1. Does Montgomery County have authority to turn over the control of sales,
distribution and possession of alcoholic beverages to people who are not licensed
under Article 2B?
2. Does the County Executive have exclusive policymaking authority over the operation of the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control?
Answer: 1. Montgomery County does not presently have authority to allow an unlicensed contractor to control the sales, distribution, and possession of alcoholic beverages in Montgomery County.
2. The Montgomery County Executive has exclusive policymaking authority over the operation of the Department of Liquor Control.
Opinion No. 97-013
June 4, 1997
Question: May a municipality allow a church to use portions of a publicly owned facility, an armory, for two purposes: Sunday worship, in an area that is used on other days by various secular organization; and office space for the minister of the church, occupied on a full-time basis for what is described as "nominal rent"?
Answer: Because the space used for Sunday worship is made available to the church on essentially the same terms as the space is made available to other organizations, the use is not objectionable under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause, however, prohibits the government from providing a subsidy for the maintenance of a church office, in the form of a below-market rent.
June 4, 1997
1. May a reconstructed Catholic Chapel, or the land on which the original Chapel
stood, be given by the Historic St. Mary's City Commission to the Archdiocese
of Washington, presumably for the site to be used as a place of Catholic worship?
2. Do Article 27, §§265 and 267 of the Maryland Code, dealing with grave desecration, apply to the Commission?
Answer: 1. The Establishment Clause would prohibit the Commission from conveying a State asset, whether unimproved land or a building, to a religious organization for less than its fair market value.
2. Article 27, §§265 and 267 do not apply to the activities of a State agency, including the Commission.
Opinion No. 97-016
June 30, 1997
May a planning commission member be removed for malfeasance in office only if
the member commits a crime?
Answer: Removal for malfeasance in office requires that the actions or conduct of the planning commission member have a direct relation to the performance of official duties and be of a substantial nature directly affecting the public interest, albeit not necessarily a violation of the criminal law.
June 9, 1997
Are retired masters who are members of the Judges' Retirement System eligible
for health insurance benefits under the State Employee and Retiree Health and
Welfare Benefits Program?
Opinion No. 97-010
April 16, 1997
Can retailers continue to collect bad check fees despite the seeming repeal
in 1996 of the statutory authority for the fees?
Answer: The 1996 legislation should not be construed to repeal the prior specific legislative authorization for these fees. Language in the 1996 legislation that, applied literally, would result in a repeal was a drafting mistake, which should not be given effect.
Opinion No. 97-011
May 1, 1997
Is a taxpayer entitled to a refund for taxes paid on the unused portion of a
line-of-credit debt secured by a deed of trust, if at the time of recording
the taxpayer prepaid the recordation tax on the maximum amount of secured indebtedness,
rather than on the amount of the initial advance only?
Answer: No. Recordation tax that a borrower chooses to prepay on a line-of-credit mortgage or deed of trust is not refundable, even if the borrower ultimately does not incur the maximum amount of available debt.
Opinion No. 97-015
June 11, 1997
Under what circumstances do landlords receive the benefit of the limits on liability
contained in the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program Act of 1994, when tenants
had differing levels of lead in their blood in tests done both before and after
the effective date of the Act?
Answer: The applicability of the liability limits generally depends on whether tests done after the Act's effective date reflect exposure to lead that occurred before the effective date or after. Also relevant is the level of exposure, as measured by tests.
Opinion No. 97-009
April 7, 1997
1. Are lawyers who provide voluntary, pro bono legal services in programs administered
by charitable organizations immune from tort liability in connection with those
2. Does the Maryland Legal Services Corporation have authority to require lawyers to report their compliance with the mandatory IOLTA statute?
Answer: 1. Volunteer lawyers enjoy immunity protection under the Maryland Volunteer Service Act, §5-314 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article.
2. The Corporation does not have authority to mandate the submission of compliance reports. Such a requirement could be imposed, however, through the rulemaking authority of the Court of Appeals.
Robert J. Rhudy
May 1, 1997
Are there First Amendment limitations that pertain to the ability of public
libraries to limit minors' access to certain materials or to provide for parental
knowledge or control of materials used by a dependent child?
Answer: Public libraries may act in aid of parents who wish to control the access of their children by restricting access to some materials without parental consent, but a parent could not compel a library to do so.
Samuel I. Rosenberg
May 16, 1997
Do the Washington County Commissioners have the authority to recognize, for
collective bargaining purposes, an organization of deputy sheriffs or other
employees of the sheriff's office?
Answer: Absent express authority by the General Assembly, the Washington County Commissioners lack the authority to recognize an organization to represent deputies and other sheriff's office employees for collective bargaining purposes.
John P. Donoghue
April 3, 1997
To what extent are the powers of county commissioners subject to the authority
of the General Assembly?
Answer: Boards of county commissioners are, in essence, agencies of the State that exercise only those powers delegated to them by the General Assembly. The General Assembly has the authority to change those powers at any time.
April 9, 1997
Does a court have authority to order a potentially life-saving blood transfusion
over the objection of a competent patient, on the ground that the patient is
the parent of a young child?
Answer: The Maryland courts are likely to adopt the reasoning of decisions elsewhere that parental status alone does not justify court-ordered blood transfusion over the objection of a patient who is a parent, at least when the other parent is available as caretaker.
May 21, 1997
Does the federal Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act preempt the comparable
State Good Samaritan Law?
Answer: The State Good Samaritan Law, which provides essentially the same protection as the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, is not preempted by the federal Act.
June 27, 1997
Does the MPA have authority to provide a permanent water line for The Sanctuary,
a privately owned vessel intended to be used as a facility for the treatment
of women suffering from drug addiction?
Answer: The MPA does not have the authority to expend its funds for this purpose, which is unrelated to waterborne commerce.
June 5, 1997
Is it possible for the State to permit advertising on the State-wide, subscription
and fee-based Contract Information System and to avoid offensive content, but
not to act as a censor? Is so, what language in an RFP would achieve these objectives?
Answer: Advertising may be permitted on the State-wide Contract Information System, some types of which may be prohibited by the State. Language might be included in the RFP suggesting the types of advertising the contractor could prohibit without making the State the censor of such communications.
J. Colborn, Jr.
June 24, 1997
Is the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Development Corporation subject to the
Public Information act?
Answer: The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Development Corporation is a private entity, its records are not those of "a unit or instrumentality of the State government or of a political subdivision." Thus, it is not subject to the Public Information Act.
R. Taylor, Jr.
May 9, 1997
Are taxes that accrue after the date of a tax sale deducted from the portion
of the purchase price that would be paid to the former owner, or paid by the
Answer: Taxes that accrue after the date of the tax sale must be paid by the purchaser.
April 3, 1997
May calls to the new 311 non-emergency number be recorded in the same manner
as calls to the 911 emergency number?
Answer: No, the provision of law that authorizes the recording of 911 calls, §10-402(c)(5) of the Court Article, does not apply to 311 calls. Because the Baltimore Police Department is a State agency, however, the 311 recording system may be approved by the Attorney General under a different provision, Article 27, §555B(a).
Gary C. May
May 20, 1997