Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Records Unsealed, Doors Re-opened to Proceedings in Maryland Police Shooting Settlement

Maryland newspaper The Baltimore Sun (Sun) sought reversal of a 1999 court order closing courtroom doors and sealing records in a civil settlement for wrongful death following a shooting by police. On a writ of certiorari, the appellate court reversed the order and allowed public inspection.

While under investigation for shooting at his girlfriend and her boyfriend in 1995, and reduced to patrolman, Charles Smothers shot and killed James Quarles. Police said the shooting was justified because Quarles had a knife. His family brought a wrongful death action against the City of Baltimore and its Mayor for allowing Smothers to return to active duty after the 1995 incident. A court held settlement hearing ensued prior to trial. The parties requested confidentiality and the judge, within 24 hours, ordered the door to the proceedings closed and the records sealed.

The Sun brought suit to inspect the records and the court granted the City's summary judgment motion to dismiss the case. The Sun appealed and the appellate court issued a writ of certiorari before consideration by the intermediate court.

The Second Division Court of Appeals of Maryland held that the judge erred because only by statute could he order the doors closed and seal the record. The appeals court further found error because prior holdings by the Second Division required that the press and general public have ample time to object to the parties' confidentiality requests prior to judicial exclusion. See: The Baltimore Sun Company v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 359 Md. 653, 755 A.2d 1130 (Md. 2000).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

The Baltimore Sun Company v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore