the pace of natural gas infrastructure improvements. The Maryland Public Service Commission, the circuit court of Montgomery County, and the court of special appeals each concluded that the STRIDE statute provides accelerated cost recovery only for gas infrastructure projects located in the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the STRIDE statute’s legislative history supports this Court’s interpretation that PU 4-210 is unambiguous and requires that “gas infrastructure improvements” be located “in the State” in order promptly to recover investment costs separate from base rate proceedings. View "Washington Gas Light Co. v. Maryland Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue in this consolidated appeal was whether the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act (MCALA), as revised by a 2007 departmental bill, was constrained to the original scope of collection agencies seeking consumer claims or whether the revised statutory language required principal actors of Maryland’s mortgage market to obtain a collection agency license. In 2007, the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation requested a department bill to revise the definition of collection agencies required to obtain the MCALA license. The enacted departmental bill changed MCALA’s definition of “collection agencies” to include a person who engages in the business of “collecting a consumer claim the person owns if the claim was in default when the person acquired it[.]” The circuit courts below dismissed the foreclosure actions at issue in this appeal, concluding that foreign statutory trusts acting as a repository for defaulted mortgage debts were required to obtain a MCALA license before its substitute trustees filed the foreclosure actions. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the foreign statutory trusts did not fall under the definition of “collection agencies” that are licensed and regulated by MCALA, and therefore, the foreign statutory trusts were not required to obtain a license under MCALA before the substitute trustees instituted foreclosure proceedings on their behalf. View "Blackstone v. Sharma" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Petitioner’s request for the release of notes containing possible personnel information relating to her performance as an employee of the Montgomery County Attorney’s office were subject to disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). Montgomery County (Respondent) withheld the subject notes when responding to Petitioner’s MPIA request, claiming that the notes were privileged, non-public information. Petitioner then filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging that Respondent violated the MPIA and requesting an order requiring the disclosure of the documents. The circuit court granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss, concluding that an in camera review was not required because the notes were not considered personnel records pursuant to the Montgomery County personnel regulations. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding (1) the trial court reviewing the denial of an MPIA request must be satisfied that the rationale offered by the agency supports the denial of the request; and (2) the trial court in this case did not sufficiently review the denial of Petitioner’s MPIA request. View "Lamson v. Montgomery County, Md." on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the Court of Appeals clarified an exception to the "going and coming rule" - the special mission or errand doctrine. Employee, who was employed by Montgomery County, was injured in a car accident while driving from her home to a mandatory work training on a Saturday, which was normally her day off. The Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded compensation, finding that Employee’s injury arose out of and in the course of employment. The County sought judicial review, arguing that the going and coming rule prohibited recovery because accidental injuries sustained while going to or coming from work do not ordinarily arise out of and in the course of employment, and none of the exceptions to the rule applied. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the County. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the going and coming rule, rather than the traveling employee doctrine, controlled Plaintiff’s case; but (2) the undisputed facts permitted a reasonable conclusion that the special mission exception to the going and coming rule applied in this case. View "Calvo v. Montgomery County, Maryland" 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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At issue in this case were the Dabbs Class’s claims demanding refunds of impact fees collected by Anne Arundel County between fiscal years 1997-2003. Anne Arundel County imposed road and school impact fees according to County districts beginning in 1987. Those who paid impact fees might become eligible for refunds of those fees under certain circumstances. The Dabbs Class sought refunds on the ground that the impact fees at issue were not expended or encumbered in a timely manner under section 17-11-210(b) of the Anne Arundel County Code and that the amendments to the Impact Fee Ordinance in Bill No. 27-07 and Bill No. 71-08, which codified the County’s procedures for calculating capital expenditures and encumbrances and removed prospectively the refund provision provided in section 17-11-210, unconstitutionally interfered with their vested rights in refunds. The circuit court entered a declaratory judgment for the County. The intermediate appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the lower courts did not err in (1) concluding that the rough proportionality test/rational nexus test of Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994), did not apply; and (2) permitting the retroactive application of the legislation and not finding an unconstitutional taking. View "Dabbs v. Anne Arundel County" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case were the Dabbs Class’s claims demanding refunds of impact fees collected by Anne Arundel County between fiscal years 1997-2003. Anne Arundel County imposed road and school impact fees according to County districts beginning in 1987. Those who paid impact fees might become eligible for refunds of those fees under certain circumstances. The Dabbs Class sought refunds on the ground that the impact fees at issue were not expended or encumbered in a timely manner under section 17-11-210(b) of the Anne Arundel County Code and that the amendments to the Impact Fee Ordinance in Bill No. 27-07 and Bill No. 71-08, which codified the County’s procedures for calculating capital expenditures and encumbrances and removed prospectively the refund provision provided in section 17-11-210, unconstitutionally interfered with their vested rights in refunds. The circuit court entered a declaratory judgment for the County. The intermediate appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the lower courts did not err in (1) concluding that the rough proportionality test/rational nexus test of Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994), did not apply; and (2) permitting the retroactive application of the legislation and not finding an unconstitutional taking. View "Dabbs v. Anne Arundel County" on Justia Law

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Although the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities violated applicable Maryland Rules in proceedings against Judge Pamela J. White, the violations did not ultimately deprive Judge White of a fundamentally fair proceeding. In 2015, the Commission concluded that probable cause existed to believe that Judge White had committee sanctionable conduct and filed public charges against Judge White. The Commission later publicly reprimanded Judge White by unanimous vote, concluding that Judge White violated the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct. On appeal, Judge White alleged that the Commission denied her procedural due process. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that although the proceeding before the Commission contained several mistakes, Judge White received the fundamental due process protections under the Maryland Constitution and the Maryland Rules. View "In re Honorable Pamela J. White" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, thirteen operators of charter schools in Baltimore County, filed breach of contract complaints against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners directly in the circuit court without first seeking review before the State Board of Education. Petitioners argued that the City Board breached contractual requirements by not providing information as to its commensurate funding calculations and by failing to provide the correct amount of commensurate funding for the 2015-16 school year. The circuit judge stayed proceedings in the circuit court pending the State Board’s administrative review of the parties’ dispute. The court of special appeals dismissed Petitioners' appeal, concluding that the stay order was not an appealable order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) under the unique circumstances of this case, the stay order was a final and appealable judgment; (2) the circuit court abused its discretion in staying the proceeding in order for the parties to seek administrative review before first allowing for discovery; and (3) the State Board retained primary jurisdiction as to the underlying commensurate funding issues in dispute, and after discovery before the circuit court is concluded, it will be appropriate for the circuit court to enter a more definite order staying proceedings for review of those issues before the State Board. View "Monarch Academy Baltimore Campus, Inc. v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners" on Justia Law