Estime v. King

Decision Date02 December 2010
Docket NumberNo. 00713, Sept. Term, 2009.,00713, Sept. Term, 2009.
Citation196 Md.App. 296,9 A.3d 148
PartiesLunique ESTIME v. Fairfax F. KING, et al.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Lunique Estime, Lanham, MD, for appellant.

Brief not submitted by appellees.

Panel: WOODWARD, MATRICCIANI, CHARLES E. MOYLAN, JR. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

MATRICCIANI, J.

Appellant Lunique Estime appeals from the denial of a motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of appellant's complaint to foreclose right of redemption in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Appellant presents two issues for our consideration, which we have consolidated into one issue with two sub-issues, and rephrased as follows: 1

Whether the circuit court abused its discretion in denying appellant's motion to reinstate his complaint to foreclose the right of redemption, because:
A. Appellant's notification of his new address was proper and timely; and
B. The circuit court clerk's failure to send a copy of the court's order to appellant's new address constituted anirregularity of process or procedure under Md. Rule 2-535(b).

For the reasons set forth below, we answer in the affirmative, and we shall reverse and remand for further proceedings.

FACTS

On May 14, 2007, the City of Baltimore assumed control of Tax Sale Certificate No. 208703 for the property located at 2344 McCulloh Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21217 ("2344 McCulloh Street") at a tax sale for delinquent liens. 2 At the time of the sale, title to the property belonged to appellees Fairfax F. King and Daisy B. King.

On April 1, 2008, appellee Mayor and City Council of Baltimore assigned its interest in the certificate to Lunique Estime, appellant. On May 23, 2008, appellant filed a complaint to foreclose all rights of redemption in the property, pursuant to Md.Code Ann. (1985, 2007 repl. vol.), § 14-835 of the Tax Property Article ("Tax Prop."). This complaint listed appellant's address as 10169 New Hampshire Avenue, Suite 110, Silver Spring, Maryland 20903.

On May 27, 2008, the circuit court entered an order of publication directed to all parties interested in the property, and on the same day the clerk of the court filed a notice to interested parties of the action to foreclose right of redemption. Notice was also published in The Daily Record newspaper for three successive weeks from May 28, 2008 to June 11, 2008. On August 19, 2008, appellant filed a proposed judgment foreclosing right of redemption, as well as a certificate of compliance, an affidavit of compliance with statutory noticeprovisions, and mailing results. Appellant states that-along with these materials-he also submitted a change of address line (stating that his new address was 4601 Presidents Drive, Suite 131, Lanham, Maryland 20706), and "plaintiff's change of address" is listed as one of the enclosed documents in the cover letter filed with the above-named documents on August 19, 2008. Based on the record from the circuit court, however, the change of address line was not filed until January 22, 2009. The address listed in appellant's certificate of compliance was 4601 Presidents Drive, Suite 131, Lanham, Maryland 20706.

On September 2, 2008, the circuit court entered an order requiring additional documentation-specifically, the original certificate of sale for the property-within thirty days. Appellant states that he never received this order, presumably because it was sent to the 10169 New Hampshire Avenue address, since this was the address on file with the court at that time.

On October 23, 2008, the circuit court entered an order dismissing appellant's complaint, without prejudice. On January 22, 2009, appellant filed a motion to reinstate the complaint to foreclose right of redemption. The circuit court denied appellant's motion to reinstate on February 26, 2009, finding that: (1) a line is not a sufficient legal document, (2) the docket entries failed to show that appellant's change of address line was filed with the court prior to January 22, 2009, and (3) the time allowed for revision under Md. Rule 2-535 had expired. Appellant filed a motion for reconsideration and request for a hearing on March 24, 2009, both of which were denied on May 7, 2009. Appellant then timely noted this appeal. Additional facts will be provided as necessary.

DISCUSSION

I.

Appellant contends the circuit court abused its discretion in denying his motion to reinstate the complaint to foreclose the right of redemption. Specifically, appellant argues that his notification of the change in his address was proper andtimely, and that the court clerk's failure to send the court's order for additional documentation to his new address constituted an irregularity of process or procedure under Rule 2-535(b), 3 entitling him to revision of the order of dismissal.

Appellant argues that his notification of change of address was proper and timely for three reasons: first, appellant contends that the line indicating his change of address contained all of the necessary elements of a proper filing, as set out by Md. Rule 1-301(a); second, appellant argues that the docket entries alone are not dispositive of whether the change of address form was timely filed; and third, appellant contends that-even if the change of address line itself was not filed until January 22, 2009-the certificate of compliance, filed on August 19, 2008, contained his new address, and this was sufficient to put the clerk on notice. Consequently, appellant argues, the clerk's failure to mail the order requiring additional documentation to his new address constituted an "irregularity of process" under Md. Rule 2-535(b), entitling him to revisionary relief even after the thirty-day time limit of Rule 2-535(a).

The striking of an enrolled judgment-including an order of dismissal-or the refusal to do so, is in the nature of a final judgment and is appealable. Kraft v. Sussex Constr. Corp., 35 Md.App. 309, 311, 370 A.2d 570 (1977). We review the circuit court's refusal to revise or vacate the judgment of dismissal under an abuse of discretion standard.J.T. Masonry Co. v. Oxford Constr. Services, Inc., 74 Md.App. 598, 607, 539 A.2d 694 (1988). See also Bland v. Hammond, 177 Md.App. 340, 347, 935 A.2d 457 (2007). There is an abuse of discretion " 'where no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the [trial] court,' or when the court acts 'without reference to any guiding rules or principles.' " In re Adoption/ Guardianship No. 3598, 347 Md. 295, 312, 701 A.2d 110 (1997)(quoting North v. North, 102 Md.App. 1, 13, 648 A.2d 1025 (1994)). An abuse of discretion may also be found "where the ruling under consideration is 'clearly against the logic and effect of facts and inferences before the court,' or when the ruling is 'violative of fact and logic.' " Id.

Appellant first contends that the line indicating his change of address contained all of the necessary elements of a proper filing, as set out by Md. Rule 1-301(a). Rule 1-301 proscribes the form of court papers, and provides:

(a) Caption and titling. Every pleading and paper filed shall contain a caption setting forth (1) the parties or, where appropriate, the matter, (2) the name of the court, (3) the assigned docket reference, and (4) a brief descriptive title of the pleading or paper which indicates its nature. An original pleading shall contain the names and addresses, including zip code, of all parties to the action if the names and addresses are known to the person filing the pleading. If the address of a party is unknown, the pleading shall so state. In other pleadings and papers, it is sufficient to state the name of the first party on each side with an appropriate indication of other parties.

Appellant argues that the line indicating his change of address contained each of these items. Even assuming that appellant is correct, however, the record shows that no such line was filed with the circuit court until January 22, 2009, several months after the court's October 23, 2008 order dismissing appellant's complaint for failure to provide the required documentation.

As to timeliness of the filing, appellant argues that the docket entries alone are not dispositive of whether the change of address form was filed before the issuance of the court'sorder for additional documentation. We disagree. The Court of Appeals discussed the importance of docket entries in Forest Lake Cemetery v. Baker, 113 Md. 529, 535, 77 A. 853 (1910), where it explained:

The several Clerks of [the Circuit] Courts shall receive and file all papers pertaining to said Courts, respectively, and shall keep substantial dockets, and make all proper entries therein of papers filed and of the proceedings of the said Courts, as they occur; so that the docket entries shall always show, as near as possible, the real condition and progress of the proceedings.

The Court then went on to explain that one of the most important objects of rules regarding docket entries and filings "is to secure an accurate record of all proceedings in a case, in order that persons interested may by an examination of the docket entries ascertain the exact state of the proceedings." Id. at 535-36, 77 A. 853. There is no indication that the clerk in this case did not fully comply with the rules on maintaining proper dockets. Appellant argues that because the docket entry for October 19, 2008, lists "Certificate of Compliance, Exhibits, and Proposed Order," and he did not submit anything titled "Exhibits," "the intake clerk utilized some other rationale in determining how to characterize a portion of appellant's filings with the court," and asks us to speculate that the change of address line may have been included in the portion of filings labeled as "exhibits." We will not do so. It is the responsibility of attorneys, and by extension pro se litigants, to monitor dockets for when pleadings and other documents are filed. See Maryland Metals v. Harbaugh, 33 Md.App. 570, 575, 365 A.2d 600 (1976); see also Kramer v. McCormick, 59...

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