Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals
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In this action challenging a proposed amendment that would remove two schoolhouses from a county list of historically protected sites the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court finding that the adoption of CR-72-2019 was not arbitrary and capricious and was supported by substantial evidence, holding that Prince George's County Council acted within its legal boundaries when it adopted the minor amendment CR-72-2019.Specifically, the Court of Appeals held (1) the arguments raised by the Town of Upper Marlboro had not been waived because CR 72-2019 was not a final appealable decision; (2) CR 98-2019 was a final agency action subject to judicial review, and the Town was permitted to challenge CR 98-2019 by alleging deficiencies in CR-72-2019; and (3) CR-72-2019 was not procedurally deficient because the resolution adequately provided the purpose and scope of the minor amendment pursuant to Prince George's County Code 2727-642. View "Town of Upper Marlboro v. Prince George's County Council" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusions of the circuit court and court of special appeals that the "code key that matches alphanumeric codes in Case Search to the judges on the District Court in Baltimore City" was disclosable to the public and was not exempt from disclosure under the Maryland Rules.At issue was Case Search, an online database overseen by The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) that provides public access to information about court proceedings and records that are open to the public. For cases in the District Court sitting in Baltimore City, the judge who presided over the particular proceeding is identified in Case Search but only by an alphanumeric code. Specifically in question was the whether the record containing the code key given to clerks who enter information from paper records into the digital database that assigns each judge a code falls under the exception from public access in the Maryland Rules. The lower courts concluded that the exception does not apply to the code key. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the code key is disclosable in response to public records requests and is not exempt from disclosure under the Maryland Rules. View "Administrative Office of the Courts v. Abell Foundation" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that Baltimore City Council's enactment of a local law did not create a private right of action for Baltimore City tenants to recoup rent payments and related fees they paid in connection with their use and occupancy of rental dwellings during a period when the landlord did not have a valid rental license.Petitioners, tenants in a multi-unit apartment building, filed a putative class action alleging that Respondent did not hold an active rental license for the property, as required by the Baltimore City Code, and seeking to recoup paid rent and other fees paid to Respondent. The circuit court dismissed the case prior to a determination of issues relating to class certification. The court of special appeals largely agreed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 5-4(a)(2) of Article 13 of the Baltimore City Code does not provide a private right of action to recover rent and related payments that a tenant made during a period in which the landlord was unlicensed. View "Aleti v. Metropolitan Baltimore, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that article III, section 305 of the Charter for Prince George's County establishes the procedures for decennial redistricting of councilmanic districts and requires the Prince George's County Council to adopt the plan of the redistricting commission by resolution upon notice and public hearing.The circuit court invalidated an alternative redistricting plan using a resolution that was proposed by the Council after considering the redistricting plan proposed by the Prince George's County 2021 Redistricting Commission, after which Prince George's County appealed. The Court of Appeals held (1) the Council is prohibited by the Charter from enacting an alternative redistricting plan by resolution; and (2) because the Council passed no other law changing the Commission's proposal the Commission's plan became effective by operation of law on November 30, 2021. View "Charter for Prince George's County v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decisions of the lower courts affirming a general permit that the Maryland Department of the Environment issued for operators of thirty-five small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) in Maryland, including Petitioner Queen Anne's County, which operated a small MS4, holding that conditions based on regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the general permit for small MS4s are not unlawful simply because they may exceed the minimum requirements of the Clean Water Act.In Maryland Department of the Environment v. County Commissioners of Carroll County, 140 S. Ct. 1265 (2020), the Court of Appeals held that permits issued to counties that operated MS4s were lawful even if some permit conditions exceeded the minimum requirements of the Act. In the instant case, the circuit court for Queen Anne's County concluded that the decision in Carroll County addressed the issues raised by the County and affirmed the permit. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the holdings of Carroll County applied in this case; and (2) an impervious surface restoration requirement in the permit, which was similar to but less onerous than a permit requirement assessed in Carroll County, did not unlawfully make the County responsible for discharges by third parties. View "Small MS4 Coalition v. Department of Environment" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that only the amount that a workers' compensation insurer actually pays for medical expenses is part of the statutory offset against underinsured motorist benefits.Michael Gilliam was injured in an automobile accident during the course of his employment and received payments from his employer's workers' compensation insurer and the other driver's liability insurer. Gilliam later sought to recover the amounts by which the other driver was underinsured from an insurance policy covering the vehicle he was driving. As required by Maryland law, the healthcare providers who treated Gilliam had generated bills in amounts greater than the amounts set by the Workers' Compensation Commission but accepted payments at those lower amounts in full satisfaction for their services. At issue was whether the difference between the bills' amounts and the workers' compensation insurer's payments constituted a "benefit" that Gilliam had "recovered" under the Workers' Compensation Act that was to be offset against any recovery Gilliam would obtain from the underinsured motorist coverage of the auto policy. The Supreme Court held that a difference between a higher face amount billed by a healthcare provider and the amount actually paid by the workers' compensation insurer was not part of that offset. View "Westfield Insurance Co. v. Gilliam" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings erred in declining Petitioner's request to be represented by counsel at an administrative hearing regarding the approval to give Petitioner forced medication, holding that the ALJ erred.Petitioner, a patient at a psychiatric institution, refused to take prescribed psychotropic medication. After a panel approved forced medication, Petitioner requested a hearing. On the day of the hearing, Petitioner asked for counsel. The ALJ treated the request for counsel as a request for a postponement, concluding that there was not good cause to postpone the hearing, and convened the hearing with Petitioner unrepresented. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) under the plain language of HG 10-708 an individual possesses a right to counsel upon request; (2) an on-the-record waiver colloquy of the kind required in a criminal case is unnecessary, but there must be verification that the individual has knowingly and voluntarily waived the right to counsel and elected to proceed without representation; and (3) the ALJ erred in declining Petitioner's request to be presented by counsel at the administrative hearing. View "Mercer v. Thomas B. Finan Center" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying Respondents' motion to dismiss Petitioner's petition for judicial review of the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission summarily denying Petitioner's second request for modification of an earlier order, holding that the circuit court erred.The Commission issued an order approving Petitioner's request for four additional weeks of physical therapy for her left shoulder that was injured due to a workplace accident. More than three years later, Petitioner filed a request for modification of the earlier order denying her request for authorization of surgery. The Commission denied the request without a hearing. Petitioner then filed a second request for modification, which the Commission denied without a hearing. The circuit court denied Petitioner's petition for judicial review. The court of special appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's summary denial of Petitioner's request for modification was not subject to judicial review. View "Sanders v. Board of Education of Harford County" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the method for determining an apartment tenant's utility bill, the Court of Appeals held that the approval requirements stated in Md. Code Pub. Util. (PU) 7-304 are applicable to all energy allocation systems in apartment houses, regardless of the construction date of the building.A federal district court issued a certified question of law in the context of a putative class action lawsuit brought by Plaintiff, on behalf of residential apartment tenants, against a residential utility billing services company working on behalf of Maryland landlords. The federal district court asked the Court of Appeals to determine whether, for apartment houses built prior to 1978, methods of energy allocation determining the billable amount of electricity or gas by means other that by the actual measurement of consumption of the individual unit are subject to the approval of the Public Service Commission, as set forth in PU 7-304. The Court of Appeals held that allocation of energy costs solely computed on the basis of square footage computations and pro rata assessments, as well as added rental components, are exempt from the approval requirements set forth PU 7-304. View "Moore v. RealPage Utility Management" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning Talbot County's authority to impose civil penalties for Petitioners' violations of the Talbot County Code arising from their unlawful actions associated with clearing trees and constructing a driveway on their property without a permit the Court of Appeals held that the Talbot County Board of Appeals (Board of Appeals) lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider or review the purported assessment of civil penalties.The penalties at issue were imposed by six assessment notices issued after the Talbot County Chief Code Compliance Officer (CCCO) was notified about the violations and issued abatement orders. Petitioners filed an administrative appeal of the assessments. The Board of Appeals concluded that the CCCO had the authority to issue the civil assessments but that the daily accrual of fines was stayed by Petitioners' administrative appeal. The circuit court reversed that portion of the Board's determination and entered an order authorizing Talbot County to enforce the civil assessments as originally assessed. The Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding that the adjudication of civil penalties by a charter county in circumstances such as those within this case is within the original jurisdiction of the Maryland courts and not within the jurisdiction of a local board of appeals established by a charter county. View "Angel Enterprises Ltd. Partnership v. Talbot County" on Justia Law