In an opinion issued on December 4, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals concluded that the head of the Baltimore City Detention Center, Commissioner John Wolfe, failed to follow the mandatory procedure necessary for him to increase the disciplinary sanction against a correctional officer. The underlying charges against the officer were addressed by a hearing board that recommended that he be demoted and transferred as a sanction for his infractions. Commissioner Wolfe wanted to increase the disciplinary sanction, but, as the Court found, he failed to scrupulously adhere to the procedure set out by law.
The opinion, which is reported, is captioned Foy v. Baltimore City Detention Center, No. 1472, Sept. Term, 2016. A copy of opinion is available here. The opinion was written by Senior Judge Glenn T. Harrell, Jr. The correctional officer was represented by David Gray Wright.
In the opinion, the Court first addresses the finality and appealability of a lower court ruling. In so doing, the Court clarifies and expands upon extant Maryland law on the topic.
As to the disciplinary increase procedure set by law, in the opinion, the Court confirms that the procedure is undoubtedly mandatory. It concludes that “substantial compliance” with the procedure is not sufficient. It opines of the “shortcomings in Commissioner Wolfe’s actions” to comport – or not comport – with the procedure The Court also clarifies the timelines established in the procedure.
The shortcomings to which the Court refers include Commissioner Wolfe’s failure to hold a meeting with the correctional officer “on the record.” That meeting, in that form, is “essential.” It must occur. When Commissioner Wolfe failed to timely hold that meeting on the record, he could not lawfully increase the penalty against the officer. Instead, the recommend penalty – demotion and transfer – had to stand as the valid and lawful disciplinary sanction. In so ruling, the Court confirmed a tenet of law long applied under another statutory scheme, and made clearer the consequence of untimely acts under such due process schemes.