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Washabaugh v. Washabaugh

Case Conclusion Date: 07.13.1979

Practice Area: Alimony

Outcome: Plaintiff Prevailed - The Long Way

Description: Mrs. Washabaugh sued her husband for alimony. The Circuit Court granted alimony. The husband appealed using a constituional provision for an en banc appeal. The procedure then was for a panel of 3 Circuit Court judges to hear the case. Meng argued that all judges of the Circuit should hear the case. The Motion was granted as to 14 of the then 15 judges. The chief judge reasoned that the 15th judge, being the one who heard the case, should not sit. However, ultimately the chief judge relented and the 15th judge sat. It turned out that he was the crucial tie breaking vote. The issue had ceased really to be one of alimony and turned into whether the en banc procedure was consitutional. The issue changed because one of the Circuit Court judges requested the parties to address the consitiutionality of the procedure. It made no sense for the Appellant's lawyer to argue that the procedure was unconstitutional as successfully doing so would have terminated his appeal. So it was left up to Meng. Meng argued that the procedure was unconstitutional. The Circuit Court decided on a vote of 8 to 7 that the procedure was unconstitutional. A Petition for Writ of Certiorari was granted along with another case. The two appeals from judgments of the Circuit Court, sitting en banc, Prince George's County, dismissing appeals were argued at same sitting of the Court of Appeals following grant of certiorari to the Court of Special Appeals prior to its hearing of the appeals. The Court of Appeals, Digges, J., held that fact that proliferation of courts and judges in Baltimore City would cause greater difficulty and inconvenience in coordinating en banc appeals in Baltimore City than in any other circuit provided “rational basis” to constitutionally justify any exception of circuit court for Baltimore City from provision of Constitution establishing en banc appeal procedures in circuit courts. Characterizing the 15 judge court as a rump court, the Court of Appeals, vVacated and remanded to court en banc for consideration of points properly reserved. Back in the Circuit Court the 3 judge en banc panel affirmed the grant of the alimony. An interesting side note is that a lifelong friendship was developed between Mr. Meng and Mr. Washabaugh's attorney, Melvin Hirshman. Mr. Hirshman is now Bar Counsel for the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland and Mr. Meng is one of the 12 Commissioners for the Attorney Grievance Commission.

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