Ross v. Board of Elections

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IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No.131 September Term 2004 __________________________________ GLENN L. ROSS V. STAT E BO ARD OF EL ECTIO NS, et al. __________________________________ Bell, C.J. Raker Wilner Cathell Harrell Battaglia Greene, JJ. Opinion by Battaglia, J. Bell, C.J. and Raker, J., disse nt. Filed: June 23, 2005 This matter arises out of the 2004 General E lection for th e Thirteenth Counc ilmanic District seat on the Baltim ore City Council in which Paula Johnson Branch was the Demo cratic Party candidate and victor in the election, and Glenn L. Ross was the Green Party candidate and individual who, after the election, challenged Bran ch s qualifications to be on the ballot. We are presented with the question of the applicability of Maryland Code (2002), Sections 9-209 1 and 12-2022 of the Election Law Article, which provide for judicial 1 Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article provides: (a) Timing. Within 3 days after the content and arrangement of the ballot are plac ed on pu blic display under § 9 -207 of th is subtitle, a registered voter may seek judicial review of the content and arrangement, or to correct any other error, by filing a sw orn p etitio n with the circ uit co urt for the cou nty. (b) Relief that may be granted. The circuit court may require the local board to: (1) correct an error; (2)show cause why an error should not be corrected; or (3) take any other action required to provide appropriate relief. (c) Errors discovered after printing. If an error is discovered after the ballots have been prin ted, and the lo cal board f ails to correct the erro r, a registered voter may seek judicial review not later than the second Monday preceding the election. 2 Section 12-202 of the Election Law Article provides: (a) In genera l. If no other timely and adequate remedy is provided by this article, a registered voter may seek judicial relief from any act or omission relating to an election, whether or not the elections has been held, on the grounds of an act or omission: (1) is inconsistent with this article or other law applicable to the elections process; and (2) may change or has changed the outcome of the election. (contin ued...) challenges to aspects of the election process. The Circuit Court for Baltimore City granted the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Respondents, the State Board of Elections and Ms. Branch, based on Petitioner Ross s failure to comply with the time limitations of Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article. We find that the Circuit Court erroneously relied upon Section 9-209 as it does not govern challenges to a candidate s qualifications to appear on the ballot. Because Ross s petition was untimely and thus, as a matter of law, barred by laches, we will upho ld the Circu it Court s en try of summ ary judgmen t. Background Facts The undisputed material facts of this case are as follows. Ms. Paula Johnson Branch filed a certificate of candidacy to run in the election for the Thirteenth Councilmanic District in Baltimore City on June 30, 2003, and in September of 2003, she won the Democratic Primary Election.3 Throughout 2003 and 2004, two campaign finance entities4 raising funds 2 (...continued) (b) Place and time of filing. A registered voter may seek judicial relief unde r this section in the appropriate circuit court within the earlier of: (1) 10 days after the act or omission or the date the act or omission became known to the petitioner; or (2) 7 days after the election results are certified, unless the election was a gubernatorial primary or special primary ele ction , in w hich case 3 days after the election results are certified. 3 Baltimore City held its primary for the Councilmanic District in 2003 and the General (contin ued...) 2 for Branch s campaig n repeated ly failed to file the campaign finance reports required under Section 13-304 o f the Electio n Law A rticle 5 and receiv ed Show Cause n otices from the State 3 (...continued) Election in 2004 in an effort to conform to the schedu le for nation al and state ele ctions to increase voter tu rn out. See Resolution 99-016, Baltimore City Charter, Art. III, § 2 (ratified Novemb er 2, 1999). 4 Campaign finance entity is defined in Section 13-202 (b) of the Election Law Article as: (1) Subject to paragraph (2) of this subsection, an individual may not file a certif icate of can didacy until the individual establish es, or cau ses to be es tabli shed , a campa ign e ntity. (2) The campaign finance entity required by paragraph (1) of this subsection may be either: (i) a personal treasurer; or (ii) a political committee that is an authorized candidate campaign committee. Branch s campaign fina nce entities w ere name d Adv isory Comm ittee to Re-E lect Paula Johnso n Bran ch an d Sup porters o f Paula Johnso n Bran ch. 5 Section 13-304 of the Election Law Article provides: (a) Requirem ent. From the date of its orga nization un til its termination under the provisions o f this title, a campaign finance entit y, except a political club, shall file a campaign finance report at the times, for the periods, and at the locations required by §§ 13-309, 13-312, and 13-315 of this subtitle. (b) Content. A campaign finance report filed by a campaign finance en tity under subse ction (a) of th is section sha ll include the information req uired by the Sta te Board w ith respect to a ll contributions received and all expenditures made by or on be half of the campaign finance entity during the designated reporting period. (c) Continuing requirement for candidates. A campaign finance report prescribed by this subtitle for the campaign finance en tity of a candida te is required w hether or no t: (1) th e can dida te files a c ertif icate of ca ndid acy; (2) the candidate withdraws, declines a (contin ued...) 3 Board for these oversights. On October 13, 2004, the Baltimore Sun ran an article titled, Welch Critics Seeking to Remove Veteran Councilwoman From Ballot; Son Pleaded Guilty in June to Filing False Finance Reports, which mentioned that a committee supporting Branch w as delinque nt in its filings and that Ross, as the Green Party candidate, was raising it as an issue in the campaign. Laura Vozz ella, Welch Critics Seeking to Remove Veteran Councilwoman From Ballot; Son Plea ded Gu ilty in June to F iling False F inance Re ports, B ALT . S UN, Oct. 13, 2004, at 1B. On October 22, 2004 , Ross s cam paign contacted the State B oard via e-m ail and requested that the Board discuss at its next meeting on October 26th, Branch s disqualification under Se ction 13-33 2 of the E lection Law Article 6 for the failure of the two 5 (...continued) nomination, or otherwise ceases to be a candidate; (3) the candidate s name appears o n the primary ballot; or (4) the candidate is successful in the election. Md. Code (2002), § 13-304 of the Election Law Article. 6 Section 13-332 of the Election Law Article provides: An individual may not become a candidate for any public or party office in this State or become a treasurer for a campaign finance entity if, as to any campaign finance report due under § 13-304 of this subtitle from, or on behalf of, that individual during the preceding five calendar years: (1) there exists a failure to file as specified in § 13-327 of this subtitle; or (2) the in dividual has faile d to p ay a late fee that is due. Md. Code (2002), § 13-332 of the Election Law Article. 4 campaign finance entities to comply with the rep orting requirements of the Campaign Finance Title of the Election Law Article . On October 26, 2004, the State Board considered the request that Branch be disqualified from being a candidate, but declined to rule. Mr. Giles W. Burger, Chairman of the State Board o f Elections , stated: I m not going to make any statements that should somehow jeopardize the candidacies for next week. And if that disappoin ts the petitioners, I m sorry about that , but I think that that is the right decision. *** I want to thank you for coming, and as my colleagues said, we are interested in th is issue. We ll take it up later. My only suggestion is to petition the Gene ral Assem bly, perhaps tak e this up in the courts. B ut we are g oing to let stand the candidacies for the moment for this election. Branch remained on the ballot and won the General Election on November 2, 2004 with 79.79% of the vote as comp ared to R oss s 12 .22% of the v ote. On November 5, 2004, Ross filed a petition for Immediate Injunctive Relief and Declaratory Judgment Under Maryland Election Law and Request for Hearing in the Circuit Court for Baltimo re City. Specific ally, Ross requested that the court enjoin the Baltimore C ity Board of Canvass ers from certifying Bran ch as the vic tor in the election for B altimore City Council for the Thirteenth Counc ilmanic District, that the cou rt declare B ranch inelig ible to be a ca ndidate for office an d the election for the Th irteenth Co uncilman ic District void , and require that a new e lection b e held. Procedural History 5 While awaiting the ruling on his petition, Ross filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on December 3, 2004. The State Board filed its Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Summary Judgment, and Branch did so as well. On December 7, 2004, a trial judge denied Ross s petition. Ross immediately filed a second motion for temporary restraining order requesting that the Circuit Court enjoin Branch s swearing in, which the same trial judge also denied . On D ecemb er, 9, 200 4, Bran ch took the oath of off ice. Prior to the Circuit Court ruling on h is original M otion for S ummary Ju dgment, Ross filed another Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support Thereof. Branch and the State Board responded, and a hearing was set for January 10, 2005 before another judge o f the C ircuit Co urt. At the hearing, Ross subm itted on his memoran dum. The judg e then heard argument from the State Board and Branch concerning Sections 9-209 and 12-202 of the Election Law Article and the application of lach es. The State Board argued that Ross s claim was barred under both Section 9-209 and Section 12-202 of the Election Law Article because he failed to satisfy either of the time periods set forth in those statutes. The Board asserted that Ross should have filed his petition on September 27th, rather than on November 5th, for it to have been timely under Section 9-209. Moreover, the State Board contended that Ross d id not file his claim on a timely basis under Section 12 -202 of th e Election L aw Artic le because he filed twenty-eight days after he first became aware of the alleged wrongdoing on October 13th, which was w ell beyon d the ten -day perio d stipula ted in S ection 1 2-202 . 6 Similarly, Branch argued that Ross s action was barred by the doctrine of laches because he failed to pursue his claim prior to the election and caused prejudice to her by waiting until after the election occurred. Moreover, Branch asserted that by failing to seek judicial redress prior to the election, Ross undermined the free election process and that laches properly should bar his claim. On January 19, 2005, the Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants and against Ross for failing to c omply with Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article. On January 24, 2005, Ross filed a No tice of Ap peal in the C ircuit Court, p ursuant to Maryland Code (2002), Section 12-203 (a) of the Election Law Article, which provides that an appeal shall be taken directly to the Court of Appeals within 5 days of the date of the decision of the circuit cou rt. This Court treated Ross s Notice of Appeal as a petition for writ of certiorari, and on February 3, 2005, we issued the wri t, Ross v. Maryland State Board of Elections, 385 M d. 161, 8 67 A.2 d 1062 (2005 ). Because Ross did not present questions to consider in his Notice o f Appe al, we shall c onsider the questions e numerate d by the State Board an d Branch in their joint cros s-petition for w rit of certiorari: 1. Did the circuit court correctly determine that Ross s complaint could and should have been brought under Section 9-209 of the Elec tion Law A rticle, thereby precluding any claim un der Section 12-202, an d that it was untimely under Section 9-209? 2. Assuming arguendo that the judicial review remedy of Section 9-209 w as not a tim ely an d adequate re med y available to Ross, did Ross s complaint satisfy the requirement of Section 12-202 (b) that it be filed w ithin 7 10 days after the a ct or omissio n compla ined of or the date the action or omission became known to Ross? 3. Even if Ross s complaint w as timely under Section 12202 (b) of the Election Law A rticle, should summary judgment have been granted in Respondents favor because there is no p rivate cause of action to enforce the campaign finance reporting requirements of Title 13 of the Election Law Article? 4. Assuming that a private party can invoke the sanctions established in Part VII of Title 13, Subtitle 3 of the Election Law Article, s hould su mmary judgment have been granted in Respondents favor because those sanctions were either moot or inapplicable? 5. In light of Baltimore City Charter, Article III, § 10 (d), and before an y determination of the Ba ltimore City Counc il in the matter, did the circuit court have jurisdiction to determine the election and qualifications of a mem ber of the C ity Council? We find that the Circuit Court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Respon dents based upon Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article. Nevertheless, because: Ross s claim remains untimely under the doctrine of laches as a matter of law; there are no disputes of material fact bearing on that issue; and there is no basis upon wh ich the court could have legitimately denied summary judgment on that issue, which was properly raised by Respon dents, we s hall uphold the grant of summary judgment in favor of Respondents. 7 Standard of Review 7 Because we find th at Ross s cla im is barred a s a matter of law by the common law doctrine of laches, we will not address questions three through five. 8 This Court reviews an order granting summ ary judgmen t de novo. O Connor v. Baltimore County , 382 Md. 102, 110, 854 A.2d 1191, 1196 (2004); Todd v. MT A, 373 Md. 149, 154, 816 A .2d 930, 933 (200 3); Beyer v. Morgan State Univ., 369 Md. 335, 359, 800 A.2d 707, 721 (2002); Schme rling v. Injured Workers Ins. Fund, 368 Md. 434, 443, 795 A.2d 715, 720 (2002); Fister v. Allstate Life Ins. Co., 366 Md. 201, 210, 783 A.2d 194, 199 (2001). If no material facts are disputed, we must determine whether the Circuit Court correctly granted summary judgment as a matte r of law . See Md. Rule 2-5 01(e); O Connor, 382 Md. at 11 1, 854 A .2d at 1197 ; Todd, 373 Md. at 155, 816 A.2d at 933; Beyer, 369 Md. at 360, 800 A.2d at 72 1; Schmerling, 368 Md. at 443, 795 A.2d at 720. In appeals from grants of summ ary judgmen t, Maryland a ppellate courts, as a general rule, will conside r only the grounds upon which the [trial] court relied in granting summary judgment. Eid v. Duke, 373 Md. 2, 10, 816 A.2d 844, 849 (2003), quoting Lovelace v. Anderson, 366 Md. 690, 695, 785 A.2d 72 6, 729 (20 01), quoting in turn PaineWebber v. East, 363 Md. 408, 422, 768 A.2d 1029, 1036 (2001). Where, however, two grounds are so interrelated that they cannot be properly considered as separate and distinct, the appellate court is not so constrained. Eid, 373 M d. at 10, 8 16 A.2 d at 849 . Discussion Ross argues that because of Branch s finance c ommittees failure to file all but one of the required campaign finance reports during a two-year pe riod, Branc h was ine ligible to be a candidate and sho uld have been d isqualified. Moreove r, Ross asse rts that he is entitled 9 to seek Branch s removal from the Baltimore City Council through judicial means under Section 12-202 of the Election Law Article. He claim s that the State Board s failure to take action to eliminate B ranch from the ballot ma terially affected th e outcom e of the ele ction, and as such, he is entitled to judicial review. Ross further contends that he filed his petition within the ten-day period stated in Section 12-202 because it was filed on the tenth day after the State Board meeting on October 26th, and that because the statute does not require the claim to be filed prior to the occurrence of the election, even if the act or omission occurred before the elec tion, his c laim is tim ely. Ross also argues that because the grounds for disqualification arose after the expiration of the three-day time period for challenges under Section 9-209, it would be nonsensical to interpret the statute to divest the State Board of its power to disqualify candidates for wrongdoing that occurred between the expiration of the three-day period, in this case September 27, 2004, and the election. M oreover, Ross asserts that if Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article in fact governed his action and precluded his seeking judicial relief, the State Board would have raised this concern during the October 26th meeting when Branch s qualifications were addressed. Because it was not, Ross characterizes Respondents arguments arising out of Section 9-209 as creative lawyering that results in an absurd outcome that frustrates the pu rpose of enabling reg istered voters to turn to the courts for relief from wrongdoing in an election. He contends that Section 12-202 provides for judicial review of a candidate s eligibility independent of a challenge to the content and 10 arrangement of the ballot under Section 9-209. The State Board asserts that the Circuit Court properly granted summary judgment based upon Section 9-209. It argue s that Section 9-209 pro vides a time ly and adequ ate remedy to challenge the appearance of a candidate s name on the ballot, and as such, Section 12-202 does not provide an alternate means of obtaining judicial relief. Furtherm ore, the State Board su ggests that a specific remedy such as that created in Section 9-209 becomes untim ely simply because a registered voter who might have pursued a claim under that provisio n fails to do so. The State Board also argues that, regardless of the section of the Election Code that Ross bases his action upon, his action is un timely. Moreover, the State Board contends that Ross cannot justif y his delay in filing suit until after the election. It asserts that an e-mail and comme nts at a State Board meeting, without a formal complaint made to the Board, do not give rise to an act or omission that may be reviewed within the framework of Section 12202. The State Board further argu es that Sectio n 13-332 of the Elec tion Law Article only prohibits an individual from becoming a candidate under Section 5-301, and that it no longer applies onc e that individu al is accepted as a candid ate in the election. Regardless of the interpretation o f Section 1 3-332, the State asserts that it d oes not pro vide for a p rivate cause of action through which a private citizen may seek to have a candidate precluded from particip ating in t he elec tion. Respon dents also argue that Ross s action is untimely under the common law doctrine 11 of laches. They contend that, due to the prejud ice inflicted u pon the vo ters of the T hirteenth Counc ilmanic District by instituting an action after the election, w hich could have been brought prior to it, election day should be the deadline for filing such an action under Section 12-202 of the Election Law Article. Respondents assert that Ross cannot justify his delay in pursuing his claim, and as such, it should be barred by the doctrine of laches. For the purposes of determining whether the Circuit Court properly interpreted Section 9-209 of the Election Law A rticle as precluding Ross s ability to prevail as a matter of law, we must explore the statute s scope and meaning. This Court has often stated that our goal in interpreting statutes is to identify and effe ctuate the legislative intent underlying the statute(s) at issue. Serio v. Ba ltimore C ounty, 384 M d. 373, 3 90, 863 A.2d 9 52, 962 (2004), quoting Drew v. First Gu aranty Mortgage Corp., 379 M d. 318, 3 27, 842 A.2d 1 , 6 (2003), in turn quoting Derry v. State, 358 M d. 325, 335 , 748 A.2d 478, 483 (2000)); Pete v. State, 384 Md. 47, 57-58, 862 A.2d 419, 425 (2004); Graves v . State, 364 Md. 329, 346, 772 A.2d 1225, 1235 (2001). As we have consistently stated, the best source of legislative intent is the statute s plain language, and when the language is clear and unambiguous, our inquiry ordinarily ends there. Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Pete, 384 Md. at 5758, 862 A.2d at 425; Drew, 379 Md. at 327, 842 A.2d at 6; Beyer v. M organ Sta te Univ., 369 Md. 335, 349, 800 A.2d 707, 715 (2002); Whack v. State, 338 Md. 665, 672, 659 A.2d 1347, 1350 (1995). When interpreting the language of a statute , we assig n the wo rds their ordinary and na tural me aning. Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Pete, 384 Md. at 57- 12 58, 862 A.2d at 425; O Con nor v. Baltim ore Cou nty, 382 Md. 102, 114, 854 A.2d 1191, 1198 (2004); Lewis v. Sta te, 348 Md. 648, 653, 705 A.2d 1128, 1131 (1998). We will neither add nor delete words to a clear and unambiguous statute to give it a meaning not reflected by the words the Leg islature used or en gage in a f orced or su btle interpretatio n in an attempt to extend or limit the s tatute's m eaning ." Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Pete, 384 Md. a t 57-58 , 862 A.2d at 425; O Connor, 382 Md. at 114, 854 A.2d at 1198 (quoting Taylor v. NationsBank, 365 Md. 166, 181, 776 A.2d 645, 654 (2001)). Thus, the provisions must be read in a commonsensical perspective to avoid a farfetched interpre tation. Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Graves v . State, 364 Md. 329, 346, 772 A.2 d 1225, 1 235 (200 1); Frost v. State, 336 Md. 125, 137, 647 A .2d 106, 112 (199 4); Dickerson v. State, 324 Md. 163, 171, 596 A.2d 64 8, 652 (1991). Only when the language is not clear and unambiguous will we turn to the other provisions of the statutory scheme, considering the "purpose, aim, or policy of the enacting body." Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Pete, 384 Md. at 57-58, 862 A.2d at 425; Drew, 379 Md. at 327, 842 A.2d at 6; Beyer, 369 Md. at 350, 800 A.2d at 71 5; In re Mark M., 365 Md. 687, 711, 782 A.2d 332, 346 (2001)(quoting Tracey v. Tracey, 328 M d. 380, 3 87, 614 A.2d 5 90, 594 (1992 )). The ability of registered voters to seek judicial redress for errors on a ballot long has been a component of the statutory schem e govern ing elections in Maryland . In 1896, th e General Assembly enacted Article 33, Section 49 to the Code, which provided in pertinent part: 13 It shall be the duty of the Board of Supervisors of Elections of each county and of the City of Baltimore to provide ballots for every election for public officers held un der this Article in which any voters within the county or said city shall participate, and to cause to be printed on the ballot the name of every candidate whose name has been certified to or filed with the proper officers in the manner herein p rovided fo r; but the said Supervisors shall not be required to print any name upon a ballot if the same shall not have bee n cer tified to them at lea st six days before election day. Each ballot shall also contain a statement of every constitutional amendment or other question to be submitted to the vote of the peo ple at an y election . Ballots other than thos e printed by the respective Boards of Supervisors of Elections, accord ing to th e provi sions o f this A rticle, shall not be cast or counted in any election, except as hereinafter provided. Nothing in this Article c ontained shall prevent any voter from writing on his ballot and marking in the proper place the name of a ny person other than those already printed for whom he may desire to vote for any office, and such votes shall be counted the same as if the name of such person had been printed upon the ballot and marked by the voter. Any voter may take with him in to the polling place any prin ted or written memorandum or paper to assist him in marking or preparing h is ballot, except a facsimile of the ballot to be vote d. Ballots shall be printed and in possession of the Supervisors of Elections at least four days be fore election day, and shall be subject to the inspection of the candid ates and the ir agents. If any mistake be discovered, it shall be the d uty of said Supervisors to correct the same without delay, and if said Supervisors shall decline or refuse to make correction, then upon the sworn petition of any qualified voter wh o would have the rig ht to vote for such candidate at the approaching election, the Circuit Court for any county or one of the Judg es of the Suprem e Bench of B altimore City may, by order, require said Supe rvisors of E lections to correct such error or to show cause why such error should not be corrected. 1896 Md. Laws Chap. 202 § 49, codified as Md. Code (1896), Art. 33 § 49. This Section, providing for a private cause of action to correct errors contained on a ballot after inaction 14 by the Board of Election Supervisors, r emain ed sub stantive ly uncha nged u ntil 198 6. See Md. Code (1924), A rt. 33 § 62; M d. Code (1 939), Art. 33 § 97; Md. Code (1951), Art. 33 § 68; Md. Code (1957), Art. 33 § 93 (e); Md. Code (1957, 1971 Repl. Vol.), Art. 33 § 16-4 (c); Md. Code (1 957, 197 7 Repl. V ol., 1983 C um. Sup p.), Art. 33 § 16-4 (c) (deleting reference to Baltimore Suprem e Bench). In 1986, the General Assembly, in House Bill 193, repealed Article 33, Section 16-4 (c) and enacted the language currently contained in Section 9-209 of the Election Law A rticle as Artic le 33, Se ction 16 -4 (f)(4 )(i). 1986 Md. Laws, Chap . 422. Article 33, Section 16-4 (f)(4)(i) provid ed in pertine nt part: (1) Judicial relief from the arrangement and contents prepared by the Board or to correct any other error discernible at that time may be sought, within 2 days of the expiration of the 3-day period, upon the sworn petition of any registered voter filed with the circu it court f or any co unty. (2) The court may require the Board: (A) to correct an error; (B) to show cause why an error should not be corrected; or (C) to take any other action to provide any other relief deemed by the cou rt to be appropriate and consiste nt with this article . Md. Code (1986), § 9-209 of the Election Law Article. This change in the language is the only substantive alteration in the ability to seek judicial relief from errors contained on the ballot itself in the histo ry of the statute; w ith the change, a registered voter was no longer required to inform the Board of error on the ballot and allow it to correct the mistake prior to seek ing jud icial relief . 15 In 1998, th e Gen eral As sembly re numb ered A rticle 33 , Section 16-4 (f)(4)(i) as Article 33, Section 9-209 an d shortene d the time p eriod within which a r egistered vo ter could seek judicial relief from ballot errors from five days after the ballot was first displayed to the public to three days. 1998 Md. Laws, Chap. 585 § 2. In 2002, Article 33, Section 9-209 was recodified without substantive change as Sect ion 9-2 09 of th e Electio n Law Article. 2002 Md. Laws, Chap. 291 § 4 . Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article currently provides: (a) Timing. Within 3 days after the content and arrangement of the ballot are placed on public display under § 9-207 o f this subtitle, a reg istered voter may seek judicial review of the content and arrang ement, or to correct any other error, by filing a sw orn p etitio n with the circ uit co urt for the cou nty. (b) Relief that may be granted. The circuit court may require the local board to: (1) correct an error; (2) show cause why an error should not be corrected; or (3) take any other action required to provide appropriate relief. (c) Errors discovered after printing. If an error is discovered after the ballots ha ve been p rinted, and the loca l board fails to correct the error, a registered voter may seek judicial review not later than the second Monday preceding the election. Md. Code (2002), § 9-209 of the Election L aw Artic le. The error s subject to judicial review under Section 9-209, whether arising from the content and arrangement of the ballot or other facial aspects of the ballot, are confine d to the various characteristics of the ballot, not the qualifications or lack thereof of the candidates. Because Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article provides for judicial relief for errors in the content and arrangem ent of the ballot, we must determ ine whether the failure 16 to file required campaig n finance reports by a co mmittee is properly categ orized as c ontent or arrangement. Sections 9-206, 9-210, and 9-211 specify arrangement as consisting of the general format of the ballot, the order of offices, candidates names, the placement of party designations and county of residence if applicable, and the order of questions as they appear on the ballot. Md. Code (2002), §§ 9-206, 9-210, 9-211 of the Election Law Article. It appears from the plain lang uage of th e applicable statutes that ar rangeme nt refers so lely to the appearance and order of the information contained on the ballot and does not embrace a candidate s eligibility. Therefore, we turn ou r attention to whether a can didate s purported ineligibility to participate in the election may properly be considered a challenge to the content of the ballot within the context of Section 9-209. Section 9-205 of the Election Law Article delineates what is considered the conten t of the ballot and provides: Each ballot shall contain: (1) a heading as provided in § 9-206 (a) of this subtitle; (2) a statement of each question that has met all of the qualification s to appear o n the ballot; (3) the title of each office to be voted on; (4) the name, as specified in the certificate of candidacy, or as otherwise provided in Title 5 of this article, of each candida te who has been certified by the State Board; (5) a party designation for certain candidates as provided in this subtitle; (6) a mean s by whic h a vote r may cas t write-in votes, as provided in this subtitle; and (7) instructions to voters as provided in this subtitle. Md. Code (2002), § 9-205 of the Election Law Article. The only possible category of 17 content that the basis o f the presen t challenge c onceivab ly could be classified as is Section 9-205 (4): the name, as specified in the certificate of candidacy, or as otherwise provided in Title 5 of this article, of each candidate who has been certified by the State Board. Md. Code (2002), § 9-205 (4) of the Election Law Article. There is no dispute, however, that at the time of her inclu sion on the ballot, Branc h s eligibility had b een certified by the State Board. Therefore, it would appear that the inclusion of Branch s name on the ballot at the time of its display by the S tate Board was appropriate under the terms of Section 9-205 (4). The plain language of Section 9-205, when read in relation to S ection 9-209 (f)(4), does not provide a vehicle for a registered voter to challenge the candidate s underlying eligibility as determined by the State Board. Rather, it only provides a mechanism by which such a voter may contest the inclusion of the name of a candidate who is not certified by the State B oard or the exc lusion o f the na me of one w ho is ce rtified. Moreover, to hold that a registered voter must comply with such a limited time period to obtain judic ial review o f a candid ate s qualifica tions, effectively would preclude a registered voter from seeking redress for conduct occurring after the three-day period contained in Sectio n 9-20 9. We find this construction to be unre asonable, illog ical, unjust, [and] inconsistent with common sense, Pelican Nat. Bank v. Provident Bank of Md., 381 Md. 327, 336, 849 A.2d 475, 480 (2004), quoting Pak v. Hoang, 378 Md. 315, 323, 835 A.2d 1185, 1189 (2003), bec ause to bar judicial review o f a candidate s qualifications fo r a failure to comply with such a restrictive window of time w ould curtail se verely the ability to prevent 18 potential wrongdoing from affecting the outcome of an election and undermines the confidence in the election process as a whole. Therefore, the grant of the motion for summary judgment in this case solely on the basis of Section 9-209 was erroneous. As we stated previously, [i]n appeals from grants of summary judgment, Maryland appellate courts, as a general rule, will consider on ly the grounds upon w hich the [trial] court relied in granting summary judgment. Eid, 373 Md. at 10, 816 A.2d at 849. We have likewise recognized, however, that this principle is applicable only when there are two or more separate and distinct grounds for the grant of summary judgment, and the trial court relies on one, but not ano ther, in granting summ ary judgment. Id. Conversely, when the re are two or more similar and intertwined grounds for the grant of summary judgment, we may consider the related gr ound if raise d by a litigant, when the first basis for summary judgment is invalid ated. Id. In the present case, Ross s petition, though not governed by Section 9-209, was governed by Section 12-202 of the Election Code, which provides for a ten-day window for seeking judicial redress for an act or omission that violates the Election Law Article and has or would change the outcome of the election once the registered voter knows of it. Ross appears to concede, by attaching the Baltimore Sun article to his initial petition filed in the Circuit Court, that he knew of Branch s campaig n finance entity s failure to file campaign finance reports on October 13th. Thus, under the o peration of the ten-day time period in Section 12-202, Ross should ha ve filed his petition at least a week b efore the election, that 19 is, by October 23rd. Instea d, he waite d until No vember 5 th, a full three days after the election occurred. T herefore, w e find that it is barred as a matter of law by the common law doctrine of laches as arg ued by Res ponden ts in the Circu it Court and before this C ourt. 8 Laches is a defense in equity against stale claims, and is based upon grounds of sound public policy by discouraging fusty demands for the peace of society. Parker v. Board of Election Supervisors, 230 Md. 126, 130, 186 A.2d 195, 197 (1962). The doctrine of laches aros e out of the equity courts of England and developed during a period in which equity courts were not subject to statutes of lim itations passe d by Parliame nt. Gail L. H eriot, A Study in the Choice of Form: Statutes of Limitation and the Doctrine of Laches, BYU L.Rev. 917, 926 (1992); see Cornetta v. United States, 851 F.2d 1372 , 1375 (Fed. Cir. 1988 ), citing 2 J. Pom eroy, Equity Jurisprudence §§ 418-19 (5th ed . 1941). Because stale demands, usually involving the loss of w itnesses or records, offende d the Chancellor s sense of fairness, courts of equity customarily refused to grant an equitable rem edy in approp riate cases. 1 J. Pomeroy, Equity Jurisprudence § 419 (1905). In Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 327 U.S. 392, 396, 66 S.Ct. 582, 584, 90 L.Ed. 743, 745 (1946), Justice Frankfurter, writing for the Supreme Court, described the operation of laches: Traditiona lly and for good reasons, statutes of limitation are not controlling measures of equitable relief. Such statutes have been drawn upon by equity solely for the light they may shed in 8 Even if we were to agree with Ross that the ten-day time period under Section 12-202 began to run on October 26th, when the S tate Board declined to act, his action w ould rema in barred by laches. 20 determining that which is decisive for the chancellor s intervention, namely, whether the plaintiff has inexcusably slept on his rights so fa r as to mak e a decree a gainst the defendant unfair . . . . The doctrine of laches first appears in the records of the Maryland Chancery Court proceedings of 167 9. Proceed ings of the C ourt of Chan cery, 1669-1679, Vol. 51 at 561. The doctrine w as recognized in this Co urt as well . See, e.g., Demuth v. Old Town Bank of Baltimore, 85 Md . 315, 317-1 8, 37 A. 26 6, 268-69 (1897); Williams Ex rs v. Mayor and City of Baltimore, 6 H.& J. 52 9 (1825); Pearce v. Wallace, 1 H. & J. 48 (1800). Throughout our history, we consistently have adhered to the principle that [t]here is no inflexible ru le as to what constitutes, or what does not constitute, laches; hence its existence must be determined by the facts and circumstances of each case. Parker, 230 Md. at 130, 186 A.2d at 197, citing Brashears v. Collison, 207 M d. 339, 352 , 115 A.2d 289, 295 (1955); Demu th, 85 M d. at 317 -18, 37 A. at 26 8-69. In Buxton v. Buxton, 363 Md. 634, 770 A.2d 152 (2001), we recently had the opportunity to examine the elements of laches: [T]he word, itself, derives from the old French word for laxness or negligence . . . . The passage of time, alone, does not constitute laches but is simply one of many circumstances from which a determination of what constitutes an unreasonable and unjustifiable delay may be made. In that regard, there is a relationship between laches and the statute of limitations, althoug h the sta tute doe s not go vern. We held that, [i]n a purely equitable action, a lapse of time shorter than the period of limitations may be sufficient to invoke the doctrine; and, where the delay is of less duration than the statute of limitations, the defense of laches must include an 21 unjustifiable delay and some amount of prejudice to the defen dant. What amounts to prejudice, such as will bar the right to assert a claim after the passage of time, depends upon the facts and circum stances of each case , but it is generally held to be any thing that places him in a less favorable p osition. Id. Finally . . . we stated in Parker that since laches implies negligence in not asserting a right within a reasonable time after its discovery, a party must have had knowledge, or the means of knowledge, of the fac ts which c reated his ca use of actio n in order f or him to be guilty o f lache s. Buxton, 363 M d. at 645-46 , 770 A.2d at 158-59 (emphas is in original; citations omitted). Moreover, even where such impermissible delay is present u nder the circumstances presented, if the delay has not prejudiced the party asserting the defense, it will not bar the equitable action. Schaeffer v . Anne A rundel C ounty, 338 M d. 75, 83 , 656 A .2d 751 , 755 (1995). Thus, for laches to ba r Ross s ac tion there must be both an inexcusable delay and prejud ice to R espon dents. We recognize, nevertheless, that generally courts sitting in equity will apply statutory time limitation s. See Salisbu ry Beauty Schools v . State Bd. of Co smetolog ists, 268 Md. 32, 63, 300 A.2d 367, 38 5 (1973); Desser v. Woods, 266 Md. 696, 704, 296 A.2d 586, 591 (1972); Gloyd v. T albott, 221 Md. 1 79, 186 , 156 A .2d 665 , 668 (1 959). Courts exercising equity jurisdiction, ho wever, are not irrevoca bly bound to the sta tutory time limitation s. See Stevens v. Bennett , 234 Md. 348, 351, 199 A.2d 221, 223-24 (1964) (stating, even when the remedy for a claime d right is only in equity the period of limitations most nearly apposite at law will be invoked by an equity court, provided there is not present a more compelling equitable reason such as fraud or inequitable conduct which would cause injustice if the 22 bar were interp osed w hy the action sh ould not b e barred ); Parker, 230 M d. at 130, 186 A.2d at 197 (ho lding, [i]n a p urely equitable action, a lapse of time shorter than the period of limitations ma y be sufficien t to invoke th e doctrine; and, where the delay is of less duration than the statute of limitations, the defense o f laches m ust include a n unjustifiab le delay and some amount of prejudice to the defendant ). Thus, the courts are free, if the equities so require, to assess the facts of a purely equitable action independent of a statutory time limitation applicable at law. We also recognize that some federal courts have adopted a per se rule with res pect to the application of laches to claims arising out of elections, stating that any claim ag ainst a state electoral procedure must be expressed expeditiously. Fulani v. H ogsett, 917 F.2d 1028, 1031 (7th Cir. 1990) (noting that any claim against a state electoral procedure must be expressed expeditiou sly because [a]s time pa sses, the state s in terest in proce eding w ith the election incre ases in importance as resources are committed and irrevocable decisions are made ), cert. denied 501 U.S. 1206, 111 S.Ct. 1799, 115 L.Ed.2d 972 (1991); see, e.g., Kay v. Austin, 621 F.2d 809, 813 (6th Cir. 1980) (laches applied where candidate waited two weeks after he knew he would not be listed on ballot to file suit and preliminary work had been done for the election); MacG overn v. C onnolly, 637 F.Supp. 111, 115 (D. Mass. 1986) (noting that delays in filing are disfavored because courts should endeavor to avoid a disruption of the election process which might result from requiring precipitate changes that could make unreasonable or embarrassing demands on a State in adjusting to the 23 requireme nts of the court s dec ree ); Barthelm es v. Mor ris, 342 F.Supp. 153, 160-61 (D. Md. 1972) (stating that altho ugh the ele ction proce ss is filled with uncertainty, the c ourts shou ld not add wholly unanticipated uncertainties at the eleventh hour ). We need n ot decide here whether a per se rule should apply. There may be situations in which such a rule would be inappropriate.9 Because laches properly may be applied to Ross s claim, we must determine whether his actions amount to an unreasonable delay that prejudiced the interests of Respondents. Petitioner did not produce any explanation for his delay in filing his action until thre e days after the election occurred, other than his reliance upon the language of Section 12-202, which provides that a petition for judicial review may be filed whether or not the election has occurred. Md. Code (2002), § 12-202 of the Election Law Article. Ross s unjustified delay must be juxtaposed against his duty to petition for redress without delay when the election approaches: Courts have imposed a duty on parties having grievances based on election 9 See, e.g., Melendez v. O Connor, 654 N.W.2d 114, 117 (Minn. 2002) (holding that laches did not apply where candidate did not satisfy residency requirement to hold office and therefore suffered no prejud ice due to th e delay); Gallagh er v. Keefe , 591 N.W.2d 297, 30001 (Mich. App. 1998) (sa me); cf. McComb v. Superior Court In and For the County of Maricopa, 943 P.2d 878, 885-86 (A riz. Ct. App . 1997) (pe rmitting a reap portionme nt claim to proceed a lthough file d twenty days after the e lection); Schaeffer v. Anne Arunde l County , 338 Md. 75, 80-81, 656 A.2d 751, 753-54 (1995) (applying laches to a claim based upon a procedural defect concerning an ordinance but noting that it would not apply if the ordinance were in trinsically v oid). We are not presented, however, with such a challenge in the case sub judice; rather, Ross s claim arises out of a statutory provision explicating the penalties for the failure of a camp aign en tity to com ply with th e proce dures f or filing camp aign fin ance re ports. 24 laws to bring their c omplaints forward for pre-election adjudication when possible. Hendon v. North Carolina State Board of Elections, 710 F.2d 177, 182 (4th Cir. 1983), citing Toney v. White, 488 F.2d 310, 314 (5th Cir. 1973); see e.g., Soules v. K auaians fo r Nukolii Campaign Committee, 849 F.2d 1176, 11 80 (9th C ir. 1988); McComb, 943 P.2d at 886. As the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit aptly stated in United States v. City of Cambridge, Maryland, 799 F.2d 137 (4th Cir. 1986), a candidate or other election participant should not be allow ed to ambush an adversary or subvert the election process by intentionally delaying a req uest for rem edial action to see first wh ether they will be successful at the polls. Id. at 141. Therefore, Ross s delay is unjustifiable as a matter of law. Ross s decision to wait and see until after the election, prejudiced Branch, the State Board of Election s, and the res idents of the Thirteenth Counc ilmanic D istrict. Branch relied upon her certification by the State Board as a qualified candidate for the office and the result of the election in which she overwhelmingly won, only to have the results belatedly challenged on a ground that was ripe prior to Elec tion Da y. The State Board likewise was prejudiced because it too relied upon the correctn ess of the ballots and expended considerable efforts in overseeing the election when Branch s candidacy could have been protested judicially prior to the election on November 2nd. Most importantly, Petitioner s actions also prejud iced the elec torate as a w hole by denying them the e fficacy of the ir vote and undermining their faith in a free and fair election. Thus, because Petitioner s delay 25 would result in Respondents and the people of the Thirteenth Councilmanic District being placed in a less favorable position due to their justifiable reliance on the circumstances in existence on Election Day, w e find Petition er s actions su fficiently prejud icial so as to warrant the application of laches. Therefore, we conclude that the doctrine of laches bars Petitioner s claim as a matter of law, and we uphold the Circuit Court s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Respondents. Conclusion Although the Circuit Court erroneously granted summary judgment based on its view that Ross s claim was untimely under Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article, we affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of Branch and the State Board of Elections because Ross s action is barred as a matter of law by the closely related common law doctrine of laches, under the circumstan ces of this ca se, due to his f ailure to file his p etition prior to the election. JUDGMENT AFF IRM ED. COSTS IN THIS COURT TO BE PAID BY PETITIONER. 26 IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No.131 September Term 2004 __________________________________ GLENN L. ROSS V. STAT E BO ARD OF EL ECTIO NS, et al. __________________________________ Bell, C.J. Wilner Raker Cathell Harrell Battaglia Greene, JJ. __________________________________ Dissenting Opinion by Bell, C. J., which Raker, J., joins. __________________________________ Filed: June 23, 2005 As the majority a cknow ledges , Ross v. State Board of Elections, ___ Md. ___, ___, ___ A. 2 d ___, __ _ (2005) [ slip op. at 9], [i]n appeals from grants of su mmary judg ment, Maryland appellate courts, as a general rule, will consider only the grounds upon which the [trial] court relied in grantin g summ ary judgm ent. PaineWebber v. East, 363 Md. 408, 422, 768 A.2d 1029, 10 36 (2001). See Eid v. Duke, 373 Md. 2, 10, 81 6 A.2d 844, 84 9 (2003); Lovelace v. Anderson, 366 Md. 690, 695, 785 A.2d 726, 729 (2001). There are good reasons for that general rule. We stated those reasons in Geisz v. Greater B altimore Med. C tr., 313 Md. 301, 314 n. 5, 545 A.2d 65 8, 664 n. 5 (1988): On an appeal from the grant of a summary judgment which is reversible because of error in the grounds relied upon by the trial court the appellate court will not o rdinarily u ndertake to sustain the jud gme nt by ruling on another ground, not ruled upon by the trial court, if the alternative ground is one as to which the trial court had a discretion to deny summary judgment. For example, a motion might be denied in order to allow the party opposing the motion a further opportunity through discovery to present a triable issue of fact. See Metropolitan Mtg. Fund v. Basiliko, 288 Md. 25, 415 A.2d 582 (1980). Thus, in Hen ley v. P rince Ge orge 's County, 305 Md. 320, 503 A.2d 1333 (1986), a ca se of allege d negligen t hiring, we reversed a su mmary judgment for a defenda nt because , contrary to the trial court's conclusion, we found a triable issue of hiring. We would not, however, consider if a lack of proximate cause was an alternative support for the judgment because [t]he effect of our ruling on the issue of proximate cause, or any other issue not considered by the trial judge would be to deprive the trial judge of discretion to deny or to defer until trial on the merits the entry of judgment on such issues. Id. at 333, 5 03 A.2 d at 134 0. In other words, as clarified in Gresser v . Anne A rundel Co unty, 349 Md. 542, 552, 709 A.2d 740, 745 (1998), we will not speculate that summary judgment might have been granted on other grounds not reached by the trial court. On the other hand, as the majority likewise recognizes, ___ Md. at ___, ___ A. 2d at ___ [slip op . at 9], ther e is an ex ception to the ge neral ru le. The principle it espous es is applicable only when there are two or more separate and distinct grounds for the grant of summary judgment, and the trial court relies on one, but not another, in gran ting summary judgm ent, Eid v. Duke, 373 Md. at 10, 816 A .2d at 849, o r when, as the majority pu ts it, two grounds a re so interrelate d that they cannot be properly considered as separate and distinct. ___ M d. at ___ , ___ A . 2d at ___ [ slip op. at 9]. We are not without precedent with respect to the application of th e exce ption. PaineWebber v. East, 363 Md. 408, 768 A.2d 1029 (ex ception inapplicable); Eid v. Duke, 373 Md. 2, 816 A.2d 844 (exception applicable). In PaineWebber v. East, two of the counterclaim def endants sought sum mary judgment against PaineWebber on two grounds, that the plaintiff had waived her rights under the IRA account at issue and because one of the counterclaim defendants had been designated expressly by the o wner of the accou nt as the beneficiary of that account. 363 Md. at 412, 768 A. 2d at 1031. The trial court granted summary judgment on the former ground, concluding that the plaintiff effectively had waived her rights to the proceeds of the account. Id. It did not address the latter ground, whether the owner of the account had effected a change of beneficiary. Id. This Court concluded, as the Court of Special Appea ls previously had do ne, East v. PaineWebber, Inc., 131 Md. App. 302, 316, 748 A. 2d 1082, 1089 (2000), that the plaintiff had not waived her right as the named beneficiary of the IRA account and, thus,determined that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment 2 on that basis. 363 Md. at 417, 768 A. 2d at 1033. It then refused PaineWebber s invitation to affirm the trial court s grant of summary judgment on the alternate ground presented to the trial court, explaining: Here, the alternate ground urged by the Estate presents mixed issues of fact and law. Without suggesting any materiality to the facts, and inferences therefrom, as they appea r in the record as presently constituted, there has been no determination whether there was a change of beneficiary form, executed by Dewey, that was lost by PaineWe bber, whether, by leaving the b eneficiary designation blank on a form that he signed, Dewey intended that the Estate be the beneficiary of the IRA , and wh ether there w as comp liance with Pain eWe bber's rules for effecting a change in beneficiary of an IRA. The circuit court, at the very least, had discretion to deny summary judgment on the alternate groun d. Thu s, we sh all not co nsider th ose issu es. Id. at 423, 768 A. 2d at 1037. Eid v. Duke is at the other end of the spectrum . There, two motion s for summary judgment were p resente d to the tr ial court . 373 M d. at 9, 81 6 A. 2d at 848. The first was based on preemption, asserting that the plaintiffs tort claims were preempted by the federal Employee Retireme nt Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The second challenged the basis for a tort claim under Maryland law, arguing that there never was a patient-physician relationship between Mr. Eid and Dr. Duke. Id. The trial court s grant of summary judgment was premised on ER ISA preemp tion; it did not expressly address or rule on the lack of a patient-physician relationship. The Court of Special A ppeals affirm ed. Id. Although it held that the plaintiffs state law tort law claims were preempted, during its analysis the intermediate appellate court distinguished the facts of the instant cas e from oth er authority cited by the plaintiffs where the court had found that a physician-patient relationship existed 3 to sustain a medical malpractice claim that was not preempted by ERISA. Id. In the course of that discussion, it emphasized that Dr. Duke n ever met o r spoke w ith Eid, and m ade his recommendations as to benefit eligibility ... solely as a result of a paper file ... and a one-time consultation with [Eid s] treating physician. Id. at 10, 816 A . 2d at 849. In addition to seeking certiorari on the preemption issu e, seizing on the intermediate ap pellate court s reference to the physician-client relationship when resolving the preemption question, the plaintiffs asked this court to decide whether the Court of Special Appeals erred by relying on the lack of a patient-physician relationship when the trial court did no t grant summary judgment on that ground. Id. Addressing the latter argument, this Court was of the view that because of the interrelationship of the issues, the Court of Special Appeals did not uphold a grant of summary judgment on a ground w hich was separate and distinct from the ground relied on by the trial cou rt. Id. at 11, 816 A. 2d at 849. This was so, we explained, because: The two motions for summary judgment in the case at bar were not based on separate and distinct grounds. U nder circumstances like those in the present case, the issue of ERISA preemption is inextricably intertwined with the existence of a patient-physician relationship and whether the plaintiffs set forth a viable state law medical malpractice cause of action. As the Court of Special Appea ls recogn ized ..., these issues are interrelated under the Supreme Court cases interpreting and applying the ERISA statute. In fact, the plaintiffs indirectly acknow ledge that the issues are inte rrelated, as they rep eatedly characterize their action as a medical malpractice action and rely on cases holding that ERISA does not preempt traditional state law medical malpractice actions . ... Id. 4 Glenn L. Ro ss, the petitioner, in an effort to unseat Paula John son Branch (B ranch), one of the respondents, w hom he a lleged wa s ineligible fo r election in the district, but to whom he had lost the general councilmanic election, filed, in the Circuit Court for B altimore City, a petition for Immediate Injunctive Relief and Declaratory Judgment Under Maryland Election Law and Request for Hearing and, subseque ntly, for summ ary judgmen t. Branch and the State Board of Elections, the other respondent, in addition to moving both to dismiss and for summary judgment, responded to the petitioner s summary judgm ent motion. In each submission, they argued that the petitioner s claim was barred by both § 9-20910 and § 12-20211 of the Election Law Article, Maryland Code (2002) inasmuch as the petitioner 1 Maryland Code (2002) § 9-209 of the Election Law A rticle provides: (a) Timing. Within 3 days after the content and arrangement of the ballot are placed on public display under § 9-207 of this subtitle, a registered voter may seek judicial review of the content and arrangement, or to correct any othe r erro r, by filing a sw orn p etitio n with the circ uit co urt for the cou nty. (b) Relief that may be granted. The circuit court may require the local board to: (1) correct an error; (2)show cause why an error should not be corrected; or (3) take an y other action re quired to pr ovide app ropriate relief. (c) Errors discovered after printing. If an error is discovered after the ballots h ave be en prin ted, and the loca l board fails to c orrect th e error, a registered voter may seek judicial review not later than the second Monday preced ing the e lection. 2 Maryland Code (2002) § 12-202 of the Election Law A rticle provides: (a) In general. If no oth er timely and ad equate rem edy is provide d by this article, a registered voter may seek judicial relief from any act or omission relating to an election, whether or not the election has been held, on the grounds of an act or omission: (continued...) 5 failed to satisfy either of the time frames prescribed by those statutes. Agreeing with the responde nts with respect to their § 9-209 argumen t, the Circuit Court granted sum mary judgment in favor of the respondents on that basis. It did not rule o n the § 12- 202 argu ment; notwithstanding that, as fram ed by Branc h, it squarely presented the laches argument, which this Co urt toda y adopts. This Co urt granted c ertiorari to consid er the petitione r s challenge to the Circu it Court s grant of summary judgment for his failure to comply with the time requirements of § 9-209 and the respondents joint cross petition fo r certiora ri, raising , inter alia, the applicability of § 12-202 and the timeliness of the appeal filed by the petitioner pursuant thereto. With re spect to the petitio ner s ch allenge , the Court concludes that the C ircuit Court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Respondents based on Section 9-209 of the Election Law Article. ___ Md. at ___, ___ A. 2d at ___ [slip o p. at 8]. I agree w ith this holding. Nevertheless, notwithstanding that it was not a ground relied on by the Circuit Court, the Majority upholds the grant of summary judgment. Although, as indicated, the (...continued) (1) is incon sistent with this article or other la w applica ble to the election process; and (2) may change or has changed the outcome of the election. (b) Place and time of filing. A registered voter may seek judicial relief under this se ction in the ap propriate circ uit court with in the earlier of : (1) 10 days after the act or omission or the date the act or omission became known to the petitioner; or (2) 7 days after the election results are certified, unless the election was a gub ernatorial primary or special primary election, in which case 3 d ays after the election results are certified . 6 majority recognizes the scope of the exception to the general rule limiting review of summary judgmen ts to the grounds relied on by the trial court and earlier had accurately stated it in the majority opinion - [w]here ... two grounds are so interrelated that they can not be properly considered as sepa rate and distinct , id. at ___, ___ A. 2d at ___ [slip op. at 9], rather than make a case for th e exception , demons trate the interrela tionship of the two grounds for appeal, 12 the majority asse rts, I s uggest, b aldly, 13 that Ross s claim remains untimely under 3 The majority s effort in this regard consists of the following: In the present case, Ross s petition, though not governed by Section 9-209, was governed by Section 12-202 of the Election Code, which provides for a ten day window for seeking judicial redress for an act or omission that violates the Election Law Article and has or would change the outcome of the e lection once the registered vo ter knows of it. Ross a ppears to concede, by attaching the Baltimore Sun article to his initial petition filed in the Circuit Court, that he knew of Branch s campaign finance entities failure to file campaign finance reports on October 13th. Thus, under the operation of the 10-day time period in Section 12-202, Ross should have filed his petition at least a week before the election, that is, by October 23rd. Instead, he waited until November 5th, a full three days after the election occurred. Therefore, we find that it is barred as a matter of law by the comm on law d octrine of lac hes as argu ed by Resp ondents in the Circuit Court and before this Court. ___ Md. at __ _, ___ A. 2d at __ _ [slip op. at 19-20]. This simp ly does not dem onstrate an in terrelatednes s such that se parate consideratio n is inappro priate. Gran ted, howe ver, there is a sim ilarity and a certain intertw ineme nt, see Ross v. State Board of Elections, ___ Md. ___, ___, ___ A. 2d ___, ___ (2005) [slip op. at 19] (purporting to restate the exception to the general rule as when there are two or more similar and intertwined grounds for the grant of sum mary judgmen t, we may co nsider the rela ted groun d if raised by a litiga nt, when th e first basis for summary judgment is invalidated ) (emphasis added), between §§ 9-209 and 12-202, but that relation ship is not the test. 4 Laches is a n equitable doctrine, a d efense ag ainst stale claim s. Whethe r a claim is (continued...) 7 the doctrine of laches as a matter of law; ... there are no disputes of material fact bearing on the issue; and ... there is no basis upon which the court could have legitimately denied summary judgment on that issue, which was properly raised by Respondents. Id. at ___, ___ A. 2d at __ _ [slip op. at 8]. The majority does not demon strate the interrelatedness of §§ 9-2 09 and 12-202, because it c annot. Section 9-2 09 is a sepa rate and distin ct ground for appea l in an election case from § 12-202 . Section 9-209 is not inextricably intertwined with § 12-202 and the right to appeal an advers e dec ision in an elec tion case . An appeal m ay suc cess fully be maintained pursuant to either § 9-209 or § 12-202 without the re ever bein g a need to discuss any aspect o f the oth er statute . The time frame that governs the right of app eal pursuan t to § 9-209 bears no relationship to, and is not neces sary to be discu ssed in connection with, the time constraints p rescribed b y § 12-202. T his case is no t, in short, Eid v. Duke, where the discussion of the existence, or not, of a patient-ph ysician relationsh ip was a n ecessary topic in the preemption analysis. This case is more like PaineWebber v. East, in which, w hile (...continued) barred by laches, therefore, must be determined by the facts and circumstances of each case. Parker v. Board o f Election Superviso rs, 230 Md. 126, 130, 186 A. 2d 195, 197 (1962). The majority has decried the need for and denied any intention to announce a per se rule with respect to laches in election cases. ___ Md. at ___, ___ A. 2d at ___ [slip op. at 24]. Consequently, the trial court, as to that ground, had the discretion to deny summa ry judgment. It also is interesting to note that the support, the only support, I might add, for the proposition that there are no disputed material facts, to which the majority directs our attention, is the petitioner s attachment to his initial petition of a Baltimore Sun article, from which the majority perceives the appearance of a concession. ___ Md. at ___, ___ A. 2d a t ___ [s lip op. at 1 9-20]. 8 waiver and the express designation of a beneficiary have a certain similarity and relationship, determination of one did not necessarily determine or make consideration of the other essential. The majority may well be correct insofar as th e result is conc erned. I susp ect that, were the matter pr operly before us for review, I would find no fault with the conclusion the majority is so anxiou s to reach. Ind eed, I wou ld not quarrel with the issue of the petitioner s laches being add ressed for th e guidanc e of the trial co urt on rem and. I simply ca n not, and will not, condone the taking of a shortcut when none is permitted and when to do so requires that we mak e yet another ex ception to th e general ru le, this one for a case that, for all that appears, is destined to result after remand, in a judgment for the respondents. If a shortcut can be constru cted in this cas e, one ma y have to be c onstructed in another, in which th e outcome on reman d is readily and p ainfully obvio us, and then another. T he ability to distinguish will become more and more indistinct as the facts and circumstances in one case shade i nto ano ther and others. T he exc eptions will eve ntually sw allow th e rule. I dissen t. Judge Raker joins in the views herein expressed. 9