In State v. Buckingham, 214 Md. App. 672, 78 A.3d 909 (2013), the Court of Special Appeals addressed whether Maryland Rule 2-625 implements the limitations period found in Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 5-102, such that, a judgment held by the State does not extinguish even where it is not renewed by the State after a period of twelve years.
The case arose from a judgment in the form of a “notice of lien” entered on March 27, 1998 by the Circuit Court for Baltimore County in favor of the State of Maryland against Russell Buckingham, a state lottery agent. Id. at 673, 78 A.3d at 910. The lien, totaling $7,078.00 plus interest, reflected proceeds from the sale of lottery tickets that Buckingham failed to remit to the State, inclusive of court costs, a service charge, and penalties. Id. Although the judgment in the form of a notice of lien had never been renewed, on September 13, 2013, more than twelve years later, it was “indexed” in favor of the Central Collection Unit of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management on behalf of the State. Id. at 674-75, 78 A.3d at 910-11. The State also obtained a writ which it served upon Buckingham’s employer garnishing his wages in the amount of $14,574.00, for the unremitted sale of lottery tickets plus interest, court costs, and attorney fees. Id. at 675, 78 A.3d at 911. A year later, the State obtained a second writ garnishing Buckingham’s wages for $15,219.00, reflecting the accrual of additional interest since the first writ. Id.
After the entry of the second writ, Buckingham moved to have the court declare the March 27, 1998 judgment against him null and void and to quash the two writs, arguing that the judgment had expired since it had not been renewed and more than twelve years had elapsed since its entry. Pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-625 “[a] money judgment expires 12 years from the date of entry or most recent renewal […] [a]t any time before expiration of the judgment, the judgment holder may file a notice of renewal and the clerk shall enter the judgment renewed.” Id.; see also Md. Rule 2-625. The lower court ruled in favor of Buckingham on grounds that the judgment had expired. The State filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was denied, and then noted its appeal. Id. at 675, 78 A.3d at 911. On appeal, the State argued that it is subject to the limitations period in the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article Section 5-102, which expressly exempts the State from the requirement that an action on a judgment be filed within twelve years from the date that the cause of action accrues. Id.
The Court of Special Appeals looked to statutory interpretation, focusing on the legislative intent behind the statute’s enactment. Id. at 677, 78 A.3d at 912. In analyzing the Legislature’s intent, the Court considered principles of sovereign immunity under which state statutes of limitations do not apply to the State unless a state statute provides otherwise. Id. ( citing Cent. Collection Unit v. Atl. Container Line, 277 Md. 626, 629, 356 A.2d 555, 557-78 (1976)). The Court also noted that one does “not read statutory language in a vacuum” but, instead, “[w]e presume that the Legislature intends its enactments to operate together as a consistent and harmonious body of law, and, thus, we seek to reconcile and harmonize[.]” Buckingham, 214 Md. App. at 678, 78 A.3d at 912 (quoting Lowery v. State, 430 Md. 477, 496 (2013) (quoting Lockshin v. Semsker, 412 Md. 257, 275–76 (2010)). The Court determined that because enactments are to operate together, Rule 2-625 implements the limitations period in the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article Section 5-102. Buckingham, 214 Md. App. at 680-81, 78 A.3d at 913-14. The Court also provided that because Rule 2-625 implements the limitations period in Section 5-102, Rule 2-625, must, by implication, incorporate the State-held judgment exemption in Section 5-102. Id. Thus, Rule 2-625 does not extinguish a judgment held by the State for more than twelve years without being renewed.
The Court then evaluated the history of Rule 2-625, and concluded that the Rule was not intended “to create a new bar to the enforcement of judgments, but to change procedurally the implementation of the limitations period found in section 5-102 […] [a]nd it certainly was not intended to subject the State to the twelve-year limitations period found in section 5-102.” Id. at 681, 78 A.3d at 914.
In addition, the Court considered Harrison v. Motor Vehicle Admin., 302 Md. 634, 490 A.2d 694 (1985). The Harrison case involved the consolidated cases of Arthur Harrison, Sr. and Clifton Lewis Thacker. Id. at 640. Both Harrison and Thacker were uninsured at the time of their separate vehicle accidents, and, therefore, the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund (“UCJF”) paid the holders of the judgments against them. Id. Pending satisfaction of the judgment to UCJF, the driving and licensing privileges of Harrison and Thacker were suspended. Id. At some point, the driving and licensing privileges of Harrison and Thacker were restored; however, more than twelve years after the original judgment against Harrison and Thacker was entered, the Motor Vehicle Administration (“MVA”) again suspended the privileges of Harrison and Thacker on grounds that they had failed to pay UCJF for the judgments against them. Id. The case came before the Court of Appeals, which held that because the judgments against Harrison and Thacker were “taken for the use of the State,” the State’s exemption from the twelve-year limitations period under Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article Section 5-102(c) applied, and, as such, the judgments were still enforceable, thus the MVA could suspend Harrison and Thacker’s driving and licensing privileges for failing to pay the judgment. Id. at 645.
In the present case, the Court of Special Appeals concluded that, similar to the situation in Harrison where the limitations period did not bar the State from enforcing a judgment, Rule 2-625 does not extinguish a judgment held by the State even where that judgment is not renewed after twelve years. Id. at 683-84, 78 A.3d at 915-16. Thus, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the judgment of the lower court and found in favor of the State.