Whether a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge properly transferred a case pitting county preservationists against Hampstead development to Carroll County will be decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Irma S. Raker said in a split opinion yesterday that transferring a civil case from one Circuit Court to another is a final judgment and immediately subject to appeal. A lower court had ruled the change of venue was not subject to appeal. .
Baltimore County preservationists and landowners have sought to halt wastewater runoff from Hampstead's Roberts Field community into Piney Run, which flows across Baltimore County to Loch Raven Reservoir.
Carroll County, the town of Hampstead, Roberts Field developers and homeowners want the civil lawsuit heard in Carroll Circuit Court, while Piney Run Preservation Association and Baltimore County landowners want it heard in their county, where the suit was filed nearly two years ago.
A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge granted a venue change Feb. 1, 1999, shifting the case to Carroll County, and the preservationists appealed the move to the state Court of Special Appeals.
The state's second-highest court said a change of venue could not be appealed because no final judgment had been rendered. The preservationists appealed that procedural and technical decision to the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland's highest court.
"Alleluia," Edward A. Halle Jr., a lawyer and vice president of Piney Run Preservationist Association, said after learning of yesterday's appellate decision. "It means we have a shot for the case to be heard in Baltimore County, where we believe we will get a fairer shake."
Linda S. Woolf, a Baltimore attorney representing Carroll County, said she was confident that judges in either jurisdiction would handle the case appropriately.