In re Estate of Castruccio, No. 69

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtOpinion by Graeff, J.
Docket NumberNo. 69
Decision Date16 July 2019


No. 69


September Term, 2018
July 16, 2019

Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County
Case No.


Wright, Graeff, Nazarian, JJ.

Opinion by Graeff, J.

*This is an unreported opinion, and it may not be cited in any paper, brief, motion, or other document filed in this Court or any other Maryland Court as either precedent within the rule of stare decisis or as persuasive authority. Md. Rule 1-104.

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This Court is once again asked to review matters related to a protracted dispute between Sadie M. Castruccio, appellant, and Darlene Barclay, appellee, the residuary beneficiary under the will of Ms. Castruccio's deceased husband, Dr. Peter A. Castruccio.1 Following Dr. Castruccio's death in February 2013, and Ms. Castruccio's challenge to the validity of his will, Ms. Castruccio requested, and was granted, several extensions of the period to elect a spousal share of Dr. Castruccio's estate ("the Estate").

On November 2, 2017, the orphans' court granted Ms. Castruccio's 17th request for an extension, which extended the deadline to request a statutory share until February 1, 2018. Ms. Barclay appealed the extension to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.

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By February 1, Ms. Castruccio had neither elected her spousal share in the Estate nor filed a petition to extend the time to make her election. On February 6, Ms. Barclay filed in the circuit court a Notice of Withdrawal of Appeal.

On February 22, Ms. Castruccio filed a motion asking the circuit court to deny Ms. Barclay's "request" to dismiss the appeal, grant Ms. Castruccio's motion for summary judgment, and enter an order extending the time to elect her spousal share. On February 23, 2018, the circuit court ordered that the appeal be dismissed.

On appeal, Ms. Castruccio presents the following question2 for this Court's review:

Did the circuit court err in dismissing the appeal?

For the reasons set forth below, we shall affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

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Dr. Castruccio died on February 19, 2013, at the age of 89. He was survived by his wife of 60 years, Ms. Castruccio. The couple had no children.

Dr. Castruccio left a six-page will at his death, which left cash bequests to Darlene Barclay, a longtime employee of his, and two other people. The will provided that the "rest and remainder" of the Estate go to Ms. Castruccio, on the condition that she survive Dr. Castruccio and that "she [make] and execute[] a will prior to [Dr. Castruccio's] death." The will also contained a residuary clause, stating that, if Ms. Castruccio "does not have a valid will filed with the Register of Wills of Anne Arundel County dated prior to" Dr. Castruccio's death, "all the rest and residue of" the Estate shall go to Ms. Barclay. As this Court has explained, these terms required that Ms. Castruccio "meet three conditions" before she could recover under the will: (1) she "had to survive her husband"; (2) she "had to make and execute a will"; and (3) she "had to file her will with the Register of Wills of Anne Arundel County." Castruccio v. Estate of Castruccio, 239 Md. App. 345, 376-77 (2018), cert. denied, 463 Md. 149 (2019).

At the time of Dr. Castruccio's death, Ms. Castruccio did not have a valid will. Therefore, under the terms of Dr. Castruccio's will, the residuary of the Estate passed to Ms. Barclay. Id. at 354.

Pursuant to Md. Code. (2017 Repl. Vol.) § 3-203 of the Estates and Trusts Article ("ET"), a surviving spouse of a decedent may take a percentage share of the decedent's estate in lieu of property left to the spouse in the will. ET § 3-206 sets a time deadline for such an election. Here, Ms. Castruccio had until nine months after Dr. Castruccio's

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February 19, 2013, death to elect a statutory share of the Estate, in lieu of taking under the will.3

"For good cause shown," the orphans' court "may extend the time for election for a period not to exceed three months at a time." ET § 3-206(a)(2)(ii). Neither the orphans' court nor the circuit court has discretion, however, to grant an extension request that was not made within the time initially allowed or extended by a previous order. Downes v. Downes, 388 Md. 561, 565-66, 576 (2005).

On October 23, 2013, approximately one month prior to the deadline, Ms. Castruccio filed a request for an extension to take the elective share, which the circuit court granted. Over the next four years, Ms. Castruccio filed multiple additional requests for an extension. The orphans' court granted each request.

On November 2, 2017, the orphans' court granted Ms. Castruccio's 17th petition for an extension. On November 30, 2017, Ms. Barclay filed an appeal to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.

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Ms. Castruccio did not take any action with respect to the statutory share by the end of the three-month extension deadline. On February 6, 2018, Ms. Barclay filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss her appeal with the circuit court. The next day, February 7, 2018, Ms. Castruccio filed with the orphans' court an additional request for an extension.

On February 22, 2018, Ms. Castruccio filed an opposition to Ms. Barclay's "motion/request to withdraw appeal" and a motion for summary judgment. She requested that the circuit court

(a) DENY [Ms. Barclay's] Motion/Request to Dismiss this appeal, (b) either (i) treat [the] motion as an abandonment of any opposition to [Ms. Castruccio's request for an extension], or (ii) GRANT [Ms. Castruccio's] Motion for Summary Judgment and, [in] either case[,] enter an Order extending the time within which [Ms. Castruccio] may elect her spousal share for a period not [to exceed] three-months from the date of such Order.

On February 25, 2018, the circuit court entered an "ORDER GRANTING DISMISSAL OF APPEAL." The order stated that, upon consideration of Ms. Barclay's filing a Notice of Withdrawal of Appeal and Ms. Castruccio's opposition, the "appeal is hereby DISMISSED pursuant to MD Rule 7-507(a)(5)."

This appeal followed.


Ms. Castruccio contends that the circuit court had discretion under Maryland Rule 7-507(a)(5)4 to prevent Ms. Barclay from voluntarily withdrawing her appeal. Ms.

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Castruccio has not cited, nor have we found, any Maryland case in which an appellate court has determined that a lower court has discretion to dismiss an appeal that was voluntarily withdrawn. And, as explained infra, we do not interpret Rule 7-507(a) as affording the circuit court such discretion.

The proper interpretation of the Maryland Rules is '"appropriately classified as a question of law,"' which we review de novo. Lisy Corp. v. McCormick & Co., Inc., 445 Md. 213, 221 (2015) (quoting Pickett v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 365 Md. 67, 77 (2001)). We apply the '"same well-established canons of construction that we use when interpreting statutes."' State v. Graham, 233 Md. App. 439, 450 (2017) (quoting Dove v. State, 415 Md. 727, 738 (2010)). The Court of Appeals has set forth the rules of statutory construction as follows:

We have long held that "[t]he cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the Legislature." Williams v. Peninsula Reg'l Med. Ctr., 440 Md. 573, 580, 103 A.3d 658, 663 (2014) (citation omitted). Our primary goal "is to discern the legislative purpose, the ends to be accomplished, or the evils to be remedied by the statutory provision[.]" Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs v. Marcas, L.L.C., 415 Md. 676, 685, 4 A.3d 946, 951 (2010) (citation omitted). As we have so often explained, in undertaking this endeavor:

[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 neither

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add nor delete language so as to reflect an intent not evidenced in the plain and unambiguous language of the statute[.] . . . 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. . . .

Where words of a statute are ambiguous and subject to more than one reasonable interpretation, or where the words are clear and unambiguous when viewed in isolation, but become ambiguous when read as part of a larger statutory scheme, a court must resolve the ambiguity by searching for legislative intent in other

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