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Supreme Court of Maryland

The Supreme Court of Maryland is the highest court in the state. The Supreme Court (formerly the Court of Appeals) only hears cases at its discretion, via writ of certiorari, for questions that would have novel implications on Maryland law and therefore statewide impact. Approximately 80% of petitions for such a writ are denied, leading to the Court’s consideration of approximately 150–200 cases annually. Our firm has succeeded in nearly half of its petitions, and thus has maintained a robust presence before the Supreme Court for several decades. Our cases have meaningfully shaped tort, land use, environmental, and administrative jurisprudence in Maryland, as well as establishing new standing rights for the dispossessed.

Crawford v. Cnty. Council of Prince George's Cnty., 482 Md. 680 (2023) Our clients opposed the construction of an Amazon Last Mile Parcel Hub in Prince George's County, challenging various aspects of the development before the county's administrative apparatus, including alleged errors of service, trip generation, and stormwater management. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on a specific question of whether the cited uses in the Prince George's County Ordinance permitted the construction of a Last Mile Hub. The Court ruled that substantial evidence existed in the record to support the County Council's determination as to use categorization, and thus upheld the decision.

Dzurec v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Calvert Cnty., 482 Md. 544 (2023) Our clients opposed the passage of the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan, forwarding the argument that it was passed as an ultra vires action because of the vote of a County Commissioner who was required to recuse himself under the County ethics ordinance due to personal financial conflicts. The Circuit Court held that we had standing but ruled against us on the substantive case law, as did the then-Court of Special Appeals. On appeal before the Supreme Court of Maryland, the Court upheld the lower rulings, holding that the controlling ethics ordinance contained no private right of action, and that prior Maryland case law precluded the Court from striking down legislative enactments on the basis of a legislator’s ethical conflicts.

Grant v. Cnty. Council of Prince George’s Cnty., 465 Md. 496 (2019) Our clients opposed the application for a special exception for a Super Walmart. The Zoning Hearing Examiner disapproved the application, but the District Council made new findings of fact and reversed. Our clients appealed. The appeal primarily concerned whether the District Council exercised original or appellate jurisdiction when it reviewed the Zoning Hearing Examiner’s decision. The Court of Appeals ruled that the District Council possessed original jurisdiction in these circumstances.

Attar v. DMS Tollgate, LLC, 451 Md. 272 (2017) Our clients opposed the application for a special exception for a WaWa. The Baltimore County Board of Appeals approved the special exception, and our clients appealed. The central question was whether the Board of Appeals impermissibly shifted the burden from the applicant to the citizens. The Court of Appeals held that the Board of Appeals did not.

Litz v. Maryland Dep’t of Env’t, 446 Md. 254 (2016) Our client, a Maryland landowner, sued the Maryland Department of the Environment (“MDE”) for Inverse Condemnation. Our client argued that MDE failed to enforce the applicable environmental laws and that the resulting pollution to her land caused her to default on the mortgage. In a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeals held that an inverse condemnation claim is pleaded adequately where a plaintiff alleges a taking caused by a governmental entity’s or entities’ failure to act, in the face of an affirmative duty to act.

Anne Arundel Cnty. v. Bell, 442 Md. 539 (2015) Our clients challenged a comprehensive rezoning ordinance, which the Circuit Court dismissed for lack of standing. Our clients appealed. In a reported opinion, Bell v. Anne Arundel County, Maryland, 215 Md. App. 161 (2013), the Court of Special Appeals vacated and remanded the decision Anne Arundel County petitioned for certiorari, arguing that we lacked special aggrievement standing. In a four to three vote, the Court of Appeals ruled against our clients on grounds not previously contemplated in the lower courts, stating in the first instance that challenges to legislative actions such as comprehensive zoning are not “similar sufficiently in process or justification to warrant extension by analogy of property owner standing principles from [quasi-judicial zoning challenges].” Instead, the Court applied a principle of common law “taxpayer standing,” which requires an allegation of illegal or ultra vires government action that will injuriously affect the taxpayer’s property in a manner distinct from the public at large.

Litz v. Maryland Dep’t of Env’t, 434 Md. 623 (2013) Our client sued the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Town of Goldsboro for damages caused by the contamination of Lake Bonnie in Caroline County. Our client alleged negligence, trespass, nuisance, and inverse condemnation. The Circuit Court dismissed the case, and the Court of Special Appeals affirmed the dismissal. We then petitioned for certiorari.  The Court of Appeals  ruled  mostly in our favor of our client. The Court ruled that our client’s allegations of negligence, trespass, and inverse condemnation were not barred by statute of limitations. While the causes of action listed in our Complaint had accrued in the 1990s, the continuing nature of the parties’ tortious actions served to toll the statute of limitations.

Ray v. Mayor and City Council of Balt., 430 Md. 74 (2013) Our citizen clients opposed a Super WalMart in the Remington section of Baltimore City and appealed the approval to the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court ruled that our clients lacked standing and dismissed our clients’ appeal. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court in a reported opinion, Ray v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 203 Md. App. 15 (2011).  Our clients successfully petitioned for certiorari. The Court of Appeals affirmed and synthesized Maryland’s standing jurisprudence inland use cases. This opinion is now Maryland’s leading standing case. The Walmart was never built, and there is now a thriving community where the developers planned to build the Walmart.

Patuxent Riverkeeper v. Md. Dep’t of the Env’t, 422 Md. 294 (2011) This case was the first appellate opinion to interpret Section 5–204(f) of the Environment Article, which became effective January 1, 2010. Our clients appealed the decision of the Maryland Department of the Environment (“MDE”) to issue a nontidal wetlands permit to a developer for a road extension that would impact a nearby wetland area. The Circuit Court dismissed the appeal for lack of standing. The Court of Appeals granted our petition for writ of certiorari and ruled in our clients’ favor, determining that a member of Patuxent Riverkeeper had alleged sufficient specific harm to his interests to entitle the organization itself to seek judicial review, and thus reversed the Circuit Court’s dismissal. This case is now the leading standing case governing appeals of permits issued by MDE.

Smith v. Cnty. Comm'rs of Kent Cnty., 418 Md. 692 (2011) Our clients petitioned for judicial review of Kent County’s decision to approve a growth allocation request to amend its Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Plan. The Court of Appeals focused on the procedural question of whether our clients could seek judicial review of the decision. It decided against our clients, determining that the county’s decision was not a final action because it was required by law to be reviewed and approved by the Critical Area Commission, and that only final actions could be properly reviewed.

Md.-Nat’l Capital Park & Planning Comm’n v. Greater Baden-Aquasco Citizens Ass’n, 412 Md. 73 (2009) This case concerned another question involving the binding nature of county comprehensive plans, stemming from the rulings in Garner v. Archers Glen, et al. We represented the citizen-appellants in this case, continuing our precedential argument that the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission was required to consider a numeric residential growth objective, contrary to the appellants’ argument that the Planning Board erred in such consideration. The Court of Appeals ruled in our favor, agreeing that the growth objective was a binding element of the Prince George’s County General Plan, and “the Planning Board, at the least, must consider the General Plan’s numeric growth objective when determining whether to approve or reject a preliminary subdivision plan.”

Garner v. Archers Glen Partners, Inc., 405 Md. 43 (2008) This case was a continuation of a challenge before the Court of Special Appeals at 176 Md. App. 292, focusing primarily on the question of whether county comprehensive plans and/or master plans are legally binding in their directives. We represented the appellants in this case. The Court of Appeals issued a narrow ruling, stating in essence that the Court of Special Appeals’ determination of the binding nature of comprehensive plans was not “the law of the case” because the parties did not fully argue such a question at the lowest level, and as such the parties would have the opportunity to determine whether the challenged development did in fact conform to such binding guidance. The Court reserved judgment on all other questions before it, stating that it would only consider the narrow questions presented in the granted writ of certiorari. In effect, the Court preserved the legal determinations of the Court of Special Appeals but did not expand upon them or their scope.

People’s Counsel for Balt. Cnty. and CALM v. Loyola College in Maryland, 406 Md. 54 (2008) Our citizen-clients sought judicial review of the  decision by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals to approve a special exception for Loyola College’s retreat center on land zoned for agriculture. The Circuit Court ruled in favor of our clients. The Court of Special Appeals vacated that judgment. The Court of Appeals then granted our petition for a writ of certiorari. We argued that special exception analyses must adduce evidence to compare adverse effects at a proposed location with adverse effects at other similarly zoned locations. The Court of Appeals decided against us, holding that special exception evidence need only concern the subject property exclusively.

Appleton Reg’l Community Alliance v. Cnty. Comm’rs of Cecil Cnty., 404 Md. 92 (2008) Our clients petitioned for judicial review of the Cecil County Zoning Board’s decision to amend a water, sewage, and solid waste management plan for a 390-acre housing development. The appellees argued that the decision was not a quasi-judicial “zoning action” because the amended plan did not alter the subject property’s zoning uses. The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, holding that the Zoning Board did not engage in a zoning action subject to judicial review.

Brewster v. Woodhaven Bldg. & Dev., Inc., 360 Md. 602 (2000) Our clients were residents of Baltimore County and sued land developers in Carroll County and Carroll County, alleging water damage as a result of artificial channeling of stream water onto our clients’ property. Our clients appealed the transfer of this case from Baltimore to Carroll County. The Court of Appeals held that the transfer order was an appealable final judgment.

Rosenblatt v. Exxon, 335 Md. 58 (1994) Our client brought a lawsuit against a its predecessor tenant—a gas station operator—alleging negligence, strict liability, trespass, and nuisance for contamination on the property. G. Macy Nelson represented the appellant landowner in this case. After the case was dismissed by the circuit court, we appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals decided against us, holding in part that strict liability did not extend to claims of economic loss and that the former tenant owed the current tenant no duty necessary to give rise to claims of negligence.

Med. Waste Assocs., Inc. v. Md. Waste Coal., Inc., 327 Md. 596 (1992) This case concerned a suit against the Maryland Department of the Environment, to challenge the issuance of permits for a medical waste incinerator. G. Macy Nelson represented the environmental group, Maryland Waste Coalition (“MWC”), in this case. The Court of Appeals decided against us, holding that while MWC was party to the underlying administrative action, it did not have any property interest distinct from its members that the permits would affect and therefore did not have aggrievement standing. This case was later superseded by statute allowing organizations to directly challenge environmental permits, as held in our later case of Patuxent Riverkeeper v. Maryland Dept. of Env’t.

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