top of page
MD Court of Appeals.png

Appellate Court of Maryland

The Appellate Court of Maryland (formerly the Court of Special Appeals) is a mid-level court that hears initial appeals by right. Any case heard before a Circuit Court may be appealed to the Appellate Court. The majority of cases decided by the Appellate Court are unreported; while binding on the case in question, such decisions carry no precedential weight and simply apply existing jurisprudence. However, if the Appellate Court decides that a case at hand concerns a novel question of law, it may by its discretion report the opinion, whereby it stands for new precedent unless countermanded by a subsequent Supreme Court decision. Our firm has presented over sixty cases to the Appellate Court, more than a quarter of which have been subsequently selected for publication as reported opinions. All reported opinions are listed and summarized below.

Elbert v. Charles Cnty. Planning Comm'n, 259 Md. App. 499 (2023) Our clients opposed the construction of a series of Amazon warehouse structures in Charles County. We argued before the Charles County Planning Commission that the use definitions cited for the proposed uses were incorrect. On review before the Circuit Court, we also argued that the Planning Commission's determination was insufficiently articulated and that its structure of issuing decisions failed to comport with statutory and common law. On appeal before the Appellate Court, the Court ruled in our favor, requiring that the Planning Commission issue particularized findings of fact rather than incorporating findings from county technical staff. This decision has robustly expanded the scope of administrative articulation in Maryland and will require agencies throughout the state to issue specific findings of fact going forward.

Matter of Homick, 256 Md. App. 297 (2022) Our clients opposed the special exception, variance, and zoning boundary district adjustment applications by a local restauranteur to construct a new restaurant adjacent to a residential area. After extensive argument, the Board of Appeals denied the applicant’s variances, which we sustained before the Circuit Court. On remand, the Board approved an amended SDP that would purportedly work without the denied variances, which we challenged on the grounds that the new SDP exceeded the scope of the Circuit Court’s remand order and ignored variances that the record deemed mandatory. On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals ruled in the appellee’s favor, holding that the new SDP was within the scope of the order and was entitled to administrative deference.

Howard Cnty. v. McClain, 254 Md. App. 190 (2022) Our clients challenged a zoning regulation amendment in Howard County, introduced as Council Bill No. 9-2020 (“CB-9”). We argued before the Circuit Court that the bill as passed was an illegal special law under the Maryland Constitution. The Circuit Court ruled in our favor via summary judgment. The county appealed its decision, and the Court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that the bill was impermissible because its underlying purpose benefited only one entity in the county and would not conceivably affect any others in the future, and that there was no cognizable public interest to craft a law that would only affect one property.

Piney Orchard Community Assoc. v. Md. Dep't of Env't, 231 Md. App. 80 (2016) Our client challenged a refuse disposal permit for a rubble landfill in a residential area in Anne Arundel County. Our firm argued that Environment Article Section 9-210(a)(3)(i) required the Maryland Department of the Environment (“MDE”) to make a factual finding that a rubble landfill complies with local zoning and land use laws when MDE issues a refuse disposal permit. The Court ruled against us, deciding that MDE is not required to make a factual finding of compliance when it issues a refuse disposal permit so long as MDE made a determination of compliance previously in the application review process.

Dugan v. Prince George’s Cnty., 216 Md. App. 650, cert. denied 439 Md. 329 (2014) Our clients opposed the Prince George’s County Council’s decision to approve a water and sewer amendment that would allow development before adequate public facilities were available to serve the proposed development. We argued that the County Council’s decision was quasi-judicial in nature. Although the Court of Special Appeals upheld the County Council’s decision to approve the water and sewer amendment, the Court agreed that the Council’s decision was quasi-judicial.

Bell v. Anne Arundel Cnty., 215 Md. App. 161 (2013) Our clients challenged the Anne Arundel County Council’s decision to enact Bill No. 12-11, which rezoned several parcels from low density residential uses to a more intensive residential and/or commercial classifications. The Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County dismissed the petition on the grounds that homeowners lacked standing. The Court of Special Appeals reversed in our favor, determining that homeowners were prima facie aggrieved and specially aggrieved, and thus could challenge the county’s decision. The Court of Appeals later reversed this decision. 442 Md. 539 (2015)

​Pringle v. Montgomery Cnty. Planning Bd. M-NCPPC, 212 Md. App. 478 (2013) cert. denied, 435 Md. 269 (2013) This case concerned the approval of Sectional Map Amendment that rezoned land from Technology and Business Park zone to the Transit Mixed use zone. We represented the appellant in this case, arguing that Sectional Map Amendments must comply with Sector Plan recommendations. The Court agreed that the Sector Plan is binding but that individual recommendations may not be binding depending on the language used within.

Para v. 1691 Ltd. P’ship, 211 Md. App. 335, cert. denied, 434 Md. 314, (2013) Our clients challenged the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (“MDE’s”) decision to issue a nontidal wetlands permit to a developer building a Wal-Mart. We argued that MDE’s decision did not comply with Environmental Article Section 5-907, which prohibits impacts on nontidal wetlands when practicable alternatives exist. The Court of Special Appeals ruled against our clients, upholding MDE’s decision to approve the permit.

Ray v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 203 Md. App. 15 (2011), cert. granted, 426 Md. 427 (2012) Our clients filed for judicial review in a challenge against a Super Walmart in Baltimore City. The Circuit Court dismissed our case for lack of standing. Our firm argued that the residents were aggrieved, and thus had standing, because the residents were within the neighborhood of the proposed Wal-Mart site and would be impacted by activity at the site. The Court of Special Appeals ruled against us and affirmed the decision; certiorari was granted, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. 430 Md. 74 (2013)

Naylor v. Prince George’s Cnty. Planning Bd., 200 Md. App. 309 (2011) Our clients challenged a decision of the Prince George’s County Planning Board to approve a preliminary plan of subdivision for a residential development. We argued that the Prince George’s County General Plan was binding and that the Planning Board failed to consider its 1% growth objective. The Court of Special Appeals ruled in our favor and remanded proceedings to the Circuit Court.

​Singley v. Cnty. Comm'rs of Frederick Cnty., 178 Md. App. 6582008) Our clients challenged a special exception approval by the Frederick County Board of Appeals for a landscaping and wholesale nursery. We argued that the landscaping and wholesale nursey use was not allowed on the property because it was not a commercial greenhouse and nursery as required by Frederick County Code. The Court ruled against our clients, concluding that the question of whether the proposed landscaping use falls into the commercial greenhouse use category was fairly debatable and thus entitled to administrative deference.

Archers Glen Partners, Inc. v. Garner, 176 Md. App. 292 (2007) Our clients challenged the approval of a preliminary plan of subdivision for a residential development. We argued that numeric restrictions on residential growth in the Rural Tier, included within the General Plan, were binding and that preliminary plans of subdivision must conform thereto. The Court of Special Appeals ruled partially in our favor, agreeing that the General and Master Plans can contain binding requirements for preliminary plans of subdivision, but ultimately concluded that the record supported a conclusion that the preliminary plan conformed to the requirements of those plans.

1000 Friends of Maryland v. Ehrlich, 170 Md. App. 538 (2006) Our clients challenged a decision by the Board of Public Works to approve state funding for a highway in Howard County. We argued that that the decision violated Maryland’s Smart Growth legislation, SFP Section 5-7B-04(a). The Court of Special Appeals ruled against us, stating that the law did not provide a private cause of action.

Colao v. Md.-Nat’l Capital Park & Planning Comm’n, 167 Md. App. 194 (2006) Our client challenged a Prince George’s County Planning Board approval of a preliminary plan of subdivision and variation for an 86-lot cluster development on a property in the Rural Residential Zone. We argued that the Planning Board’s decision was erroneous because it failed to adequately consider the proposed development’s impact on severe slopes and wetlands on the property. We also argued that variations related to subdivision applications were equivalent to variances related to zoning applications. The Court of Special Appeals ruled against our client and determined that the Planning Board’s decision was legally and factually correct.

​Lucas v. People’s Counsel for Balt. Cnty., 147 Md. App. 209 (2002) Our clients challenged a decision by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals to exclude helicopter operations from an “airport” use under the county zoning ordinance. The Court of Special Appeals ruled in our clients’ favor and affirmed the decision of the Baltimore County Board of Appeals, determining that based on both the plain meaning of the zoning code and the subsequent legislative history, the definition of “airport” did not include helicopter operations.

Hoffman v. United Iron & Metal Co., Inc., 108 Md. App. 117 (1996) G. Macy Nelson represented 37 citizens who sued an automobile shredding facility in Baltimore City for noise and air pollution.  The Circuit Court for Baltimore City granted summary judgment in favor of the automobile shredding facility. The Court of Special Appeals reversed the Circuit Court’s decision in part, determining that genuine issues of fact still existed with regard to our client’s claims of nuisance and trespass.

Md. Waste Coal., Inc. v. Md. Dep’t of the Env’t, 84 Md. App. 544 (1990) G. Macy Nelson’s clients challenged a decision by the Maryland Department of the Environment to issue permits for an infectious medical waste incinerator. Circuit Court for Baltimore City dismissed the case. The Court of Special Appeals ruled in our favor, and vacated and remanded the case to the Circuit Court to determine whether our clients had standing under the Maryland Environmental Standing Act. The Court of Appeals reversed the Court of Special Appeals. 327 Md. 596 (1992). Roughly thirty years later, the standing rules for this type of challenge were changed by statute. Patuxent Riverkeeper v. Md. Dep’t of the Env’t, 422 Md. 294 (2011)

bottom of page