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Court Report

Consider a case of reasonable force

There has been much publicity in recent years about shootings by police officers.  The law tries to balance the difficult job of an officer, often in the heat of the moment, with the laws that protect all persons including criminal suspects. How a jury and the courts resolve such cases is illustrated by a case last month from Maryland’s intermediate appellate Court called Johnnie Armstead Riley v. State.

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The flexibility of a charter school

In recognition of a national movement to create public charter schools, Maryland passed the Public Charter Schools Act of 2003. The Act provides that funding for these schools is to be “commensurate with the amount disbursed to other public schools in the local jurisdiction.” While the details of public school funding are within the purview of local school boards and the State board, sometimes the Courts are asked to resolve disputes as illustrated by a recent case from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Frederick Classical Charter v. Frederick County Board of Education.

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Marijuana is still considered illegal

In 2014 the Maryland General Assembly changed Maryland law as to the penalties that can be imposed for possession of marijuana, so that possession of less than 10 grams is now considered a civil offense punishable by a fine and not a criminal defense. Whether this change in the law affects searches and seizures in Maryland was explored in an opinion last month from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called Joshua Bowling v. State.

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Employer retaliation and lawsuits

In addition to federal laws addressing claims for discrimination based on such characteristics as race, sex, age, or national origin, the Montgomery County Code addresses such claims. Section 27-19 (c) prohibits a person from retaliating against an individual for lawfully opposing a discriminatory practice or filing a complaint alleging such discrimination. The type of evidence needed to prove such a claim was explored in an opinion from Maryland’s intermediate appellate Court last month called Lockheed Martin Corporation v. Balderrama.

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Fun with wiretaps and other things

Maryland has a Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, which regulates the interception or recording of wire, oral and electronic communications. Maryland law is even stricter than federal wiretapping statutes, because generally in Maryland both parties to a communication such as a telephone call must consent to the communication being recorded in order to be legal. One exception to this requirement involves the supervision of law enforcement over recording of call, as explored by Maryland’s highest Court in an opinion just filed by the Court of Appeals in a case called David Glenn Seal v. State of Maryland.

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Custody struggles in a global village

In this day and age when world travel and multinational citizenship is so common, courts are ever more frequently called upon to wrestle with which court has jurisdiction to resolve disputes over basic issues such as family law. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) has been adopted in Maryland and most other states to address the problem of child custody jurisdiction, and directs that the court in a child’s “home state” has the power to handle initial custody decisions. Sometimes courts have to work through complex facts just to determine which state is home for a child, as illustrated by a recent case from Maryland’s intermediate appellate court called Garba v.Ndiaye.

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Public information and abortion clinics

The Maryland Public Information Act (PIA), similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act, broadly provides a means for members of the public to obtain government documents which may shed light upon the actions of the government. Public policy under the PIA is strongly in favor of disclosure of government records. How that policy should be interpreted when it comes to controversial documents such as records of ownership of abortion clinics was explored in a case last month from Maryland’s highest court called Andrew Glenn v. Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DHMH).

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Courts dealing with jurors and race

 

The United States Supreme Court in 1986 in a case called Batson v. Kentucky held that it was a violation of a potential juror’s right to equal protection of the law for a lawyer to strike that juror from sitting solely on the basis of the juror’s race. That holding was later expanded to bar striking jurors on the basis of gender. Courts have to deal with lawyers who raise a “Batson challenge” to how their opponent is exercising peremptory strikes of jurors. This is illustrated by a recent case from Maryland’s intermediate appellate court called Kevin Collini v. State.

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Fireworks go bang and cows go moo!

In the past year there have been at least two highly publicized injuries to athletes arising from the use of fireworks. Maryland has a statutory scheme in the Public Safety Article about their use. Maryland’s highest Court, in the case of Toms v. Calvary Assembly of God, has addressed whether the lawful presentation of a fireworks display is an abnormally dangerous activity so as to make the presenter strictly liable for any harm that ensues.

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Revisiting the visit by transferring it

A year ago in this space I wrote about the circumstances under which a conviction for first degree murder may stand for killing an unintended victim, in a case from Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals called Bircher v. State. Maryland’s highest Court has now weighed in on this same case, and in particular the trial judge’s decision to give a supplemental jury instruction on “transferred intent,” with a different result.

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