Monday, December 10, 2012

Dakrish, LLC T/A Vineyards Elite v. Ran Raich (Ct. of Special Appeals)

Filed: November 30, 2012.
Opinion by Judge Kathryn Grill Graeff.

Held: A party to a liquor board decision in circuit court has standing to appeal that court's decision to the Court of Special Appeals.  The review of a liquor board's decision by the Court of Special Appeals is limited to determining whether substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports the board's findings.  
Facts: The Baltimore County Liquor Board  ("Board") denied Applicant’s liquor license application. The Board reached their decison after hearing from several experts that presented conflicting testimony on the demand for the store, it's geographic location, proximity to other stores, and other factors.  The Applicant petitioned the Circuit Court for review, which reversed the Board's denial. The Circuit Court found “the Board’s decision was flawed because it failed to balance appropriate factors to be considered by the Board pursuant to Maryland Code (2011 Repl. Vol.) Art. 2B § 10-202(a)(2)(i), and gave undue weight to the potential for impact on existing licensees”  and remanded the case to the Board with instructions to issue a liquor license. 
Appellant, appearing at the Board hearing through one of its licensees in opposition to Applicant’s petition for a license, appealed to the Court of Special Appeals ("Court").  The Court addressed whether appellant had standing to bring suit and whether the Board had to consider all of the factors enumerated in the liquor licensing statute in reaching a decision to deny an application.

Analysis:  Applicant first argued Appellant lacked standing to seek judicial review of the Board’s decision as it was not an aggrieved party. The Court agreed that a person appealing to the circuit court must be aggrieved but found that appellant had the right to appeal pursuant to Md. Ann. Code art. 2B, § 16-101(f) as it was a party of record to the Circuit Court case.

The Court then addressed whether the Board was required to consider each of the enumerated factors of the liquor licensing statute.  Using United Steelworkers of America v. Bethlehem Steel Corporation, 298 Md. 665 (1984), Applicant contended that the Board here did not make adequate findings on the record with respect to each of the applicable factors to support its denial of the license application.  The Court noted the liquor licensing statute does not require that the Board set forth specific findings of fact and conclusions of law.  Instead, the Court stated its role is limited to "determining whether there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the Board's conclusion."  The Court found such evidence to exist and supported the Board’s decision.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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