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Law Digest — Maryland Court of Special Appeals — Feb. 14, 2019

Court of Special Appeals

Civil Procedure; Appellate jurisdiction: Where purchaser of real property acquired rights in the property at a foreclosure sale, but paid a higher price because of the enhanced value attributable to the improvements that it had made, appeal from circuit court’s denial of purchaser’s exceptions to the sale was dismissed as premature because, where the court had not yet ratified the sale, there was no final judgement from which to appeal. James McLaughlin, et al. v. Carrie M. Ward, et al., No. 1827, Sept. Term, 2017.

Civil Procedure; Entry of judgment: Appeal from 2002 judgement was timely because, where docket entry did not provide clear notice of the date on which judgment was entered, as required by Rule 2-601(b), it did not trigger the beginning of the appeal period. Won Sun Lee v. Won Bok Lee, No. 1732, Sept. Term, 2017.

Civil Procedure

Appellate jurisdiction

BOTTOM LINE: Where purchaser of real property acquired rights in the property at a foreclosure sale, but paid a higher price because of the enhanced value attributable to the improvements that it had made, appeal from circuit court’s denial of purchaser’s exceptions to the sale was dismissed as premature because, where the court had not yet ratified the sale, there was no final judgement from which to appeal.

CASE: James McLaughlin, et al. v. Carrie M. Ward, et al., No. 1827, Sept. Term, 2017 (filed Jan. 30, 2019) (Judges Graeff, ARTHUR & Harrell (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned)).

FACTS: On January 21, 2015, a property was sold at a foreclosure sale, but the Circuit Court for Baltimore County declined to ratify the sale because of deficiencies in the affidavit of service. The trustees decided that they could not remedy the defects, so they dismissed the foreclosure case. Before the case was dismissed, however, the thwarted purchaser, appellant Dominion Rental Holdings, LLC (“Dominion”), made improvements to the property. Dominion took no action to challenge the dismissal or to assert a claim for reimbursement or for a credit for the improvements.

In a new foreclosure action, Dominion acquired rights in the property at a foreclosure sale on September 7, 2017, but it paid a higher price, allegedly because of the enhanced value attributable to the improvements that it had made. It filed exceptions to the sale and a motion to abate the purchase price, arguing that it should not be required to pay the increased cost.

In an order docketed on October 27, 2017, the court denied the exceptions and the motion to abate. Dominion promptly noted an appeal, without waiting for the ratification of the sale. It did not note another appeal after the ratification of the sale.

Because Dominion noted its appeal before the entry of a final judgment, and no exceptions to the final judgment rule applied, the Court of Appeals lacked appellate jurisdiction. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed as premature.

LAW: Generally, parties may appeal only upon the entry of a final judgment. See Md. Code (1974, 2013 Repl. Vol.), §12-301 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article (“CJP”). One of the necessary elements of a final judgment is that the order must adjudicate or complete the adjudication of all claims against all parties. See, e.g., Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v. Maryland Dep’t of Agric., 439 Md. 262, 278 (2014) (citing Rohrbeck v. Rohrbeck, 318 Md. 28, 41 (1989)); Zilichikhis v. Montgomery County, 223 Md. App. 158, 171-72 (2015). In other words, the judgment “must leave nothing more to be done in order to effectuate the court’s disposition of the matter.” Rohrbeck, 318 Md. at 41.

“[A] ruling must ordinarily have the following three attributes to be a final judgment: (1) it must be intended by the court as an unqualified, final disposition of the matter in controversy[;] (2) unless the court acts pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-602(b) to direct the entry of a final judgment as to less than all of the claims or all of the parties, it must adjudicate or complete the adjudication of all claims against all parties; [and] (3) it must be set forth and recorded in accordance with Rule 2-601.” Metro Maint. Sys. South, Inc. v. Milburn, 442 Md. 289, 298 (2015) (citing Rohrbeck, 318 Md. at 41); Maryland Bd. of Physicians v. Geier, 225 Md. App. 114, 129-30 (2015).

The Court of Special Appeals “has jurisdiction over an appeal when the appeal is taken from a final judgment or is otherwise permitted by law, and a timely notice of appeal was filed.” Doe v. Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc., 217 Md. App. 650, 661 (2014). If the Court lacks appellate jurisdiction, however, it must dismiss an appeal. See Md. Rule 8-602(b) (2019); Zilichikhis v. Montgomery County, 223 Md. App. at 172. The Court “can raise the issue of finality on our own motion.” Zilichikhis, 223 Md. App. at 172.

In a foreclosure case, a court does not enter a final judgment at least until it has ratified the foreclosure sale. See Balt. Home Alliance, LLC v. Geesing, 218 Md. App. 375, 383 & n.5 (2014); Md. Rule 14-305(e); see also Hughes v. Beltway Homes, Inc., 276 Md. 382, 384 (1975) (stating that an order ratifying a foreclosure sale is a judgment because it is an order of the court final in its nature). Moreover, if the court refers the matter to an auditor to state an account, as it may under Rule 14-305(f), it may not enter a final judgment until it has adjudicated any exceptions to the auditor’s report. See Balt. Home Alliance, LLC v. Geesing, 218 Md. App. at 383 n.5.

This case illustrated why the final judgment in a foreclosure proceeding does not occur at least until the court ratifies the sale. Here, Dominion acquired an inchoate equitable interest in the property in the first foreclosure sale, and there were either no exceptions or no successful exceptions to that sale. Yet the court declined to ratify the first sale because of defects unrelated to the sale itself – problems with service at the outset of the case, which the trustees determined to be incurable. Had the court declined to ratify the second sale after Dominion appealed from the denial of its exceptions, the appeal would have become completely superfluous: it would make no difference whether the court erred or abused its discretion in denying Dominion’s exceptions if the court ultimately declined to ratify the sale on other, different grounds.

Furthermore, if the final judgment in a foreclosure proceeding could occur before the court ratifies the sale, there could be more than one final judgment in a single proceeding. It is conceivable that more than one party could file exceptions to the foreclosure sale: for example, both a homeowner and a junior lienholder might file exceptions. Yet, if the court ruled separately on each exception, and if the denial of each of the exceptions were considered to be a final, appealable judgment, then both of the exceptants could take their own, separate appeal. That result would obviously be in some tension with “Maryland’s long-established policy against piecemeal appeals.” Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v. Md. Dep’t of Agric., 439 Md. at 278.

As of the date of Dominion’s appeal in this case, the circuit court had neither ratified the foreclosure sale, nor referred the matter to an auditor, nor adjudicated any exceptions to an auditor’s report. Dominion, therefore, has taken a premature appeal, before the entry of a final judgment. Because the Court acquires no appellate jurisdiction over a premature appeal (see Doe v. Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc., 217 Md. App. at 662), it was necessary to dismiss the appeal unless some exception to the final judgment rule applied.

“[T]here are only three exceptions to that final judgment requirement: appeals from interlocutory orders specifically allowed by statute; immediate appeals permitted under Maryland Rule 2-602; and appeals from interlocutory rulings allowed under the common law collateral order doctrine.” Salvagno v. Frew, 388 Md. 605, 615 (2005). None of the exceptions applied.

The statutory exceptions are found in CJP §12-303 of the Courts and Proceedings Article, which authorizes an appeal from an array of interlocutory orders in cases in which an appellant’s rights might be lost or irreparably damaged if he or she is unable to challenge an erroneous ruling until after the entry of a final judgment. See Frase v. Barnhart, 379 Md. 100, 117 (2003). Among other things, §12-303 authorizes interlocutory appeals from orders granting, dissolving, or denying certain injunctions; from certain orders appointing a receiver; from orders depriving a parent, grandparent, or guardian of the care and custody of a child; from orders granting a petition to stay an arbitration proceeding; and from orders denying certain claims of statutory immunity.

Dominion asserted that its appeal fell within §12-303(3)(v), which authorizes an appeal from an interlocutory order “[f]or the sale, conveyance, or delivery of real…property…or the refusal to rescind or discharge such an order[.]”

A court enters an order for “[f]or the sale, conveyance, or delivery of real…property” when, for example, it establishes a mechanic’s lien, orders the property to be sold if the lien is not paid by a date certain, and appoints a trustee to conduct the sale. Winkler Construction Co. v. Jerome, 355 Md. 231, 245 (1999). A court also enters an order for “[f]or the sale, conveyance, or delivery of real…property” when it appoints a trustee to conduct a sale in lieu of partition of property owned by tenants in common. Morgan v. Morgan, 68 Md. App. 85, 92 (1986); see also Standish Corp. v. Keane, 220 Md. 1, 6 (1959) (stating that an order that rescinds the ratification of a trustee’s sale, directs a return of a deposit, and requires the trustee to resell the property “is in the nature of a final decree”).

These cases demonstrate that an order “[f]or the sale, conveyance, or delivery of real…property” necessarily entails an order requiring that property be sold. A court, however, does not order that property be sold when it denies exceptions to a foreclosure sale. To the contrary, under current procedures, the foreclosure sale will already have 6 occurred when a party files exceptions. See Md. Rule 14-215(a) (stating that “[t]he procedure following a [foreclosure] sale…shall be as provided in Rules 14-305 and 14- 306”); Md. Rule 14-305(d) (listing exceptions to the sale among the procedures following a sale). Because a court does not consider exceptions to a sale until after the sale has actually occurred, an order denying exceptions to a foreclosure sale cannot possibly be an order “[f]or the sale, conveyance, or delivery of real…property” under §12-303(3)(v).

In summary, Dominion appealed before the entry of the final judgment, which would not occur at least until the ratification of the foreclosure sale. Hence Dominion’s appeal was premature. It could have preserved its appeal by filing a second, protective notice of appeal after the entry of the final judgment, but it did not. None of the exceptions to the final judgment rule operated to save the premature appeal. Therefore the Court of Special Appeals lacked jurisdiction. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.

COMMENTARY: Another possible basis for an interlocutory appeal is the collateral order doctrine, a “very narrow exception” to the final judgment rule. See, e.g., Dawkins v. Baltimore City Police Dep’t, 376 Md. 53, 58 (2003). “To qualify as a collateral order, a ruling must satisfy four criteria: ‘(1) it must conclusively determine the disputed question; (2) it must resolve an important issue; (3) it must be completely separate from the merits of the action; and (4) it must be effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.’” Maryland Bd. of Physicians v. Geier, 225 Md. App. at 131 (quoting Addison v. Lochearn Nursing Home, LLC, 411 Md. 251, 285 (2009)). The ruling in question in this case failed to satisfy at least two of these criteria.

First, the denial of the exceptions to the foreclosure sale and the motion to abate the purchase price is not completely separate from the merits – i.e., it is not “collateral.” To the contrary, the exceptions and the motion to abate go to the very heart of the foreclosure proceeding: how much Dominion should have to pay for the property that it bought at the foreclosure sale.

Second, the denial of the exceptions to the foreclosure sale and the motion to abate the purchase price was effectively reviewable on appeal from a final judgment, as evidenced by the cases in which parties have successfully sought and obtained appellate review of a ruling on exceptions after the ratification of the sale. See, e.g., Thomas v. Nadel, 427 Md. 441, 449 (2012).

In general, a decision is effectively unreviewable on appeal only if a party’s rights would be lost or seriously impaired if it were required to wait for the entry of a final judgment before obtaining appellate review. See generally Bunting v. State, 312 Md. 472, 478-80 (1988). In this case, however, the final judgment was nigh at the time when Dominion took its premature appeal. An appellate court would have been no less able to grant full relief in an appeal after the ratification of the foreclosure sale than it would have been after the denial of Dominion’s exceptions and its motion to abate.

PRACTICE TIPS: “Absent an express determination that there is no just reason for delay, an order directing the entry of a final judgment pursuant to Rule 2-602(b) is invalid.” Miller Metal Fabrication, Inc. v. Wall, 415 Md. 210, 221 (2010).

Civil Procedure

Entry of judgment

BOTTOM LINE: Appeal from 2002 judgement was timely because, where docket entry did not provide clear notice of the date on which judgment was entered, as required by Rule 2-601(b), it did not trigger the beginning of the appeal period.

CASE: Won Sun Lee v. Won Bok Lee, No. 1732, Sept. Term, 2017 (filed Jan. 30, 2019) (Judges FADER, Beachley & Kenney (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned)).

FACTS: In 2002, Mr. Bok Lee obtained a judgment by default in the amount of $141,059 against Mr. Sun Lee in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. In May 2004, Mr. Bok Lee filed a “Request to File Notice of Lien” in the Circuit Court for Howard County based on the federal judgment. On June 1, 2004, the circuit court entered a “Notice of Lien of Judgment Received From United States District Court” and made the following docket entry: “Judgment entered on 06/01/04.”

The Howard County case remained dormant until July 23, 2015, when Mr. Bok Lee filed a “Request to Renew Judgment.” The request stated that “[j]udgment in this case was entered on June 1, 2004,” claimed that it had “not expired (12 years from entry),” and asked the clerk to renew it. The clerk promptly entered the renewed judgment on the docket.

On March 24, 2016, Mr. Sun Lee moved to vacate the renewal. He argued that Mr. Bok Lee’s 2004 filing had created a lien, rather than a new judgment, and so could no longer be renewed once the federal judgment had expired. Although the circuit court agreed with Mr. Sun Lee that the 2004 filing had created a lien, not a new judgment, it also agreed with Mr. Bok Lee that it was nonetheless still subject to renewal.

Three writings relating to the circuit court’s ruling were key to this appeal. First, after a hearing, the court issued a one-page written order containing a single substantive sentence that identifies what the court considered (the motion to vacate, the opposition, and the arguments of the parties) and states that the motion to vacate is denied. The order is dated June 2, 2016 and bears (1) the signature of the judge, (2) a stamp identifying that it was “ENTERED” on June 3, 2016, (3) a true test certification, and (4) a notation of “6000” in the bottom right corner (the “June 2 Order”).

The second and third writings of significance were both docket entries. Each appeared slightly differently in the circuit court’s own system than it appeared as viewed through the case search feature on the Judiciary website at the relevant time—which, for purposes of determining the timeliness of the appeal, was the period between June 3 and July 6, 2016.

In an unreported opinion, the Court of Special Appeals concluded that the record did not reflect when, or even if, Mr. Sun Lee’s time to appeal had begun to run. The Court identified three factors necessary for there to be a valid appeal: (1) under Rule 2-601(a), the 5 final judgment must be “set forth on a separate document” that is signed by a judge or the clerk of court; (2) under Rule 2-601(b), the judgment must be entered on the court’s electronic case management system; and (3) under Rules 2-601(d) and 8-202(a), an appeal must be noted within 30 days of the date on which the judgment was entered in that court’s electronic case management system.

The status of the docket entries was accurate through at least July 31, 2016, as reflected in the filings of the parties in the circuit court and included in the appellate record. When the Court of Special Appeals independently queried the case search function available on the Judiciary website on January 11, 2019, however, Docket Entry 6000 appeared to have been changed. For purposes of this appeal, what was relevant was: (1) the change occurred after July 6, 2016; and (2) the entry now includes the following information: “Decision: Denied – 06/03/2016.”

It was concluded (1) that Mr. Sun Lee’s July 6, 2016 notice of appeal was premature when filed, but that the appeal is now ripe for decision, and (3) that the circuit court erred in denying Mr. Sun Lee’s motion to vacate the renewed judgment.

Accordingly, the judgment of the circuit court was reversed.

LAW: At issue was whether the circuit court or its clerk had signed a separate document setting forth the judgment in compliance with Rule 2-601(a); and (2) if so, when—the clerk entered that judgment on the court’s electronic case management system in compliance with Rule 2-601(b).

As to the first question, the circuit court’s memorandum establishes that the June 2 Order is indeed the “separate document” setting forth the court’s judgment that is required by Rule 2-601(a). The prior panel’s uncertainty on that point arose from the notation in the later-dated Docket Entry 14000 indicating that an order was yet to come. With the court’s explanation that the notation in Docket Entry 14000 reflected the situation that existed when the court closed the June 2 hearing, not the situation that existed when that docket entry was made on June 6, this question was definitively resolved.

The second question was more complicated. The prior panel thought that Docket Entry 14000 might reflect the entry of the judgment in the court’s electronic case management system. The circuit court’s explanation that Docket Entry 14000 does not reflect the entry of any written order eliminates that possibility. Instead, the circuit court identified Docket Entry 6000 as (1) reflecting entry of the judgment in the court’s electronic case management system (2) on June 3, 2016. The circuit court’s memorandum resolved conclusively the first of these points—that the clerk actually entered the word “Denied” into Docket Entry 6000 on June 3, 2016, and that the clerk did so for the purpose of entering the judgment reflected in the June 2 Order. The circuit court’s memorandum also established that the notation “06/03/16 copies mailed” in Docket Entry 6000 refers to the mailing of copies of the June 2 Order to counsel and that the “Closed” date of June 3 that appears in the court’s case management system—though not in the docket then available on the Judiciary website—refers to the date on which the word “Denied” was added to Docket Entry 6000.

The difficulty in accepting those facts as establishing June 3 as the trigger date for the appeal period lay in the fact that Docket Entry 6000 itself—and particularly the version of that docket entry that was available on the Judiciary website in June and July of 2016— failed to establish clearly when the clerk added the “Denied” notation to the entry. This issue was significant.

In Hiob v. Progressive Am. Ins. Co., 440 Md. 466 (2014), the Court of Appeals undertook an extensive analysis of the evolution and interpretation of the then-extant version of Rule 2-601. The immediate question in Hiob was whether a line of dismissal signed only by parties satisfied Rule 2-601’s requirement that a judgment must be reflected in a “separate document” that the clerk enters on the docket. 440 Md. at 472. There, plaintiffs brought claims against two insurers—Erie and Progressive—arising out of a fatal automobile accident. Id. at 481. The court entered judgment in favor of Progressive, leaving the claims against Erie pending. Id. Those claims were resolved 14 months later when the plaintiffs and Erie filed a joint line of dismissal. Id. at 481-82. At the same time they filed the line of dismissal, the Hiob plaintiffs also moved the circuit court to reduce its earlier order of judgment in favor of Progressive to a final judgment. The court did so, but not until 29 days later. One week after that—which was 36 days after entry of the line of dismissal—the plaintiffs noted an appeal. In arguing that the appeal was late, Progressive contended that the 30-day appeal period began to run with the entry of the line of dismissal, which finally resolved all remaining claims in the case, not with the court’s subsequent order entering final judgment.

The Court of Appeals first engaged in a detailed discussion of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58, on which Maryland Rule 2-601 was modeled; the 1997 amendments to Rule 2-601, in which that Court adopted the “separate document” requirement; and cases interpreting both. 440 Md. at 472-80. Addressing the federal rule, the Court observed that cases interpreting it had been guided by two overarching principles. “First, in order to provide the desired clarity, the ‘separate document rule must be mechanically applied in determining whether an appeal is timely.’” Id. at 474 (quoting Bankers Tr. Co. v. Mallis, 435 U.S. 381, 386 (1978)). “Second, because the rule ‘is not designed as a trap for the inexperienced,’ it is to be interpreted to preserve the right to an appeal.” Hiob, 440 Md. at 475.

The Court summarized the requirements of Rule 2-601 as it was adopted in 1997: (1) a judgment must be reflected on a document that is “separate from an oral ruling of the judge, a docket entry, or a memorandum”; (2) that separate document must be signed by either the court or the clerk, depending on the type of judgment; and (3) the judgment is effective to trigger the time for filing an appeal “only if it is set forth in accordance with the requirements of Rule 2-601(a) and properly entered under Rule 2-601(b).” Hiob, 440 Md. at 478-79. The Court further observed that in applying Rule 2-601, it had “employed the same principles as the federal courts in construing” the federal rule, including both mechanical application “in determining whether an appeal is timely,” and interpreting the requirement “in favor of the preservation of appeal rights,” Hiob, 440 Md. at 480.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the line of dismissal failed to trigger the 30-day appeal period. Id. at 503. The Court observed that the “separate document” required by Rule 2-601(a) must be in the form of a “judgment,” which the Rules defined (and still define) as an “order of court final in nature entered 16 pursuant to these rules.” Rules 1-202(o); 2-601(a). The line was not an order of court at all, much less “an unqualified decision of the court as to which party has prevailed and what relief, if any, is awarded.” Hiob, 440 Md. at 483-84, 486.

Notably, Progressive argued that the parties had not been prejudiced by the failure to enter a separate document because they were all aware of the effect of the stipulation in light of the earlier judgment. The Court rejected that argument, concluding that it “ignores the need to provide the public, not just the litigants, with a clear indication of when judgment is entered.” Id. Moreover, although someone familiar with the case might have understood that the combination of the earlier judgment and the later stipulation of dismissal would have resolved all claims against all parties, “[a] determination that a final judgment exists based on assumptions of implied finality is not the type of clear indication that judgment has been entered envisioned by the current version of Rule 2-601.” Id. at 496. The Court thus found the line of dismissal ineffective to trigger the time for appeal because it “does not clearly indicate to the parties and the public that the court has adjudicated the issues presented and rendered a final decision as to the claims against Progressive.” Id. at 497.

Thus, this case was analyzed with the following guidance from the Court of Appeals: (1) Rule 2-601 is to be applied mechanically but must be interpreted “in favor of the preservation of appeal rights,” Hiob, 440 Md. at 480; (2) the requirements of Rule 2-601 are designed to ensure that the public, as well as the litigants, have “a clear indication of when judgment is entered,” not an indication that depends on assumptions or deduction, id. at 495-96; and (3) if the entry requirements of Rule 2-601(b), as amended in 2015, are properly followed, “[l]itigants and the public ought to be able to look at [the docket accessible through the case search feature on the Judiciary website] and determine when any judgment was entered,” id. at 500.

Here, the June 2 Order satisfied the separate document requirements of Rule 2-601(a). The question was whether Docket Entry 6000, as it existed in June and July 2016, met the entry requirements of Rule 2-601(b). It was found that it did not comply with the requirement of Rule 2-601(b)(3) that, unless shielding is required, “the docket entry and the date of entry shall be available to the public through the case search feature on the Judiciary website.” That is because the date of entry was not available to the public.

Moreover, based on the information then available through the Judiciary website, the only way a litigant or a member of the public would know that a separate document reflecting the judgment was entered on June 3, 2016 would be to make at least three separate assumptions: (1) the ruling of “Denied” was reflected in a separate document constituting a judgment; (2) the word “copies” included in the phrase “06/03/16 copies mailed,” which appears at the end of the grammatically-challenging final line of text at the bottom of the entry, refers to copies of that separate document; and (3) the date on which the copies were mailed was also the date the judgment was entered into the electronic case management system.

Although it was known from the clerk’s memorandum that all of this was consistent with the internal practice of his office, there was no way to reliably discern that from the docket entry itself. The entry thus failed the Hiob test because it failed to provide litigants and the public with a clear indication of when judgment was entered. Indeed, without the helpful explanation of the circuit court and its clerk, a prior panel of the Court of Special Appeals was unable to discern from the docket entries that a separate document setting forth the judgment had even been entered, much less when it was entered.

In sum, Docket Entry 6000 did not provide notice of the date when judgment was entered as required by Rule 2-601(b) and, therefore, could not trigger the beginning of the appeal period. As a result, Mr. Sun Lee’s appeal was premature when it was filed on July 6, 2016.

COMMENTARY: Mr. Sun Lee contended that Mr. Bok Lee’s 2004 filing established a lien based on the federal judgment and not a new state court judgment. Because the underlying federal judgment had expired before 2015, he argued, (1) the lien was not subject to renewal in 2015, (2) the clerk was wrong to renew it at that time, and (3) the circuit court erred in refusing to vacate it. Mr. Bok Lee argues that because he recorded and indexed the federal court judgment in the circuit court in 2004, the judgment was subject to renewal in the circuit court in 2015 for a new 12-year period.

The effect of recording and indexing any judgment is the establishment of a lien. John A. Lynch, Jr. & Richard W. Bourne, Modern Maryland Civil Procedure §13.3 (3d ed. 2016). As a result, pursuant to §11-402 and Rules 2-621 and 2-623, Mr. Bok Lee’s 2004 filing and the consequent indexing and recording of the federal judgment by the clerk created a lien against Mr. Sun Lee’s land in Howard County. That filing did not and could not create a new judgment. See Brunsman v. Crook, 130 Md. 661, 665 (1917) (concluding, under the predecessor statute to §11-402, that recording a judgment in a court that did not issue it created a lien, not a new judgment).

By the time Mr. Bok Lee made his 2015 filing, neither his original 2002 federal judgment nor the lien created when he recorded that judgment in Howard County in 2004 remained effective. Simply put, there was nothing for him to renew. The circuit court thus erred in denying Mr. Sun Lee’s motion to vacate the clerk’s renewal of the expired judgment.

In sum, the Court of Appeals agreed with the circuit court that Mr. Bok Lee’s 2004 filing with the circuit court, and the clerk’s recording and indexing of the federal judgment, created a lien against Mr. Sun Lee’s property in Howard County. It did not create a new judgment.

PRACTICE TIPS: “Although a money judgment is not self-executing, its entry constitutes a lien on the defendant’s interest in land located…in any county in which it is recorded.” John A. Lynch, Jr. & Richard W. Bourne, Modern Maryland Civil Procedure §13.3 (3d ed. 2016).