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Harrison-Solomon v. State

Court of Appeals of Maryland

March 30, 2015


Argued January 9, 2015.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Circuit Court for Prince George's County. Case No. CT980287X & CT011671X.

For PETITIONER: Nenutzka C. Villamar, Assistant Public Defender (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender of Maryland of Baltimore, MD) on brief; Brief of Amici Curiae, Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC), On Our Own of Maryland, Inc., Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) and the Public Justice Center (PJC); Laura Cain, Esquire, Maryland Disability Law Center, Baltimore, MD; Anna Jagelewski, Esquire, Francis D. Murnaghan, Appellate Advocacy Fellow, Public Justice Center, Baltimore, MD.

For RESPONDENT: Joshua N. Auerbach, Assistant Attorney General (David S. Finkler, Assistant Attorney General and Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland of Baltimore, MD) on brief.

Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, McDonald, Rodowsky, Lawrence F. (Retired, Specially Assigned), Cathell, Dale R. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.


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[442 Md. 259] Harrell, J.

Having been found not criminally responsible for certain crimes, Aaron Harrison-Solomon (" Petitioner" ) seeks review of the denial by the Circuit Court for Prince George's County of his motion to alter or amend its order extending the [442 Md. 260] conditions of his release from inpatient commitment

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for psychiatric care. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. We granted Harrison-Solomon's petition for a writ of certiorari to consider his single question:

Where Petitioner was committed to the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene pursuant to a finding that he was not criminally responsible, was subsequently conditionally released, and did not violate any of the conditions of his release, did the circuit court have jurisdiction, after the expiration of the order of conditional release (OCR), to grant a motion to " extend" the OCR filed five days prior to its expiration?

For reasons we shall explain, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.

I. Factual And Procedural Background

On 15 June 1999, Harrison-Solomon pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County to two counts of second degree assault. The Court found him not criminally responsible, pursuant to Maryland Code (1982, 1996 Repl. Vol.), Health General Article, § 12-108, and committed him to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (the " Department" or the " State" ) for inpatient treatment.[1]

Harrison-Solomon was released conditionally by the Circuit Court's order of 23 March 2000. The Order of Conditional Release required, among other things, that Harrison-Solomon: (1) reside with his mother; (2) receive and follow the treatment advice of a specified psychiatrist; (3) attend a semester of high school and thereafter remain involved with [442 Md. 261] meaningful daytime activities approved by his therapist; (4) refrain from using illegal drugs or alcohol and submit to urine testing; and (5) notify and receive approval of his therapist before taking certain actions, such as changing his place of residence, employment, or marital status. The duration, on its face, of this Order of Conditional Release was three years.

On 21 December 2001, Harrison-Solomon was indicted for attempted murder, robbery with a deadly weapon, and use of a handgun in commission of a felony or of a crime of violence. As a result, the Circuit Court rescinded the 2000 Order of Conditional Release and recommitted Harrison-Solomon to impatient treatment. A jury found him guilty on 12 December 2002, but again not criminally responsible, of robbery and use of a handgun in commission of a felony or of a crime of violence.

Upon the recommendation of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, the Circuit Court again released conditionally Harrison-Solomon on 3 July 2006.[2] The facial duration of this order was through 3 July 2011. Among the changes in conditions from those in the 2000 Order of Conditional Release were requirements that Harrison-Solomon participate in a residential program and that he may visit his parents only if authorized by those

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treating his mental illness. When Harrison-Solomon's family became no longer able to support financially execution of some of the terms of his conditional release, the Circuit Court excused those requirements, such as electronic monitoring and some portions of the outpatient care regimen.

In November of 2009, the State petitioned the Circuit Court to revoke Harrison-Solomon's conditional release. According to the State, he violated the terms of the 2006 Order of Conditional Release by not following the directions of his housing provider, missing a medication injection, and visiting his mother without receiving the proper prior approval. Harrison-Solomon [442 Md. 262] was re-committed to impatient medical treatment on 17 November 2009.

An ALJ found, on 13 May 2010, that, although Harrison-Solomon violated the 2006 Conditional Release Order, he would not be a danger to himself or others if released subject to conditions substantially similar to those in the 2006 order. Therefore, the ALJ recommended that he be released conditionally for the remaining duration of the 2006 Order. On June 15, the Circuit Court released Harrison-Solomon in accordance with the ALJ's recommendations.

On 28 June 2011, five days before Harrison-Solomon's conditional release was to expire, according to the extant Order, the Department filed with the Circuit Court an Application for Extension of Conditional Release seeking to extend the terms of the Order for an additional four years, pursuant to Maryland Code (2001, 2008 Repl. Vol.), Criminal Procedure Art., § 3-122 (" CP" ). Supporting the requested extension was an attached evaluation from a physician. Although the evaluation noted Harrison-Solomon's perfect attendance at treatment sessions, compliance with his medication regime to that time, and " pleasant" demeanor, it stated also that he " announced his intention to abandon psychiatric treatment so that his mind can be free to think." The evaluation continued that Harrison-Solomon " ha[d] not developed any insight into [the] role of medication [in] maintaining psychiatric stability." A copy of the Application was mailed to Harrison-Solomon's attorney on 23 June 2011. On 31 August 2011, approximately two months after the facial last day of the Order of Conditional Release (3 July 2011), the Circuit Court granted, without a hearing (none was requested by either party), the Department's Application, extending the conditions of release for an additional four years. Harrison-Solomon did not file an opposition to the Application.

Harrison-Solomon, through counsel, filed on 13 September 2011 a Motion to Alter or Amend under Maryland Rule 2-534. He asserted that the Circuit Court's jurisdiction over him ended on 3 July 2011, at the expiration of the 2006 Order of Conditional Release, and therefore the order entered on August [442 Md. 263] 31 extending his conditional release was invalid. The Department answered that it filed the Application for Extension of Conditional Release before the 2006 Order expired, so the Court retained jurisdiction to rule on the Application.

After holding a hearing on November 10, the Circuit Court held that CP § 3-122[3] did not impose upon the court a

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mandatory or fixed deadline by which it had to decide a timely-filed application to extend a conditional release. Rather, the court retained jurisdiction in Harrison-Solomon's case. The fact that the court did not rule on the Application until after the end date of the facial duration of the 2006 Order of Conditional Release was " of no consequence." The court denied Harrison-Solomon's Motion to Alter or Amend.[4]

[442 Md. 264] Harrison-Solomon appealed to the Court of Special Appeals the Circuit Court's denial of his Motion to Alter or Amend. According to him, by granting the Department's Application, the Circuit Court did not " extend" the duration of the Order of Conditional Release as contemplated by CP § 3-122, but rather " revived" the conditional release after it had expired. This was not authorized by the statute, as Petitioner's argument continued, and was beyond the court's jurisdiction. The State retorted that CP § 3-122 did not impose any deadlines by which the Department was required to file an application to extend an order of conditional release or by which the Court was required to rule on such an application.

The Court of Special Appeals reviewed the denial of Harrison-Solomon's Motion to Alter or Amend for abuse of discretion, noting " 'that trial judges do not have discretion to apply inappropriate legal standards, even when making decisions that are regarded as discretionary in nature.'" Harrison-Solomon v. State, 216 Md.App. 138, 146, 85 A.3d 310, 316 (2014) (quoting Wilson--X v. Dep't of Human Res., 403 Md. 667, 675, 944 A.2d 509 (2008)). After considering the legislative intent of CP § 3-122 and particularly a decision of the Illinois intermediate appellate court in a similar case, the intermediate appellate court panel held that a circuit court retains jurisdiction over such a case " as long as an application for a change in conditional release is filed before the expiration of the conditional release term . . . even if the order is issued after the [Order of Conditional Release] otherwise would have expired."

Harrison-Solomon sought a writ of certiorari from this Court. We granted his petition. Harrison-Solomon v. State, 438 Md. 739, 93 A.3d 288 (2014).[5]

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[442 Md. 265] II. Analysis

The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which we consider de novo. Maryland-Nat'l Capital Park & Planning Comm'n v. Anderson, 395 Md. 172, 181, 909 A.2d 694, 699 (2006). Denial of a revisory motion under Md. Rule 2-534 is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Miller v. Mathias, 428 Md. 419, 438, 52 A.3d 53, 64 (2012) (citing RRC Northeast, LLC v. BAA Maryland, Inc., 413 Md. 638, 673, 994 A.2d 430, 451 (2010)).

A. Intent of the Legislature

When interpreting statutes, we seek to ascertain and implement the will of the Legislature. Williams v. Peninsula Reg'l Med. Ctr., 440 Md. 573, 580, 103 A.3d 658, 663 (2014); Johnson v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City, 387 Md. 1, 11, 874 A.2d 439, 445 (2005); Witte v. Azarian, 369 Md. 518, 525, 801 A.2d 160, 165 (2002). Our first step toward that goal is to examine the text. " If the language of the statute is unambiguous and clearly consistent with the statute's apparent purpose, our inquiry as to legislative intent ends ordinarily and we apply the statute as written, without resort to other rules of construction." Lockshin v. Semsker, 412 Md. 257, 275, 987 A.2d 18, 28-29 (2010).[6] If ambiguities are found, other indicia of legislative intent are consulted, including the relevant statute's legislative history, the context of the statute [442 Md. 266] within the broader legislative scheme, and the relative rationality of competing constructions. Witte, 369 Md. at 525-26, 801 A.2d at 165.

1. Text of CP § 3-122

The text of CP ยง 3-122 supports the conclusion that the Circuit Court retained jurisdiction to decide the Department's application to continue the conditions of Harrison-Solomon's ...

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