IN THE MATTER OF GERALD S. DORY
Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No.
Shaw Geter, Gould, JJ.
appeal, we examine the statutory right of a guardian of
property to a commission for the sale of real property and
the scope of a trial court's authority to deny or alter a
order of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County,
Terry Sullivan was appointed guardian of the property of Mr.
Gerald S. Dory, an elderly widower, who was admitted to
Prince George's County Hospital Center in 2013. There, he
was diagnosed with dementia and an altered mental state after
he was found living in a house in Capitol Heights without
electricity, heat, or running water.
authority as guardian was limited by the Letters of
Guardianship of Property (the "Letters"), which
required her to obtain a court order before selling or
otherwise encumbering Mr. Dory's real property.
Accordingly, when Mr. Dory's property located at 1520
Monroe Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20010 (the
"Property") went into foreclosure in 2016, Sullivan
filed a petition requesting the court's permission to
conduct a private sale. The court authorized Sullivan to list
the Property and subsequently ratified the contract of sale
at a price above the Property's appraised value. Sullivan
then petitioned the court for a commission on the sale
pursuant to the rate of commissions authorized under the
Seventh Judicial Circuit,  Local Rule BR7. On June 25, 2018, the
court denied the petition, without a hearing, after
determining that the commission was not in Mr. Dory's
best interest and that it was wholly inequitable when
considering the time and labor expended by Sullivan.
timely noted her appeal from the court's denial of her
petition and presents two questions for our review,
 from which
we extract one question that is dispositive: Did the circuit
court apply an incorrect legal standard in denying Sullivan a
commission on the sale of Mr. Dory's real property?
reasons that follow, we hold that the circuit court applied
the wrong standard. Accordingly, we remand to the circuit
court with instruction to consider Sullivan's entitlement
to her commission applying the correct legal standard.
February 21, 2013, Dimensions Healthcare System
("Dimensions"), doing business as Prince
George's Hospital Center, filed a petition seeking the
appointment of guardians of the person and property of Gerald
S. Dory in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County.
As set forth in the petition, Mr. Dory, a widower with two
children, had been a patient of Prince George's Hospital
Center in Cheverly, Maryland since his admission on January
25, 2013. An Adult Protective Services investigation was
ongoing because Mr. Dory had been found in his Capitol
Heights home without utilities or running water.
Physician's certificates attached to the petition
indicated that Mr. Dory, then 80 years of age, suffered from
dementia and was unable to manage his property and affairs.
The petition stated that Mr. Dory was a disabled person as
defined within the Maryland Code (1974, 2017 Repl. Vol.),
Estates and Trusts Article ("ET"), §§
13-201(c) and 13-705(b),  and requested that the court appoint (1) a
Guardian of the Person of Mr. Dory, (2) a Guardian of the
Property of Mr. Dory, and (3) an attorney to represent Mr.
Dory. Along with the petition, Dimensions filed a motion
requesting an expedited hearing on the basis that Mr. Dory
was ready to be discharged from the hospital but unable to
consent to discharge and placement.
hearing for the appointment of temporary guardians and
counsel for Mr. Dory took place in the circuit court on March
5, 2013. The court, on March 7, 2013, entered orders: (1)
appointing Theresa Grant, Director for the Prince
George's County Office of Aging, as temporary guardian of
the person of Mr. Dory; (2) appointing Sullivan as temporary
guardian of the property of Mr. Dory; and (3) appointing
Shelton Skolnick to represent Mr. Dory in the guardianship
proceedings. That same day, Mr. Dory was moved to Cherry Lane
Nursing Center in Laurel and became a resident there.
guardianship hearing was held on May 17, 2013. Mr. Skolnick
represented Mr. Dory. The court found that Mr. Dory was
disabled and unable to care for his person and property, and
that guardianship was appropriate because "no less
restrictive form of intervention [was] available consistent
with [Mr. Dory's] welfare and safety." The court
appointed Ms. Grant as guardian of the person of Mr. Dory and
Sullivan as guardian of the property of Mr. Dory. The Letters
of Guardianship of Property, entered on May 21, 2013,
required Sullivan to seek the court's permission to sell
any real property or pay any commissions or attorney's
fees. The Letters ordered:
Terry K. Sullivan, Esq. be and hereby is appointed guardian
of the property of GERALD S. DORY, with all the rights,
duties, and powers as set forth in Estates and Trusts
Article, Section 13, Subtitle 2, of the Annotated Code of
(1) The guardian may not sell, invest in, mortgage or
otherwise encumber any real property without further order of
(2) All investments shall be federal insured investments,
unless otherwise ordered by the Court; and
(3) The guardian may not pay commissions or attorney's
fees without order of court[.]
November 14, 2016, Sullivan filed a petition requesting
permission to sell real property owned by Mr. Dory located at
1520 Monroe Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20010. Sullivan
noted that the Property was in foreclosure after the D.C.
Superior Court entered an order granting a default judgment
and decree of sale against Mr. Dory. In further support of the petition to
sell the Property through a private sale, Sullivan indicated:
(a) Mr. Dory's "medical condition [was] anticipated
to be life long and require care in a long term care
facility[;]"(b) the Property was "vacant and in
poor condition[;]" and (c) Mr. Dory "lack[ed]
sufficient monthly income to adequately maintain the
[P]roperty . . . and meet his personal and medical
needs." Sullivan had already contacted a licensed
realtor and attached to the petition a proposed listing
agreement that included an initial listing price of $700,
court entered an order on December 12, 2016, authorizing
Sullivan to list the Property for sale for at least the
appraised value and instructing Sullivan to present to the
court for ratification any contract that she intended to
presented an appraisal of the Property and an offer from
Dilan Investment LLC ("Purchaser") to the court for
ratification on January 25, 2017. Though the Property was
appraised at $575, 000, the sales price in the offer from the
Purchaser had a cap of $706, 100. The court entered an order
ratifying the contract of sale between the Purchaser and
Sullivan (as Guardian of the Property of Mr. Dory), finding
that the sale price was "fair and equitable" based
on the appraisal. As a result of the sale, the guardianship
estate satisfied the outstanding mortgage on the Property and
realized net proceeds of $180, 510.87. Sullivan resolved the
pending foreclosure action, which was dismissed by the lender
on May 23, 2017.
5, 2017, Sullivan filed a "Petition for Approval of
Commissions on Sale of Real Property." Citing to ET
§ 13-218, Sullivan averred "a guardian of the
property is entitled to the same compensation as the trustee
of a trust." As required by ET § 14.5-708(d), which
governs commissions available to trustees, Sullivan
calculated the total commission-amounting to $9, 331-pursuant
to the rate of commissions specified in Local Rule
sent notice of the petition to all interested parties,
including Theresa Grant, guardian of the person of Mr. Dory.
memorandum and order denying Sullivan's petition, the
circuit court judge relied on Sokol v. Nattans, 26
Md.App. 65 (1975), for the proposition that "a trustee
does not automatically get the commissions and allowances
authorized by statutes." The court opined that
"[t]he statutes and the local rule make it clear that
commissions are not automatic and that the Court has
discretion in awarding them." The court interpreted
Bunn v. Kuta, 109 Md.App. 53 (1996), to support the
trial court's "discretion to diminish commissions
for just cause" "notwithstanding the language in
[Local Rule] BR7 limiting the Court's authority to
diminish commissions in the event of neglect or other fault
on the part of the trustee or other fiduciary[.]"
court looked "to the totality of the circumstances"
and observed that Sullivan enlisted the services of a realtor
who already received $21, 183 in commissions for selling the
Property. From the court's perspective, Sullivan
"[sought] a commission simply by virtue that she is the
guardian." According to the court, Sullivan did not earn
any "special commission" as she "did not
provide unusual services nor d[id] any unusual circumstance
exist"; rather, in the court's view, the sale of the
Property was "consistent with the general duties and
responsibilities of a guardian." The court noted its
role as "the ultimate guardian of the ward," and
found that "[a]ll of [Mr. Dory's] income, with the
exception of his personal needs allowance[, ] is required for
his care." Consequently, the court found that the
"commission requested based on the sale of the
ward's real property is not in the best interest of the
ward and is wholly inequitable when considering the time and
labor expended by the guardian." Sullivan timely noted
argues, "[a]s a threshold matter," that "the
Circuit Court misconstrued applicable Maryland law regarding
the compensation afforded to court-appointed guardians in
connection with the sale of real property." Sullivan
contends that, reading together and harmonizing ET
§§ 13-218(a), 14.5-708(a)(1)(i), 14.5-708(d)(1),
and Local Rule BR7, a guardian is entitled to a commission
"absent certain, narrow exceptions" and that the
court must approve a commission "as a matter of
law" where no exception applies. Because the circuit
court did not find that an exception applied in this case,
Sullivan asserts, the circuit court "erred as a matter
of law by denying the Guardian's petition for a
commission." Sullivan submits that the judge was under
the mistaken view that she had the discretion to deny the
commission, as evidenced by her ruling that "the
commission requested . . . [was] not in the best interest of
the ward" and that the commission was "wholly
inequitable when considering the time and labor expended by
the guardian." Sullivan adds that, even if the court had
found that an exception applied and was then in a position to
exercise her discretion to deviate from the statutory
commission, the concerns articulated by the judge were not
relevant, and "any reliance on a 'best
interests' analysis to deny compensation would amount to
a clear abuse of discretion."
central question in this appeal concerns the trial
court's authority to review and determine the commission
that a guardian of the property may receive for the sale of
real property under ET §§ 13-218(a),
14.5-708(a)(1)(i), and 14.5-708(d)(1), and Local Rule BR7. We
accord no deference to the trial court's interpretations
of statutes and rules. Davis v. Slater, 383 Md. 599,
604 (2004). Although we yield to a trial court's factual
determinations, we do not defer to the court's legal
determinations. 100 Harborview Drive Condo. Council of
Unit Owners v. Clark, 224 Md.App. 13, 38 (2015).
"well established that '[t]he cardinal rule of
statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the
real and actual intent of the Legislature.'"
Espina v. Prince George's Cty., 215 Md.App. 611,
630 (2013) (quoting Lockshin v. Semsker, 412 Md.
257, 274 (2010), aff'd sub nom. Espina v.
Jackson, 442 Md. 311 (2015). In construing statutes and
rules of procedure,
[W]e begin with the normal, plain meaning of the language of
the statute. 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[.] We, however, do not read statutory
language in a vacuum, nor do we confine strictly our
interpretation of a statute's plain language to the
isolated section alone. Rather, the plain language must be
viewed within the context of the statutory scheme to which it
belongs, considering the purpose, aim, or policy of the
Legislature in enacting the statute.
Williams v. Peninsula Reg'l Med. Ctr., 440 Md.
573, 580-81 (2014) (citation omitted). Where the language of
the statute or rule is ambiguous, "we usually look
beyond the statutory language to the statute's
legislative history, prior case law, the statutory purpose,
and the statutory structure" to help discern the General
Assembly's intent. Spangler v. McQuitty, 449 Md.
33, 49-50 (2016) (citation omitted); see also David A. v.
Karen S., 242 Md.App. 1, 32 (2019), cert.
denied, 446 Md. 219 (2019) (finding the statutory
language to be ambiguous and, therefore, "turn[ing] our
attention to our other tools of statutory analysis"). We
"seek to harmonize statutes on the same subject,"
Brendoff v. State, 242 Md.App. 90, 109 (2019),
because we presume that the General Assembly intended to
create "a consistent and harmonious body of law."
Battley v. Banks, 177 Md.App. 638, 650 (2007)
13, Subtitle 2 of the Estates and Trusts Article addresses
various aspects of guardianship of property, including the
appointment of a guardian,  the standard of care and skill required of
a guardian, 
the court's authority to impose limitations on a
guardian's authority, as well as the allowance of a
guardian's commissions. The activities of a guardian
"are overseen by the circuit court, which has
'exclusive jurisdiction over protective proceedings for
disabled persons,' under ET § 13-105(b)."
Battley, 177 Md.App. at 648. Correspondingly, as the
Court stated in Kicherer v. Kicherer, the court is
"in reality" the ultimate guardian of the ward:
a court of equity assumes jurisdiction in guardianship
matters to protect those who, because of illness or other
disability, are unable to care for themselves. In reality[, ]
the court is the guardian; an individual who is given that
title is merely an agent or arm of that tribunal in carrying
out its sacred responsibility.
285 Md. 114, 118 (1979). The scope of a court's
discretion and authority under the statute is guided by the
statute's plain language. See Barrett v.
Barrett, 240 Md.App. 581, 591 (2019) (noting that trial
courts do not have discretion to apply incorrect legal
statutory scheme provides that: (1) a guardian is compensated
as a trustee under ET § 13-218(a); (2) a guardian's
commission is further structured according to the specific
instructions and limitations set out in ET § 14.5-708;
and (3) commissions for the sale ...