Law of the Case in Maryland
"'Once a decision is established as the controlling legal rule of decision between the same parties in the same case it continues to be the law of the case.'" Hagez v. State, 131 Md. App. 402, 418, 749 A.2d 206, cert. denied, 359 Md. 669, 755 A.2d 1140 (2000).
"[A] trial court ruling may stand as the law of the case when no appeal is taken from it." Ralkey v. Minnesota Mining and Mfg. Co., 63 Md. App. 515, 521, 492 A.2d 1358 (1985). See also Baltimore Police Dept. v. Cherkes, 140 Md. App. 282, 301-02, 780 A.2d 410 (2001) (recognizing the law of the case doctrine but holding it to be inapplicable "'between courts of coordinate jurisdiction before entry of a final judgment'") .
Although the issue is one of first impression in Maryland, extraterritorial courts have held that the doctrine of the law of the case is applicable to a motion to correct an illegal sentence.
In United States v. Mazak, 789 F.2d 580 (7th Cir. 1986), Mazak argued on direct appeal that his consecutive prison terms were barred by the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. His argument was rejected, and his sentence affirmed.
Mazak then moved in the trial court to correct an illegal sentence under Fed. R. Crim. P. 35(a), advancing the same grounds rejected in his direct appeal.
The trial court addressed the merits of Mazak's argument, but ultimately denied his motion.
Considering Mazak's appeal of that denial, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the doctrine of the law of the case applied.
Once this court has decided the merits of a ground of appeal, that decision establishes the law of the case and is binding on a [trial] judge asked to decide the same issue in a later phase of the same case, unless there is some good reason for reexamining it. And similarly we will be bound on a subsequent appeal, subject always of course to the flexible contours of the law of the case doctrine. Id. at 581.