A Helping Hand, LLC v. Baltimore County, Md – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

A Helping Hand, LLC v. Baltimore County, Md - Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In A Helping Hand, LLC v. Baltimore County, Md., 515 F.3d 356 (4th Cir.2008), a methadone treatment clinic (the Clinic) obtained a valid permit to operate on a particular parcel of land in Baltimore County, Maryland (the Slade Avenue location), as required by the applicable county zoning ordinance, and had exercised the permit on the land such that the surrounding neighborhood was advised that the Slade Avenue location was being devoted to use as a methadone clinic. Id. at 371.

One day after the Clinic obtained the permit, a bill was signed into law changing the applicable Baltimore County zoning ordinance to add additional requirements for statelicensed medical clinics, including drug abuse treatment centers, to operate in Baltimore County. Id. at 360.

The new zoning law became effective the day of enactment. Id. Soon thereafter, Baltimore County moved to enforce the new zoning law against the Clinic. Id. at 360-61.

The Clinic ultimately sued Baltimore County in federal court for, inter alia, violation of its substantive due process rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment based upon its property interest in its permit to operate its methadone clinic at the Slade Avenue location. Id. at 370. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Clinic on this claim, and Baltimore County appealed. Id. at 361.

On appeal, Baltimore County challenged the district court’s jury instruction that the Clinic had a vested property interest in its continued operation at the Slade Avenue location.

The Court rejected this challenge on the basis that the district court did not err in so instructing the jury. Id. at 372.

In this regard, the Court first observed that state law governed the issue of whether the Clinic had a cognizable property interest that could trigger federal due process guarantees. Id. at 370.

Next, we set forth requirements under Maryland law for the Clinic to have a vested property right in continued operation at the Slade Avenue location: "‘it is established that in order to obtain a "vested right" in the existing zoning use which will be constitutionally protected against a subsequent change in the zoning ordinance prohibiting or limiting that use, the owner must (1) obtain a permit or occupancy certificate where required by the applicable ordinance and (2) must proceed under that permit or certificate to exercise it on the land involved so that the neighborhood may be advised that the land is being devoted to that use.’" Id. at 370-71.In A Helping Hand, LLC v. Baltimore County, 515 F.3d 356 (4th Cir. 2008), the Court held that the appellant’s sufficiency of the evidence challenge to a due process claim could not be entertained on appeal because the appellant had failed to move for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 50(b). 525 F.3d at 369-70.

At the close of the evidence, the appellant moved pursuant to Rule 50(a) on all claims, and the district court reserved the preverdict motion with respect to the due process claim. Id. at 369.

After the jury returned a verdict for the appellee on this claim, the court denied the Rule 50(a) motion and advised the parties that they had ten days to renew their motions for judgment as a matter of law. Id.

Because the appellant failed to move postverdict for judgment as a matter of law, we concluded there was "‘no basis for review.’" Id. at 370