from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. David Boynton,
by: Maurice B. VerStandig (The VerStandig Law Firm, LLC on
the brief) all of Potomac, MD for Appellant.
by: Howard B. Soypher (Alexis K. Miller & Paley, Rothman,
Goldstein, Rosenber, Eig & Cooper on the brief) all of
Bethesda, MD for Appellee.
Deborah S., Woodward, Salmon, James P. (Retired, Specially
Maryland Constitution, which was ratified in 1867, included a
provision that granted most litigants in
Maryland a right to an in banc appeal. That
right was set forth in Article IV, section 22 of the Maryland
IV, section 22 was amended in 1978 and in 2006. Nevertheless,
much of the original language endures. Presently, section 22
Where any trial is conducted by less than three Circuit
Judges, upon the decision or determination of any point, or
question, by the Court, it shall be competent to the party,
against whom the ruling or decision is made, upon motion, to
have the point, or question reserved for the consideration of
three Judges of the Circuit, who shall constitute a court in
banc for such purpose; and the motion for such reservation
shall be entered of record, during the sitting at which such
decision may be made; and the procedure for appeals to the
Circuit Court in banc shall be as provided by the Maryland
Rules. The decision of the said Court in banc shall be the
effective decision in the premises, and conclusive, as
against the party at whose motion said points, or questions
were reserved; but such decision in banc shall not preclude
the right of Appeal by an adverse party who did not seek in
banc review, in those cases, civil or criminal, in which
appeal to the Court of Special Appeals may be allowed by Law.
The right of having questions reserved shall not, however,
apply to trials of Appeals from judgments of the District
Court, nor to criminal cases below the grade of felony,
except when the punishment is confinement in the
Penitentiary; and this Section shall be subject to such
provisions as may hereafter be made by Law.
appeal, appellant, Steven Berg, makes an argument that has
never been addressed by any Maryland appellate court during
the (approximately) 150 years that Article IV, section 22 has
been in effect. Mr. Berg maintains that the right to an in
banc appeal " spring[s] only from trial verdicts and
judgments," and not from any other final judgment. Mr.
Berg asserts that the issue considered by the three judges in
this case was one that the panel had no jurisdiction to
decide because the issue addressed by the panel did "
not stem from a merits trial" but rather stemmed from
the consideration by the in banc panel of an issue that arose
long after the merits trial had been held. According to
appellant, the word " trial," as used in section
22, has a very narrow meaning.
reasons set forth below, we conclude that the in banc panel
did have jurisdiction in this case and we therefore affirm
the order issued by that panel.
case had its origin in 2005, when Steven Berg filed, in the
Circuit Court for Montgomery County, a complaint for divorce
and other relief against appellee, Susan Berg. Ms. Berg filed
a counter-claim for divorce in which she also asked for
alimony, child support, child custody, and a monetary award.
early part of June 2007, a merits trial was held to address
numerous issues about which the parties disagreed. After an
evidentiary hearing, the circuit court took the matter under
advisement. The court, inter alia, later made a
$450,000 monetary award in favor of Susan Berg, which was
reduced to judgment. Mr. Berg thereafter made irregular
payments on that judgment but, to date, the judgment has not
been paid in full.
August 7, 2012, Ms. Berg brought a garnishment action against
Mr. Berg in which she sought to seize some of her
ex-husband's personal property. With that filing, Ms.
Berg attached an interest worksheet setting forth the method
she had used in applying payments made on the
judgment. According to her worksheet, Mr. Berg,
as of September 27, 2012, had paid $371,562.51 toward the
judgment but still owed $225,575.62. In that worksheet, she
allocated all the payments received to principal and none to
March 27, 2014, Ms. Berg again brought a garnishment action -
this time attempting to attach Mr. Berg's wages. She
again attached an interest worksheet. That worksheet showed
that she applied the payments first to interest and then to
principal. The worksheet indicated that since September 27,
2012, Mr. Berg had made an additional payment of $10,000, but
he still owed $248,746.65.
Berg objected to the method his ex-spouse used in applying
payments on the March 27, 2014 worksheet. He contended that
Ms. Berg should have applied his payments first to principal.
October 1, 2014, the circuit court held an evidentiary
hearing concerning Mr. Berg's objection to the
garnishment worksheet. The purpose of the hearing was to
determine the outstanding balance Mr. Berg owed on the
judgment. At the hearing, exhibits were introduced and the
court heard testimony from Ms. Berg. Thereafter, on December
17, 2014, the court entered a written order stating that all
payments made on the judgment prior to August 7, 2012 should
have been exclusively applied to the payment of principal and
all payments made thereafter should be applied to the payment
of accrued interest first and principal second.
Ms. Berg filed a timely motion to alter or amend judgment,
which was denied, she noted an in banc appeal. A hearing
before a panel of three Montgomery County Circuit Court
judges was held on May 8, 2015. At the hearing, Mr. Berg
argued, as he does here, that the in banc panel had no
jurisdiction to entertain the appeal because the issue the
panel was asked to consider did not " stem from a merits
trial." The in banc panel ruled that it did have
jurisdiction to hear the appeal and entered an order
providing that all payments made on the $450,000 judgment
should be credited " first to interest and then to
principal." Mr. Berg noted an appeal to this Court in
which he does not claim that the in banc panel was incorrect
in its ruling concerning the allocation of payments. Instead,
the sole issue he presents is whether the in banc panel had
jurisdiction to consider the issue it decided. According to
Mr. Berg, because the panel had no jurisdiction, the order
entered by the in banc panel should be stricken and the
circuit court's order of December 17, 2014 reinstated.
" When interpreting constitutional provisions, we
generally employ the same rules of construction . . . of
statutory language." Davis v. Slater, 383 Md.
599, 604, 861 A.2d 78 (2004) . . . . One of the cardinal
rules of interpretation is that a court should not reach a
meaning beyond the Constitution unless the relevant section
is ambiguous. Bernstein v. State, 422 Md. 36, 43, 29
A.3d 267 (2011) . . . .
" Like construing a statute, to ascertain the meaning of
a constitutional provision . . . we first look to the normal,
plain meaning of the language." Davis, 383 Md.
at 604, 861 A.2d 78 . . . . When that language is clear and
unambiguous, we need not review more than the words of the
constitutional provision. Id. at 604-05, 861 A.2d 78
. . . . However, we note that our " goal . . . is always
to discern the legislative purpose, the ends to be
accomplished, or the evils to be ...