Recent Maryland Decisions 3/21/13

MARYLAND COURT OF APPEALS 

Professional Responsibility, Disbarment: Disbarment was the appropriate sanction where attorney violated Title 16 of the Maryland Rules and many of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct, including those involving the mishandling and misappropriation of client funds. Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Paul Winston Gardner II, Misc. Docket AG No. 74, Sept. Term, 2011. RecordFax No. 13-0211-20.

Civil Procedure, Collateral attack in different circuit: Since circuit court did not possess jurisdiction to review, modify, or invalidate a final judgment entered by another circuit court, a final judgment could not be attacked collaterally in a subsequent proceeding filed in another circuit court that did not enter the original judgment. Kent Island, LLC v. DiNapoli, et al., No. 33, Sept. Term 2012. RecordFax No. 13-0222-20, 21 pages.

COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS 

Corporations and Partnerships, Piercing the corporate veil: The circuit court erred by finding defendant personally liable for the debts of the limited liability company solely owned by defendant, absent a finding of fraud. Serio v. Baystate Properties, LLC, No. 1441, Sept. Term, 2009. RecordFax No. 13-0125-00.

U.S. 4TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS 

Civil Procedure, Arbitration under FINRA: A FINRA rule that allows “customers” of financial institutions to invoke mandatory arbitration did not cover individuals who purchased bonds indirectly, through a third-party broker, rather than directly from the financial institution during an initial public offering; the individuals were not “customers” of the financial institution because they did not purchase commodities or services from the financial institution in the course of its business activities regulated by FINRA. Morgan Keegan & Company v. Silverman, No. 12-1208. RecordFax No. 13-0204-61.

Criminal Procedure, Coram nobis relief: A defendant who was convicted under two mail fraud statutes, with no indication of whether his conviction was based on the pecuniary fraud statute or the “intangible right of honest services” statute, was not entitled to coram nobis relief because any error was harmless; although the Supreme Court recently excluded false billing schemes from the ambit of the “honest services” law, no reasonable jury could have simultaneously acquitted defendant of pecuniary fraud while convicting him of honest services fraud for the same scheme. Bereano v. U.S., No. 12-6417. RecordFax No. 13-0208-60.

Criminal Procedure, Incriminating statements: Since the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is offense-specific, no violation of that right by the state during a murder investigation would compromise a later prosecution of the same defendant on federal charges; and, while the state’s alleged use of the defendant’s cellmate to elicit evidence might have violated the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — which is not offense-specific — any error in failing to suppress that evidence in the federal prosecution was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, given the other evidence against the defendant. U.S. v. Holness, No. 11-4631. RecordFax No. 13-0211-60.

Criminal Procedure, Plain error: Where defendant had already been indicted at the time his incriminating statements were recorded by police, any possible violation of his right to counsel was not plain error because, given the overwhelming unrecorded evidence presented at trial against him, he could not show the error affected the outcome of his trial. U.S. v. Williamson, No. 08-4055. RecordFax No. 13-0204-60.

Criminal Procedure, Warrantless search: Where officers responding to a domestic dispute at a residence learned that a locked closet might contain a grenade, firearm discovered during warrantless search of the closet was properly suppressed because, based on the objective facts available to the officers at the time of the search, exigent circumstances did not exist to justify the search. U.S. v. Yengel, No 12-4317. RecordFax No. 13-0215-60, 14 pages.

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