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Law Digest: 1/17/13

MARYLAND COURT OF APPEALS

Professional Responsibility, Dismissal of petition: An attorney did not violate MRPC 1.4 by failing to repeatedly remind a client that the clock was running on his rights, nor did the Court of Appeals find other violations of the MRPC; thus, bar counsel’s petition for disciplinary or remedial action was dismissed. Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Rand, No. 50, Sept. Term, 2011. 54 pages.

COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS

Civil Procedure, Default judgment: Where trial court entered default judgment in favor of plaintiff including determination as to liability and all relief sought, and defendant did not move to vacate order of default, defendant was not entitled to vacate or amend liability portion of default judgment on basis that the complaint did not plead legally viable claims. Franklin Credit Management Corp. v. Nefflen, No. 989, Sept. Term 2011. 23 pages.

Contracts, Tortious interference: Sufficient evidence existed to support the jury’s findings that defendant tortuously interfered with plaintiff’s contracts and business relations. B-Line Medical, LLC v. Interactive Digital Solutions, Inc., No. 1085, Sept. Term, 2011. 48 pages.

Criminal Law, First-degree murder: The evidence was sufficient to support the conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant committed first-degree murder.Wood v. State, No. 1635, September Term, 2011. 96 pages.

U.S. 4TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

Administrative Law, Regulatory action as “rule making”: The Department of Labor’s suspension of various regulations for temporary agricultural workers and reinstatement of prior regulations constituted “rule making” under Administrative Procedure Act, and by failing to provide meaningful opportunity for public comment, or to solicit or receive relevant comments regarding the regulations’ substance or merits, the department did not follow the procedures required by law. North Carolina Growers’ Association, Incorporated v. United Farm Workers, No. 11-2235. 30 pages.

Constitutional Law, Possession of firearm by illegal alien: The Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms does not extend to illegal aliens, and a federal statute prohibiting possession of firearm by an alien “illegally or unlawfully in the United States” was therefore valid. U.S. v. Carpio-Leon, No. 11-5063. 17 pages.

Constitutional Law, Standing to challenge handgun restrictions: Individual and organizational plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge state and federal restrictions on the sale and transfer of handguns because those statutes did not burden the individual plaintiffs directly or prevent them from acquiring handguns they desired, and did not impede the not-for-profit organizational plaintiff in carrying out its mission. Lane v. Holder, No. 11-1847. 12 pages.

Consumer Protection, Debt cancellation agreements: Federal law governing debt cancellation agreements entered into by national banks does not pre-empt the Maryland Credit Grantor Closed End Provisions applicable to local lenders, even if the debt cancellation agreement is part of a credit contract originated by a local lender and assigned to a national bank Decohen v. Capital One, N.A., No. 11-2161. 21 pages.

Corporate Law, Derivative claims from banking operations: Where a bankrupt corporation’s former directors and officers also served as directors and officers of the corporation’s wholly owned banking subsidiary, the bankruptcy trustee’s claims flowing from banking operations were derivative in nature and could be brought only by the FDIC. In re: Beach First National Bancshares, No. 11-2019. 15 pages.

Criminal Law, Driving under the influence: Evidence that defendant had blood alcohol concentration of .09 approximately three hours after crashing her car was sufficient to prove a violation of the criminal statute that prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while operator’s the operator’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more. U.S. v. Smith, No. 11-4336. 18 pages.

Criminal Law, Identity theft: Federal statutes prohibiting identity theft of a “person” or “individual” were fatally ambiguous regarding application to the unauthorized use of means of corporate identification; defendants’ convictions arising from the use of a company stamp to endorse checks were therefore vacated. U.S. v. Hilton, No. 11-4273. 24 pages.

Criminal Law, Robbery: Defendant’s act of stealing a small sum of money from dry cleaning branch that relied on out-of-state suppliers had “minimal effect” on interstate commerce and therefore satisfied jurisdictional requirement of federal law prohibiting robbery or extortion that “in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce.” U.S. v. Tillery, No. 11-4819. 10 pages.

Criminal Procedure, Extraterritorial jurisdiction: District court properly exercised extraterritorial jurisdiction against the defendant for theft of public money and acts affecting a personal financial interest, because even though the defendant was a foreign national employed by U.S. government and the acts in question occurred abroad, congressional intent to exercise overseas jurisdiction could be inferred from the nature of criminalized offenses. U.S. v. Ayesh, No. 11-4266. 12 pages.

Criminal Procedure, Frivolous appeals: The Prison Litigation Reform Act’s ban on proceeding in forma pauperis, which is triggered when a prisoner has had three cases dismissed as frivolous, malicious or for failure to state a claim, was likewise triggered by summary judgment rulings that the issuing judge expressly characterized as “strikes” under the PRLA. Blakely v. Wards, No. 11-6945. 12 pages.

Criminal Procedure, Proffer agreements: A pre-indictment proffer agreement that barred the government from using the proffered statements against the defendant, so long as he did not breach the agreement, remained in effect after his indictment for mail fraud; therefore, once he breached the agreement, the proffered statements were properly admitted at his trial. U.S. v. Gillion, No. 11-4942. 19 pages.

Criminal Procedure, Search & seizure: Where the police had a reasonable, articulable suspicion sufficient to stop defendant’s car based on credible information from a confidential informant, and established that the defendant was the person with whom the confidential informant had arranged a drug deal, the police had probable cause to search defendant’s vehicle, and the evidence found and seized during that search was admissible. U.S. v. Lawing, No. 11-4896. 19 pages.

Evidence, Marital communications privilege: Emails sent by defendant to his wife using work email account, which defendant knew his employer could inspect at will and which defendant took no steps to protect, were not “confidential” and therefore did not fall within the marital communications privilege. U.S. v. Hamilton, No. 11-4847. 11 pages.

Labor & Employment, Representation election: Representation election certifying the union as the exclusive bargaining representative of certain nursing facility employees was not undermined by allegedly racially inflammatory remarks made by an NAACP leader regarding an incident at the facility, because the speaker had no involvement during the “critical period” between filing of the representation petition and the representation election, and thus was not the union’s actual or apparent agent. Ashland Facility Operations, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board, Nos. 11-2004, 11-2132. 18 pages.

Torts, Federal Tort Claims Act: Federal statute providing that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall decide “all questions” of law and fact affecting veterans’ benefits, and that such a decision shall be “final and conclusive,” did not bar the court from making independent findings of fact in a wrongful death/wrongful consortium action brought pursuant to Federal Tort Claims Act, because plaintiff’s claim would not affect the validity of her VA benefits award. Butler v. U.S., No. 11-2408. 12 pages.