Community and Labor United for Baltimore Charter Committee (CLUB) v. Baltimore City Board of Elections was a case before the Maryland Court of Appeals in 2003 concerning open meetings law.
This case established that notice must be given of all meetings of legislative agencies, whether a quorum of members is expected or not.
- Two competing proposals for restructuring the Baltimore City council were set to run in the Baltimore City election in Nevember 2002. One proposal, proposition P, sponsored by CLUB and the non-profit ACORN would create 14 single member districts with the president elected at large. The alternative proposal, proposition Q, proposed by the city council itself, would create seven two member districts with a president elected at large. If the two proposals both passed on the ballot, then they would nullify each other and the structure of the city council would remain unchanged with six three member districts and a president elected at large.
- Acorn had obtained ample signatures to have proposition P placed on the ballot for the 2002 election.
- On August 8, 2002, the city council convened a meeting in order to vote to place proposal Q on the November ballot. The council discussed the proposal at the meeting and finally passed the proposal on August 12, 2002.
- The President of the council opted not to notify the media, thinking that they would criticize the council for the heated debate that would occur concerning the proposal in question. However, upon recieving notification of the meeting, one of the city council members notified the press and the Baltimore Sun announced the meeting the day before.
- The meeting was held according to schedule, inside city property. The number of council members at the meeting varied at any given time but a total of 10 members, a quorum of the council, attended some part of the meeting. The President announced that the meeting would be open to the public if 10 council members were ever present in the room at the same time. Reporters were only allowed inside the meeting for a very brief period of time, and then promptly escorted out when one of the council members left the meeting.
- CLUB filed suit after the August 12 meeting in which the council passed proposal Q. CLUB alleged that the Baltimore City COUncil had violated the states open meetings laws by not providing notification of the meeting. The City denied the accusation, claiming that the were not obligated to announce the meeting because they were not expecting a quorum to be present at the meeting.
- The circuit court ruled in favor of the city on September 26, 2002.
- The decision was appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals.
Ruling of the court
The circuit court ruled in favor of the city, claiming that the ciy had not violated the open meetings law.
The Court of Appeals overturned the decision of the circuit court and held that the city violated the open meetings laws.
The Court of Appeals determined that the intention of the Maryland Open Meetings Act is to allow the public to view the full deliberative process of the states legislative bodies. The court felt that the heated debate that the president wished to shield from the scrutiny of the media was the very heated debate that the act was intended to place in the public's view. Further, merely because the President of the council was not expecting a quorum, did not mean there would not be one. The court held that because of the lack of concrete predictability with regard to attendance, the council must always provide notification for a meeting. Based on these facts, the court determined that the city council willfully and knowingly violated the open meetings law in order to prevent the public from viewing the deliberations associated with the proposition and the only appropriate remedy was to invalidate the actions of the council. Thus, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision of the trial court and voided the city council's proposition.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Ruling of the Court