Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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In 1993, the Anne Arundel county board of appeals (Board) granted Petitioner special exceptions and variances to construct and landfill and sand and gravel operations. Three extensions of time were necessary to obtain that permit. In 2011, the permit and a county building permit to construct the landfill were granted. That same year, the Board, by a vote of 2-2, denied Petitioner’s request for a further two-year extension. The circuit court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded. The court of special appeals modified the decision of the circuit court, disagreeing on the standard the Board was to apply. The Court of Appeals vacated the rulings of the lower courts with instructions to remand to the Board for further proceedings, holding that the ultimate conclusions of the denying members were arbitrary and capricious, but that did not require an outright reversal of the Board’s rejection. View "National Waste Managers, Inc. v. Forks of the Patuxent Improvement Ass’n" on Justia Law

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These two cases concerned administrative hearings in cases where an individual suspected to have been driving (or attempting to drive) while impaired refuses to take a breath test for blood alcohol concentration. In each case, an administrative law judge (ALJ) overturned the suspension on the ground that it was not established by a preponderance of the evidence that the individual had actually been driving (or attempting to drive) at the time the individual was detained by a law enforcement officer. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in one case and reversed the judgment in the other case, holding (1) in a test refusal case, there is no requirement that the Motor Vehicle Administration prove that the individual was actually driving (or attempting to drive) while under the influence of alcohol; rather, the relevant question is whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe that the individual was driving (or attempting to drive) while under the influence of alcohol; (2) in one case, the ALJ found that the officer had reasonable grounds, and thus the suspension should have been upheld; and (3) in the other case, the ALJ’s finding on the issue of reasonable grounds was ambiguous, and the case is remanded for clarification. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Krafft" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Delaware limited liability company, owned and managed an apartment building in the City of Annapolis, Maryland that was within the designated historic district under the City’s zoning ordinance. The Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission issued two historic preservation municipal infraction citations to Petitioner. Petitioner requested a trial, and the district court found in favor of the City. In a de novo appeal, the circuit court entered summary judgment in favor the City after Petitioner admitted to replacing historic wood windows with vinyl windows without the Commission’s approval. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, alleging several claims of error. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) historic preservation municipal citations are civil and, in this case, were not barred by laches or the relevant statute of limitations; (2) the citations in this case were sufficient to give Petitioner adequate notice of its violations, and the circuit court’s judgment was not clearly erroneous; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Petitioner’s motion for a new trial or, in the alternative, to amend the judgment. View "Spaw, LLC v. City of Annapolis" on Justia Law

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The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) sent Laura Hughes a notice of termination from her position with the agency. Hughes followed the directions for invoking the first tier of the administrative appeal process. The Secretary of DPSCS did not respond within the statutory time limit, thus denying Hughes first-tier appeal. Hughes was unaware that this silent denial triggered the limited time for her to invoke a second-tier appeal, and therefore she did nothing before the deadline passed. Hughes belatedly attempted to pursue her administrative appeal, but DPSCS did not respond. Hughes then commenced this mandamus action in the circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the mandamus action. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, in order to discharge its responsibility to provide a disciplined employee with notice of the employee’s administrative appeal rights, an agency must advise the employee of the possibility of a second-tier appeal and alert the employee as to the significance of silence in response to a first-tier appeal. Remanded for consideration whether Hughes should be afforded the opportunity to pursue a second-tier appeal. View "Hughes v. Moyer" on Justia Law

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The Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City (the Liquor Board) found that Steven Kougl and his company, Kougl, Inc., violated three Rules and Regulations for the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City when Kougl’s employee solicited prostitution and exposed her breasts. The Liquor Board imposed a thirty-day suspension of Kougl’s liquor license. The circuit court affirmed. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding (1) the Rules require actual or constructive knowledge on the part of the licensee, and (2) therefore, Kougl did not violate the Rules at issue because his employee acted improperly without his knowledge. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Rules impose strict liability on licensees for offending conduct that occurs on their premises, and (2) therefore, the Liquor Board was not required to show that Kougl knew or should have known about his employee’s actions to find that he violated the Rules. View "Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City v. Kougl" on Justia Law

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Kor-Ko, Ltd. sought to overturn the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) grant of a construction permit to Maryland Crematory, LLC (MC) to operate a crematorium in the same commercial park building containing Kor-Ko’s business operations. Kor-Ko argued that the MDE failed to adequately consider the health of people within the park due to the emissions to the air from the operation of the crematorium. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the MDE’s issuance of the permit. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the MDE’s issuance of the permit to construct MC’s incinerator was permissible because (1) the MDE’s interpretation of “premises” as extending to the property line of the commercial park was free of legal error; and (2) the MDE’s application of the term vis-a-vis allowing the modeling of toxins at the property line was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Kor-Ko Ltd. v. Department of Environment" on Justia Law

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Applicants applied for a petition for a special exception in the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations to operate a fuel service station with a convenience store. At a hearing conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), several petitioners (collectively, Protestants) attended in opposition of the grant of the special exception. The OAH granted the petition with conditions. After a de novo evidentiary hearing, the Board of Appeals for Baltimore County approved the conditions for the special exception. The circuit court affirmed the Board’s decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Board’s description of the neighborhood impacted by the special exception was precise enough to enable a party or appellate court to comprehend the area that the Board considered; and (2) the Board correctly determined that the Protestants failed sufficiently to rebut the presumption of validity of a special exception. View "Attar v. DMS Tollgate, LLC" on Justia Law

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Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP, the owner and operator of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, applied to FERC and the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) for authorization to expand the terminal into a facility that could both import and export LNG. Because the expansion project included the proposed construction of a 130-megawatt electric generating station, PSC approval, through the grant of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), was required. Petitioner, a consortium dedicated to protecting local waterways, was allowed to intervene in the proceeding to oppose Dominion’s application. PSC granted the CPCN subject to approximately 200 conditions. The circuit court and court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) two of the conditions imposed by PSC in its grant of the CPCN did not constitute taxes or mandatory payments; (2) Petitioner’s argument that PCS’s alleged failure to identify the value it assigned to positive economic value in favor of the CPCN prevented Petitioner from effectively challenging the PSC decision was without merit; and (3) PSC’s valuation of the economic benefit created by the generating station was supported by substantial evidence in the record. View "Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Community Council, Inc. v. Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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Baltimore County and the Fraternal Order of Police have entered into numerous collective bargaining agreements over the years. This case arose out of a dispute over the interpretation of a provision in some of those agreements that provided for a fixed subsidy of health insurance costs for officers who retired during certain years. The dispute proceeded to binding arbitration. The FOP won the arbitration, but the County sought to overturn the arbitration award in the courts. Among other things, the County argued that the arbitration award was invalid because it was subject to the County’s executive budget process. The Circuit Court rejected the County’s various challenges to the award – a decision ultimately upheld by the Maryland Supreme Court. When the case returned to the Circuit Court, the County balked at complying with the arbitration award arguing that the award, even if valid, was unenforceable because it was subject to the County’s executive budget process. That argument was indistinguishable from one of the issues that the County had advanced on its prior trip up the appellate ladder and that the Supreme Court had previously rejected. The repetition of the issue from the prior appeal allowed the lower courts to dispose of the issue under the "law of the case" doctrine. However, the Supreme Court held that the lower courts properly applied the law of the case doctrine here. "An arbitration award that arises from a grievance process under an MOU previously approved by the County Executive and County Council and that interprets the provisions of the MOU is not subject to the executive budget process in the same way as an interest arbitration award that resolves an impasse in negotiations." The judgment of the Court of Special Appeals was affirmed. View "Baltimore Co. v. FOP Lodge No. 4" on Justia Law

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Baltimore County zoning regulations provide for a planned unit development (PUD) approval process that is partly legislative and partly quasi-judicial or adjudicative. Whalen Properties, LLC, the developer of a proposed PUD, submitted a PUD application to First District Councilman Thomas Quirk of Baltimore County. Thereafter, Stephen Whalen, the owner and principal of Whalen Properties, distributed $8,500 of the company’s money to several individuals with instructions that they deposit the sums into their own accounts and to donate those amounts to Councilman Quirk’s campaign committee. An adjacent landowner challenged the subsequent approval of the PUD, alleging that the appearance of impropriety generated by the donations invalidated the approval process. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the introduction and passage of a resolution is a legislative action, the legislative intent is subject to limited judicial review; and (2) an alleged appearance of impropriety generated by illegal campaign contributions does not negate the presumption of validity of the legislative act. View "Kenwood Gardens Condos., Inc. v. Whalen Props., LLC" on Justia Law