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Maryland Court of Appeals Rules for Hyatt & Weber Client

Decision Follows Landowner’s Long Battle with Talbot County

On July 9, 2021, Hyatt & Weber’s Mark Gabler secured a major victory in a case heard by the Maryland Court of Appeals that capped many years of relentless advocacy on behalf of a Talbot County landowner facing $713,400 in fines by the county. The appellate court ruled that only the courts — and not charter counties — can adjudicate civil fines and penalties under Maryland’s Express Powers Act established by the Maryland General Assembly.

Gabler’s client, Angel Enterprises Limited Partnership, faced a total of six civil penalties initially imposed by Talbot County on Dec. 9, 2009. The penalties were the result of alleged violations associated with clearing trees and constructing a driveway without a permit that occurred in 2006. The county asserted that the assessments continued for several years, collectively accruing at the rate of $1,500 each day, while the landowner appealed the abatement orders and restored the property.

Prior to the Court of Appeals hearing the case, Angel Enterprises sought resolution in proceedings before Talbot County Board of Appeals, the Circuit Court for Talbot County and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

The Court of Appeals’ ruling concluded that charter counties in Maryland do not have the authority to expand the jurisdiction of their Boards of Appeal beyond the limits established by the Maryland General Assembly. Thus, a charter county’s Board of Appeals does not have the authority to conduct administrative proceedings to review or adjudicate civil penalties.

“I am very pleased with the Court of Appeals’ decision,” said Gabler. “Not only were we able to secure justice for our client after years of litigation, but the Court of Appeals’ decision sends a message to all charter counties in Maryland that they may not expand the jurisdiction of their Boards of Appeal beyond what is conferred in the Express Powers Act. Talbot County had been operating under this code since 2007.”

Gabler, a seasoned litigator and real estate, land use and development lawyer with offices in Easton and Annapolis, predicts the ruling will have a favorable impact on other cases he is handling for landowners in Talbot County who were issued fines under the code.