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Sturdivant v. Maryland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene

Court of Appeals of Maryland

January 27, 2014

Adeline STURDIVANT, et al.
v.
MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE.

Page 84

Joel A. Smith (David Gray Wright of Kahn, Smith & Collins, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland), on brief, for Petitioners.

Sarah W. Rice, Asst. Atty. Gen. (David R. Morgan, Asst. Atty. Gen., Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen. of Maryland, Baltimore, MD), on brief, for Respondent.

Argued before: BARBERA, C.J., HARRELL, BATTAGLIA, GREENE, ADKINS, McDONALD and BELL,[*] JJ.

ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

McDONALD, J.

[436 Md. 586] We granted a writ of certiorari in this case to consider the important question of whether, under the State Personnel Management System, [1] A STATE AGENCY must fill

Page 85

vacancies by reinstating former employees who were laid off from similar positions or may elect to fill the vacancies by a recruitment process that casts a wider net.

[436 Md. 587] That question arose as a result of a grievance filed by certain employees who had been laid off from jobs at Spring Grove Hospital, a State psychiatric hospital, and who were not rehired in order of seniority when the hospital later filled vacancies for positions comparable to those previously occupied by the laid-off employees. An administrative law judge concluded that the laid-off employees did not have a right to be rehired under a reinstatement process and denied the grievance. That decision was affirmed by the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in an oral opinion and written order, following a hearing.

The matter was appealed to Court of Special Appeals. The Court of Special Appeals concluded that there is no statutory preference for reinstatement, as opposed to recruitment, in the State Personnel Management System. 207 Md.App. 33, 51 A.3d 692 (2012). That court cautioned, however, that if an agency elects to fill vacancies through recruitment, it must follow statutory procedures that include public notice and transparency as to the selection criteria. The court noted that it is not clear from the record of this case whether the agency complied with those criteria and remanded the case for further factfinding by the administrative law judge.[2]

In reviewing a decision of a State administrative agency, our task is to " look through" the decisions of the Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals and review directly the decision of the agency. People's Counsel for Baltimore County v. Loyola College of Maryland, 406 Md. 54, 66-67, 956 A.2d 166 (2008). That does not necessarily mean that we need cast aside the work of our colleagues on the intermediate [436 Md. 588] appellate court. We can sometimes fulfill our role of providing a definitive answer as to State law without indulging the conceit that we could somehow say it better. As Justice Jackson once observed of the role of a high court: " We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final." Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 540, 73 S.Ct. 397, 97 L.Ed. 469 (1953).

We have examined the record in this case and considered carefully the arguments made by the parties, both of whom disagree with the intermediate appellate court's decision in different respects. We find the well-researched and well-reasoned opinion of the Court of Special Appeals to be unassailable in its analysis and conclusions and we adopt it as our own.[3]

Page 86

It is perhaps useful to note that our action in this case is quite distinct from other situations in which we summarily [436 Md. 589] dispose of a case for which we have granted certiorari. On occasion, this Court dismisses a case after briefing and argument on the ground that the petition for writ of certiorari was improvidently granted. In such cases the grant of the petition was a mistake, either because it becomes apparent later that there is truly no issue of public importance in the case or because there is such an issue, but it was not preserved below or the record in the case provides an inadequate basis for rendering useful guidance on that issue. In ...


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