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Richards Furniture Corp. v. Board of County Commissioners of

Decided: December 18, 1963.


Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County; Evans and Duckett, JJ.

Henderson, Hammond, Prescott, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Prescott, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.


We, heretofore, decided this case by a per curiam order. We now state our reasons for the decision.

The appellant challenges the validity of an Act of the General Assembly, set forth below. It has literally "thrown the book" at the Act. It states nine separate questions to be answered, with the eighth subdivided into three questions and the ninth into six. In the early case of Anderson v. Baker, 23 Md. 531, which dealt with constitutional questions, the opinion occupies ninety-eight pages of the reports. The questions here posed present, we think, no serious difficulty; hence this opinion should be considerably shorter.

The appellant, Richards Furniture Corporation (Richards), filed a bill in equity, praying declaratory and injunctive relief

to declare unconstitutional the provisions of Code (1957), Article 27, ยง 521 (b), as amended by Chapter 13 of the Acts of the General Assembly of 1962 (Special Session), (hereafter referred to as "the Act" or "the Bill"), and to enjoin enforcement thereof by the appellees, law enforcement officials of Anne Arundel County. In the alternative, it sought a declaration that the Act did not apply to its particular business. From a decision holding that the Act was valid and that appellant's business came within its provisions, this appeal resulted.

Richards, a Maryland Corporation, rents space and sells furniture in a large building built and owned by the Ritchie Highway Farmers Market, Inc. (Market), known as and called the Ritchie Highway Farmers Market. The building is approximately 643 feet long while its width varies from 107 to 172 feet depending upon the shapes of its various departments. Space is leased to some thirty-four merchants. The store building is set up with two separate, parallel, pedestrian aisles running from one side of the building to the other, dividing it into three areas. Each tenant leases a designated area fronting on one or both aisles and his space is partitioned off by high walls on the sides. Access to each shop is gained from an entrance off one of the aisles. In this respect, Richards' store is slightly different in that it is fully partitioned off from the aisles by a ceiling-high masonry wall with conventional doors, and it has an independent outside entrance for customers.

The evidence indicates that the Market building, in its entirety, is open for business on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; and on Sundays from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m. The evidence further reveals that approximately 30,000 automobiles visit the Market each week, of which one-third of the total arrive every Sunday. In short, about one-third of the weekly business is transacted on Sundays. Not only does the Market, by its advertisements, hold itself out as the sole and responsible owner of the Market, containing a number of shops and selling a variety of goods, but it exercises a great deal of control over the merchants who occupy space within the Market building. These controls over the individual merchants include, among other things, the selection and pricing of products

to be sold, the methods of merchandising these products, the advertising which can be done, the hours of business that the individual merchants may be open, the hours that they must close, the selection and behavior of their personnel, and the reimbursement of monies to purchasers of products. It is also significant that the occupants of the entire building are accommodated by one large parking lot, which is owned and operated by the Market. It also hires special police to control the traffic, and the conduct of individuals on the parking lot area and throughout the entire market building. The testimony also showed that it is the generally accepted practice of the Market to have no more than one merchandiser of a particular class of products occupying space within its building; Richards is the only furniture department therein. And although the building is called the Ritchie Highway Farmers Market, little, if any, actual farm produce is sold therein.

The Act complained of reads as follows:

"In Anne Arundel County, in addition to the articles of merchandise herein before mentioned, retailers may sell, barter, deal in, and deliver on Sunday the following articles of merchandise [many articles of merchandise, not relevant here]; provided, however, that nothing in this sub-title shall be construed to prevent the operation of any retail establishment on Sunday, the operation of which does not entail the employment of more than one person, not including the owner or proprietor. Every market or department store in which stalls or departments are rented or concessions given to individual merchants or vendors shall be considered as one establishment and each stall or department thereof is not a separate establishment."

(The italicized portion above was added by the ...

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