Fruit and Fowl: How Baltimore is Dealing with Electric Scooters

Over Labor Day weekend, another batch of electric scooters arrived in Baltimore.  Lime scooters, the second company to arrive, joins Bird scooters on the street to offer dock-less ride options to any person over 18 with a license and a smartphone app.[1]  But this arrival of scooters has not been a smooth transition.  The initial appearance of Bird scooters caught Baltimore, like many other cities around the country, unprepared.

The transition to electric scooters in the city comes on the heels of the failed bike-sharing program which shut down in early August.  The bike-sharing program cost the city of Baltimore roughly $3.2 million, unlike the electric scooters which have no upfront cost to the city.[2]  In fact, both Bird and Lime scooters have entered contracts with the city to pay 15 thousand dollars each and an additional dollar a day for each of their scooters on the streets to operate in the city.[3]

In addition to compensating the city for the right to offer their scooters to the public, Lime has also entered a contract that ensures the scooters will be placed in low income neighborhoods.[4]  This placement requirement is a city effort to provide affordable transportation to areas that are not easily serviced by other modes of public transportation.[5]  The goal is to provide a cheap and easy way for persons living in low income areas to travel to a job that would otherwise be impossible to reach.

While the contracts with the city may seem like a boon, especially to those in low income neighborhoods, a host of problems follows in its wake.  At the time the bike-sharing program was discontinued there were 456 bikes in the Baltimore fleet.[6]  Of those 456, only 97 were actually operational, with the remaining majority of bikes under repair, vandalized, lost, or stolen.[7]  The same problem is already manifesting with the electric scooters, as a recent video being posted showing two teens dismantling the GPS system on a Bird scooter in order to steal it.[8]

The other major problem that Baltimore must be quick to address is how to regulate the scooters in public areas.  The convenience, and the struggle, with these scooters is that a rider can leave them any place they wish when they are done riding.  With over 1000 scooters from each company arriving in the city, sidewalks and walkways will quickly become overcrowded.  This has happened in many other cities, and has lead to some extreme cases where people have thrown scooters in dumpsters, in the ocean, and even at times lit them on fire out of frustration.[9]  If Baltimore is looking to capitalize on this inexpensive and efficient travel method, it is imperative that the city enact regulations aimed to curb these issues tied to electric scooters.

[1]Carley Milligan, Lime scooters to hit Baltimore’s streets Saturday,Baltimore Business Journal, Aug. 31, 2018, https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2018/08/31/lime-scooters-to-hit-baltimores-streets-saturday.html

[2]Colin Campbell and Talia Richman, Baltimore shuts down trouble-ridden Bike Share program in favor of dockless Bird, Lime options, The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 15, 2018,http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-md-bike-share-ends-20180815-story.html

[3]Id.

[4]Id.

[5]Id.

[6]Carley Milligan, Lime scooters to hit Baltimore’s streets Saturday, Baltimore Business Journal, Aug. 31, 2018, https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2018/08/31/lime-scooters-to-hit-baltimores-streets-saturday.html

[7]Id.

[8]Video: 2 Baltimore Kids Allegedly Steal Bird Scooter, CBS Baltimore, Aug. 22, 2018, https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2018/08/22/baltimore-kids-steal-bird-scooter/

[9]Laura Newberry, Fed-up locals are setting electric scooters on fire and burying them at sea, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 10, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-bird-scooter-vandalism-20180809-story.html

Ryan Zabel is a third-year day student at the University of Baltimore and will graduate in May of 2019.  He serves as a staff editor for the University of Baltimore Law Forum and is a member of the Criminal Law Association.  He previously interned with the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office, the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his dog and reading.  He can be reached at ryan.zabel@ubalt.edu with any questions or comments.

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Is Maryland’s “Red Flag” Law the Silver Bullet to the State’s Endemic Gun Violence?

Maryland has taken aim at gun violence by implementing some of the most proscriptive gun laws in the country.[1]Despite Maryland’s tough approach to gun control, record gun homicide rates in Baltimore City and a recent spate of shootings prove the State’s legislative arsenal is lacking.[2]Maryland hopes that its new “Red Flag” law will provide the firepower needed to stem gun violence.[3]

The Red Flag law allows certain health professionals and other persons (“petitioner”) closely associated to a gun owner (“respondent”) to petition a Maryland District Court for issuance of an Extreme Risk Protective Order (“ERPO”).[4]The court may issue an interim, temporary, or final ERPO if the respondent is deemed an imminent danger to himself or herself or another.[5]The ERPO requires that respondent surrender any firearms and ammunition in his or her possession and restricts future purchase for a prescribedtimeframe.[6]If the ERPO is violated, the respondent will be subject to criminal prosecution.[7]Considering the underwhelming impact of Maryland’s current gun laws, it is unclear whether the latest law will have any significant bearing on gun violence.[8]

Recently, a participant at a Madden video game tournament in Florida went on a deadly shooting spree with guns he legally purchased in Maryland.[9]The shooter, David Katz (“Katz”) killed two people and wounded ten before fatally shooting himself.[10]Even with Maryland’s sweeping gun laws, none were able to prevent the tragedy.[11]

In the Madden shootings, the gunman suffered from documented mental illness and exhibited severe behavioral issues, yet he was able to pass a background check without issue.[12]Katz was hospitalized twice for psychiatric issues and was at one point prescribed anti-psychotic medication.[13]Katz’s mother even called the police when he became increasingly abusive and violent.[14]Under the Red Flag law, Katz’s mother, father, or psychiatrist could have sought an ERPO to have his guns confiscated, or to prevent him from buying guns in the first place.[15]

By acting as a stopgap between fruitless background checks, and gun laws that are primarily reactive, the Red Flag law may help reduce senseless gun violence.[16]However, there are arguments that the Red Flag law has red flags of its own. Cynics highlight that eligible petitioners are narrowly circumscribed, thus interested parties separated from a respondent by a few degrees lack standing to get an ERPO.[17]There are also contentions that the law is a violation of Fourth Amendment guarantees of Due Process because guns may be confiscated on the mere predicate that a crime could potentially be committed.[18]Further, gun rights advocates view the law as an unconstitutional infringement on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.[19]

With the Red Flag law, Maryland looks to zero-in on gun violence. However, detractors highlight that the new law’s shortcomings will relegate it to a heap of prior laws that have failed to yield results.[20]Despite the naysayers, Maryland legislators have resolved to continue passing restrictive gun laws.[21]Whether or not Maryland’s newest law will bear out any impact on gun violence is to be determined.

[1]Paige Leskin, 7 Maps to Explain U.S. Gun Control Laws, By State, Inverse Innovation (Oct. 5, 2017), https://www.inverse.com/article/37141-state-gun-law-maps.

[2]Murder Rates in 50 American Cities, The Economist(Feb. 7, 2017), https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/02/daily-chart-3;See also Scott Dance, Maryland’s strict gun laws could not prevent Capital Gazette shooting, spurring talk of changes, Balt. Sun(July 2, 2018), http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-capital-shooting-gun-laws-20180630-story.html.

[3]2018 Md. Laws 1294 (providing that the Red Flag law is effective as of Oct. 1, 2018).

[4]Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-601 (2018); Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-602 (2018).

[5]Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§§ 5-603 to 5-605 (2018).

[6]Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-603(i) to (ii) (2018); Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-604(a)(3)(i) to (a)(3)(ii) (2018); Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-605(c)(3)(i) to (c)(3)(ii) (2018).

[7]Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§§ 5-609 to 5-610.

[8]The Economist, supra note 2.

[9]Tim Prudente,Despite mental health troubles, Jacksonville shooter was able to buy guns in Maryland,Balt. Sun(Aug. 28, 2018, 6:05 PM),http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-david-katz-guns-20180828-story.html.

[10]Id.

[11]Id. 

[12]Id.

[13]Prudente,supranote 9.

[14]Id.

[15]Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-601(e)(2)(viii) (2018).

[16]Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-133(b)(6) (2018) (prohibiting gun possession by people suffering from mental illness after a violent history has been established);Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-133(b)(10) (2018) (prohibiting gun possession by a mentally ill person after involuntary commission to a mental institution); Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-133(b)(12) (2018) (allowing firearm seizure after an ex parte civil protective order has been entered); Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety§ 5-133(c) (2018) (prohibiting gun possession afterconviction of enumerated crimes).

[17]See Nicole Gaudiano, As Anne Arundel police prepare for ‘red flag’ gun seizures, law’s sponsor holds Capital Gazette shooting victim close, Cap. Gazette(Aug. 24, 2018), http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/for_the_record/ac-cn-red-flag-20180824-story.html

[18]Marisa Gerber, A landmark 2016 law praised as an ‘unbelievably powerful tool’ against gun violence remains scarcely used, L.A. Times(Sept. 19, 2018, 5:00 AM), http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-gun-violence-restraining-order-law-20180919-story.html#.

[19]Id.

[20]SeeGaudiano, supra note 16 (observing that a gunman’s harassment conviction did not prohibit him from owning the guns used in a newspaper office shooting).

[21]See Erin Cox & Peter Jamison, New laws: Gun restrictions in Maryland, tax hikes in D.C., Wash. Post(Sept. 30, 2018, 11:28 AM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/new-laws-gun-restrictions-in-maryland-tax-hikes-in-dc/2018/09/30/5d936368-c336-11e8-a1f0-a4051b6ad114_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2aa8ce0b97a4 (reporting on Maryland’s impending gun laws).

Todd Milligan II is a third-year law student and will receive his J.D. in 2019. Todd joined Law Forum as a transfer student in 2017 when he completed the write-on competition during the first two weeks of his first semester at the University of Baltimore. Todd is also pursuing a dual LL.M. in Taxation and hopes to one day sit as a judge on the U.S. Tax Court.

Please contact Todd with questions or comments at: todd.milligan@ubalt.edu. Connect with Todd on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tm2/.

 

What Maryland Taxpayers Need to Know About Navigating Through the Labyrinth of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

On December 22, 2017, the President of the United States signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”).  The TCJA grants tax cuts to individuals and corporations, increases the threshold for estate tax, caps State and Local Tax (“SALT”) deductions, eliminates personal exemptions, and other provisions targeting allowable deductions.[1]  This new tax reform notably provides lower tax rates to individual taxpayers and business owners.  However, the new guidelines for claiming credits and deductions has been lowered or eliminated.[2]  So, what crucial federal tax changes should Maryland taxpayers be aware of?

First, Maryland taxpayers should know the individual tax cut provisions are only temporary and will expire in 2025.[3]  After eight years, the majority of taxpayers will see an increase in their tax rate unless Congress passes new amendments to extend those provisions.[4] Many business owners will receive a tax cut and an increase in allowable deductions, but many of the provisions are also set to expire on or before 2025.[5]

Maryland taxpayers should also know the TCJA will increase the allowable standard deduction that Maryland taxpayers can take by almost double the previous allowance. Also, TCJA will also increase the child tax credit, but a child’s unearned income would be taxed at a higher rate.[6] Moreover, Maryland taxpayers should know the TCJA eliminates personal exemptions and places a cap on SALT deductions.[7]  Lastly, the Maryland taxpayers should know the TCJA limits the allowable interest deductions for mortgage loans from $1 million to $750,000.[8]

In response to the TCJA, the Maryland General Assembly enacted new Maryland tax laws to offset a few of the limiting provisions in the federal statute.[9]  Maryland taxpayers and tax preparers need to be aware of these changes when filing their 2018 federal and state tax returns. Maryland taxpayers need to decide if they are willing to itemize at the federal level or take the standard deductions.[10] Prioritizing their federal tax returns may result in a higher tax liability at the federal level; but could lead to a lower state liability.[11]  Therefore, Maryland taxpayers should consider which return to prioritize to receive maximum benefit. Furthermore, taxpayers are responsible for understanding what deductions are still allowed and which have been eliminated. Since the burden lays on the taxpayers, there may be an initial increase in mistakes when filing both the federal and state returns.

In return, there may also be an increase in tax examinations or more commonly known as audits, creating more tax controversy cases. Tax attorneys should prepare by familiarizing themselves with the common and most frequent deductions and credits that are claimed by individuals. In most cases, if the deductions or credits no longer exist, there may be little to no options in justifying the deductions or credits that the taxpayer claimed. Moreover, there may be an increase in cases involving the most common tax credits, such as child tax credit and/or the earned income credit because the new tax laws have changed the credit limitations.[12]

The TCJA is positively designed to help reduce the income tax rates, give credits to families with children,  and incentivize businesses to hire and provide health care to employees.[13] Yet, taxpayers must remember that most of the TCJA provisions are temporary and can lead to higher federal deficit and future hikes in tax rates.[14]Furthermore, the TCJA reduces federal aid in healthcare, education, and infrastructure to the states which can place states in financial burden.[15]Ultimately, a reduction in federal aid to Maryland could result in Maryland taxpayers paying more taxes for those benefits and services.  Therefore, taxpayers and tax preparers should accustom themselves in which deductions and credits they are allowed to take and how it can impact their future tax liability and status.

[1]Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub. L. No. 115-97, 131 Stat. 2054 (2017).

[2]Id.

[3]Amir El-Sibaie, A Look Ahead at Expring Tax Provisions, Tax Foundation (January 18, 2018) https://taxfoundation.org/look-ahead-expiring-tax-provisions.

[4]Id.

[5]The Joint Comm. on Taxation, List of Expiring Federal Tax Provisions 2016-2027 (Comm. Print 2018).

[6]Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub. L. No. 115-97, §11021-11022, 131 Stat. 2054 (2017) (stating that “kiddie tax” will be applied in a harsher manner to income shifting, such as, transfer of investments).

[7]Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub. L. No. 115-97, §11041-11042, 131 Stat. 2054 (2017) (SALT deductions are capped at $10,000).

[8]Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub. L. No. 115-97, §11043, 131 Stat. 2054 (2017).

[9]S.B. 184, 438thGen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Md. 2018) (allowing personal exemption for state income tax purposes); S.B. 318, 438thGen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Md. 2018) (increasing the standard deduction rate to $2,500 for single taxpayers and $5,000 for those filing jointly); S.B. 647, 438thGen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Md. 2018) (increasing the earned income tax credit).

[10]Comptroller of Maryland, The 60 Day Report: Effects of Federal Tax Law Revisions on the State of Maryland, Maryland Bureau of Revenue Estimates, Maryland Bureau of Revenue Estimates (Jan. 2018) at 17.

[11]Id.

[12]Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub. L. No. 115-97, 131 Stat. 2054 (2017); S.B. 647, 438thGen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Md. 2018).

[13]Dylan Grundman, What the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Means for States: A Guide to Impacts and Options, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, January 2018; The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, Healthcare.gov (accessed on Sept. 10, 2018), https://www.healthcare.gov/small-businesses/provide-shop-coverage/small-business-tax-credits/.

[14]El-Sibaie,supranote 2.

[15]Dylan Grundman, What the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Means for States: A Guide to Impacts and Options, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, January 2018.

Throwing Shade: Out-of-State Drivers Must Comply with MD Tinting Requirements, or Risk a Reasonable Suspicion Stop

The United States Constitution protects citizens against “unreasonable search and seizures.”1 When conducting a traffic stop, a police officer must have “reasonable articulable suspicion,” that a motor vehicle violation has occurred.2 This standard is less strict than the commonly known “probable cause,” primarily to balance individual privacy interests with the government’s interest in protecting police officers during traffic stops.3 In the state of Maryland, motor vehicle windows may be tinted, provided they allow at least 35 percent light transmittance and there is a sticker stating the percentage of tinting permanently attached to the window.4 In 2011, the Court of Appeals of Maryland determined that when an officer had training and experience in recognizing legally tinted windows, and was unable to see the inhabitants of a car on a sunny morning, he had reasonable suspicion sufficient to support a traffic stop.5 However, the court was clear that the observation must be in the context of what a properly tinted window would look like, and the officer must be able to credibly articulate the difference between the two.6

In a recent decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that this rule will be applicable to drivers regardless of where their car is registered.7 A Virginia driver was pulled over in Prince George’s County based on his darkly tinted windows.8 His car’s windows were in accordance with Virginia law, where his vehicle was registered.9 His vehicle was subsequently searched, and over 700 grams of marijuana discovered.10 The Defendant argued that the evidence should be suppressed, as his car was not registered in Maryland, and Md. Code 22-406(i)(1) applies only to cars registered in Maryland.11 He cited to an Illinois case, where the court determined that Illinois tinted window laws only apply to Illinois registered vehicles, to “avoid running afoul of interstate-commerce provisions of U.S. Constitution.”12 The Maryland Court did not find that argument persuasive, deciding that the officer had a right to make an investigatory stop based on the darkly tinted windows.13

This decision should be a warning to all out-of-state drivers that when driving in the state of Maryland, they must comply with Maryland’s tinting law, or risk opening themselves up to a reasonable suspicion stop.

1 U.S. Const. amend. IV.

2 Baez v. State, No. 351, 2018 WL 4171743, at *3 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 31, 2018) (citing U.S. v. Callarman, 272 F.3d 1284, 1287 (10th Cir. 2001).

3 Kristen N. Keiser, Recent Decisions: The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 57 Md. L. Rev. 1208, 1213 (1998).

4 MD Code Ann., Transp. § 22-406.

5 Turkes v. State, 199 Md. App. 96, 20 A.3d 173 (2011).

6 Id.

7 See Baez, at *5.

8 Id. at *2.

9 Id.

10 Id.

11 Id. at *4.

12 Id. at *4 (citing People v. Strawn, 210 Ill.App.3d 783, 790, 155 Ill.Dec. 269, 569 N.E.2d 269, 275 (Ill. App. Ct. 1991).

13 Baez, at *4.

Molly Miller is a 3L at the University of Baltimore. She currently is a law clerk at Funk & Bolton, P.A., in their Insurance Litigation Department, and previously interned with the Court of Special Appeals as well as the Organized Crime Unit in the Attorney General’s Office. She is an Associate Editor for the University of Baltimore Law Forumand is a member of the Women’s Bar Association. In her free time, she enjoys distance running, hiking, reading, and dogs.

 

Destroying History: Howard County’s Dilemma of Saving History or Saving Lives

In the wake of two floods that have devastated the Ellicott City Historic District, Howard County Executive Alan Kittleman has submitted a $50 million flood prevention plan.[1]Under the proposed plan, Howard County will acquire five percent of the historic district to construct a channel in order to prevent future flooding.[2]While government officials are content with the demolishing of several Pre-Civil War structures in the process, preservationist groups have provided alternatives such as “wetproofing” in order to preserve the city’s historically rich environment.[3]The ensuing battle over the fate of the Ellicott City Historic District renders the question of whether extensive litigation is on the horizon to preserve the district.

Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program that seeks to preserve and protect the country’s historic sites.[4]In order for a property to be listed, the owner of the property must file an application with their State Historic Preservation Office, which in Maryland is the Maryland Historical Trust.[5]If the Maryland Historical Trust accepts the property as being historic, the office may list the property solely with the state or forward the property owner’s application to the National Register of Historic Places for review and acceptance.[6]The benefits of listing include consideration in federally assisted projects, eligibility for certain tax provisions, and consideration for federal grants.[7]

The Ellicott City Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and Howard County’s current plan to demolish up to nineteen buildings in the historic district may result in the de-listing of the Pre-Civil War town as a whole.[8]While listed sites are not inherently protected from demolition or modification, if property owners use federal funds to change a site, as Howard County’s plan does, the Maryland Historical Trust must first be consulted to determine the affect on the site’s historical nature.[9]The National Register has the ability to remove the district from its listing if Howard County’s plan compromises the historical character that made the district eligible for the list.[10]

While the fate of the Ellicott City Historic District is still undetermined, the Maryland Historical Trust may be the only institution outside of the court system to delay, or prevent, the destructive modification of this historic site. If the Maryland Historical Trust approves the proposed plan, the only option that may be left to preserve the district’s history is preservationist societies such as Preservation Maryland challenging Howard County in court.

[1]Sarah Meehan, Ambitious Ellicott City flood prevention plan would tear down 19 buildings in historic downtown, The Baltimore Sun, (Aug. 23, 2018), http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ph-ho-cf-flood-conference-0823-story.html.

[2]Id.

[3]See Preservation Maryland, A Place for the Past: Preserving Ellicott City’s Heritage and Securing Its Future, (Aug. 2018), http://www.preservationmaryland.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/preservation-maryland-ellicott-city-special-report-august-2018.pdf.

[4]National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Program: Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.nps.gov/nr/faq.htm#howold (last visited Sept. 8, 2018).

[5]Id.

[6]Id.

[7]Id.

[8]Sarah Meehan,Plan to tear down Ellicott City buildings raises preservation concerns, The Washington Post, (Aug. 27, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/plan-to-tear-down-ellicott-city-buildings-raises-preservation-concerns/2018/08/27/fe0b677a-a7dc-11e8-97ce-cc9042272f07_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d614561e312b.

[9]Id.

[10]Id.

Ryan Parry is a third-year day student at the University of Baltimore and will graduate in May of 2019. He serves as an Associate Editor of the UB Law Forum. His legal interests include criminal and family law.  You can view his LinkedIn here, www.linkedin.com/in/w-ryan-parry-050887132

The Feeling is Mutual: Mutual Consent Divorce, Now with Minor Children

Starting October 1st, 2018, couples in Maryland who have minor children will be allowed to seek a divorce on the grounds of mutual consent.[1] Currently, parents seeking a divorce who have minor children are expressly excluded from being able to split on the grounds of mutual consent under the law.[2]   In its place, the statute will now allow these parents to use mutual consent divorce where minor children are involved.[3]  Parents now must include all issues that relate to “the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children” in their marital settlement agreement, along with decisions on alimony and the distribution of marital property.[4]  Additionally, if the parents decide issues of child support, the parties will have to attach a child support guidelines worksheet to the agreement.[5]  Finally, the court will have to review the separation agreement and can grant the divorce only if the court finds that all terms of the settlement agreement are in the best interests of the children.[6]

This amendment of the statute opens the door to a large number of couples who may be separated with minor children and seeking to get a divorce.  Under current law, barring any other serious grounds for divorce, including abuse and abandonment,[7]couples that simply grow apart and have children that are still underage are typically left with the 12-month separation requirement if they plan to get divorced.[8]  Of course, this posed issues for couples that may not be able to afford to be apart for a year straight, those who wish to still keep the household together for their children’s sake, or couples that wish to move on to more fulfilling relationships who fear that they could be accused of adultery.  The amendment here seems to be both permission and support by the state to allow parents to come to a reasonable agreement on a parenting plan that works best for the children to dissolve the marriage in a quick and efficient way without the stress, cost, or adversarial nature of litigating child custody.

[1]S.B. 120, 2016 Leg., 438th Sess. (Md. 2018).

[2]MD. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 7-103(a)(8)(i)(LexisNexis 2017). (“[T]he parties do not have any minor children in common[.]”)

[3]S.B. 120, 2016 Leg., 438th Sess. (Md. 2018).

[4]Id.

[5]Id.

[6]Id.

[7]MD. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 7-103(a)(LexisNexis 2017). (The other grounds include (1) adultery, (2) desertion, (3) conviction of a felony and subsequent imprisonment, (5) insanity, (6) cruel treatment, or (7) vicious treatment.)

[8]MD. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 7-103(a)(4) (LexisNexis 2017).

Harry Snoots is a third-year law student at the University of Baltimore.  He serves as a Staff Editor with University of Baltimore Law Forum, Treasurer with the University of Baltimore Chapter of the American Constitution Society, and is a Student Attorney with the University of Baltimore Bronfein Family Law Clinic. Before coming to law school, he attended Salisbury University and graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Philosophy.   During summer sessions, he works with Mid-Shore Pro Bono, a regional legal non-profit, as an intern and volunteer in Easton, MD.  His interests include family law and emerging topics of law for families and parents, including surrogacy, IVF, and parental rights for LGBTQ+ families and the associated rights.  His LinkedIn profile can be found here: www.linkedin.com/in/harry-snoots.

Resisting Immunity: How New York is making unprecedented changes and amping up accountability of prosecutors and what Maryland must do to follow suit

In 2017, the National Registry of Exonerations reported that eighty-four (84) out of 139 exonerations that year involved some sort of official misconduct.[1]  That is an alarmingly high statistic in light of the grave consequences suffered by those at the hands of misconduct.  While official misconduct encompasses officer misconduct, falsified information, false reports, and other various forms of misconduct, it also includes prosecutorial misconduct.[2]

On August 20, 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law unprecedented legislation that establishes the country’s first, and only, statewide commission to address prosecutorial misconduct.[3]  Although the commission cannot impose punishment, the commission will oversee, investigate, and make findings and recommendations about allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.[4]  In light of the growing number of innocence claims arising from prosecutorial misconduct, many states across the country are seeing an increased urge for legislation related to similar commissions.

Maryland has yet to follow suit and change doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.  Prosecutors in Maryland enjoy absolute immunity as defined in the Maryland Code of Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5-522(b).[5]  As recently as May 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated, “[w]e resoundingly reject the invitation to cast aside decades of Supreme Court and circuit precedent to narrow the immunity prosecutors enjoy.”[6] The Court of Appeals rejected Baltimore Police Department officer’s argument that Marilyn Mosby’s actions related to the Freddie Gray prosecution stripped her of Maryland’s statutory immunity.[7]  The court offered a purview of decades of precedent in order to justify their decision. Most significantly, the court began it’s analysis by stating “[a]bsolute immunity protects ‘the vigorous and fearless performance of the prosecutor’s duty’ that is so essential to a fair, impartial criminal justice system.”[8]  Ultimately, the court determined Mosby’s actions fell “squarely under the umbrella of absolute immunity”[9]and dismissed the civil suit filed against Mosby by Baltimore Police Department officers.[10]

While prosecutors in Maryland continue to be insulated by absolute immunity, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has taken steps in order to ensure convictions are sound.  The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office is the only prosecution office in the state that runs a Conviction Integrity Unit.[11]  The Conviction Integrity Unit is charged, amongst other things, with handling the City’s innocence claims, and even works to amicably resolve claims where factual innocence is proven.[12]  Although the efforts are to be commended, the Conviction Integrity Unit is operated internally by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, thus calling into question the ability for the unit to be impartial and vigorous in revealing and revisiting cases that may involve prosecutorial misconduct.

Ultimately, while New York works through the implementation of the commission, many states, including Maryland, should and need to adopt a similar policy.  Limiting immunity means holding prosecutors accountable through all stages of investigation, discovery, and litigation.  Until then, prosecutors remain unfairly insulated, and thus less accountable, by precedent and outdated statutory accommodations.  Maryland should take similar steps as New York and remove the accountability power from the State’s Attorney’s Office, and instead create a commission to improve the overall credibility of our judicial system’s key actors across the entire state.

[1]Steven Horn, New Report: 60 Percent of Exonerations Stem from Official Misconduct,Human Rights Defense Center, May 21, 2018, https://www.criminallegalnews.org/news/2018/may/21/new-report-60-percent-exonerations-stem-official-misconduct/

[2]Id.

[3]Innocence Project Applauds Gov. Cuomo for Approving Landmark Legislation to Combat Prosecutorial Misconduct,Innocence Project, August 20, 2018, https://www.innocenceproject.org/innocence-project-applauds-gov-cuomo-for-approving-landmark-legislation-to-combat-prosecutorial-misconduct/

[4]Id.

[5]SeeMd. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc.§ 5-522(b).

[6]Nero v. Mosby, 890 F.3d 106, 114 (2018).

[7]Id.

[8]Id.at 117 (citing Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 427-28, 96 S. Ct. 984, 47 (1976)).

[9]Id.at 118.

[10]Id.at 131.

[11]Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City accessed via: https://www.stattorney.org/28-the-office/bureaus-units/664-lauren-lipscomb

[12]Id.

Amy L. Valdivia will receive a Juris Doctorate from the University of Baltimore School of Law in May 2019, with a concentration in criminal law.  Ms. Valdivia grew up in Essex, Maryland and currently resides in Harford County. For the past two years, Ms. Valdivia has served as a Student Attorney for the Innocence Project, where she investigates innocence claims and represents wrongfully convicted individuals.  Prior to law school, she received a B.S. in Justice Studies from James Madison University.  Ms. Valdivia is excited to announce that following the Bar exam she will begin her career as an Assistant Public Defender for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. Ms. Valdivia may be reached at amy.valdivia@ubalt.edu with questions or comments.

All thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own.

 

On the Horizon: Why Maryland Should Re-evaluate Prisoner Compensation Immediately

As prison inmates rise up in protest against labor wages throughout the nation, Maryland could be facing a similar situation on the horizon. Activists in support of the movement cite general hygiene and obstructions to re-integration as the primary motivators for the strike.[1]Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services uses around 110 inmate crews for labor in positions that support the operation of the prisons as well as correctional industries in state-owned businesses.[2]Maryland should look to resolve any issues that may lead to a strike prior to their inception in order to prevent any loss in revenue that may be necessary for the operation of its prisons while exploring avenues to keep operation costs at a reasonable level.

The use of inmate labor with low compensation has been referred to as modern day “slave labor” by prisoners.[3]With compensation rates below a dollar per day in many states, and prisoners receiving no compensation at all in others, prisons complain that they are not able to afford phone calls to loved ones, general hygiene materials such as deodorant and toothpaste, and costs associate with their re-integration process.[4]The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services uses inmate work crews for prison operational services such as cleaning and cooking, as well as labor for state-operated facilities such as the historic Mt. Auburn Cemetery.[5]Inmate labor crews began work on the cemetery in 2012 as Baltimore City hoped to resurrect one of the oldest African-American cemetery’s from being swallowed by weeds and overgrowth; the project took over four years.[6]The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services currently pays inmates for labor in non-industry, regular jobs for the prisons operation at a rate of $0.90 to $2.75 per day, and $1.25 to $5.10 per day for labor in state-owned businesses; these rates are among the lowest in the nation.[7]The current wages and policies related to wages were established by Executive Directive Number OPS.245.0005 which became effective on April 1, 2016.[8]

As inmate protests continue to spread across the nation, Maryland could be on a collision course with a strike of its own. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services needs to re-evaluate both prison operation costs and inmate compensation prior to the initiation of a strike and a possible loss of vital revenue for prison operations.

[1]Mitch Smith, Prison Strike Organizers Aim to Improve Conditions and Pay, N.Y. Times, August 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/26/us/national-prison-strike-2018.html.

[2]Sarah Holder, The Not-So-Invisible Labor Prisoners Do in Cities, City Lab, August 28, 2018, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/08/the-not-so-invisible-labor-prisoners-do-in-cities/568537/.

[3]Mitch Smith, Prison Strike Organizers Aim to Improve Conditions and Pay, N.Y. Times, August 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/26/us/national-prison-strike-2018.html.

[4]Id.

[5]Sarah Holder, The Not-So-Invisible Labor Prisoners Do in Cities, City Lab, August 28, 2018, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/08/the-not-so-invisible-labor-prisoners-do-in-cities/568537/.

[6]Justin Fenton, Baltimore’s oldest black cemetery finally restored, with help of inmates, The Baltimore Sun, May 14, 2012, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/breaking/bs-md-inmate-cemetery-restoration-20120514-story.html.

[7]Prison Policy Initiative, State and federal prison wage policies and sourcing information, April 10, 2017, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/wage_policies.html.

[8]Executive Directive OPS.245.0005.

Taylor Koncen is a third-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law.  He is currently an Associate Editor on the University of Baltimore Law Forum.  His previous publication through the University of Baltimore Law Forum was a synopsis of the Court of Appeals decision in Green v. State.  Vol. 48, No. 2.  His interests outside of law school include playing and watching lacrosse and hockey.

SHOW ME THE TAXES

When President Donald Trump refused to release his taxes during his presidential campaign in 2016, the media went into a frenzy.[1]Why was he refusing to release his taxes? What is it that he was trying to hide? Since the presidency of Richard Nixon, all presidents and major party presidential candidates, with the exception of President Gerald Ford, have released their tax returns.[2]Although President Ford did not release his taxes, he did make public summary data regarding his taxes.[3] There is currently no law that requires that a presidential candidate has to release any tax returns. That is, unless Maryland’s Presidential Tax Transparency Act becomes law.

The Maryland Senate has recently passed a bill that would require future presidential candidates to release their tax returns.[4]If the bill is passes, it would mandate disclosure of tax returns for presidential and vice presidential candidates prior to appearing on the Maryland ballot.[5] The candidates must provide the five most current tax returns. [6]The law would also require that candidates sign a written consent form for the disclosure of those federal income tax returns.[7]

Proponents of such laws argue that requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns show that a candidate is forth coming and honest.[8]Also, tax returns provide a better insight to the candidate’s finances and potential conflicts of interest a candidate could face.[9] Opposition to these laws argue that the release of tax returns are trivial and useless. [10]The Ethics and Government Act of 1978 provides that presidential candidates have to disclose their assets, sources of income and debts. [11]Many other states have suggested implementing similar President Tax Transparency laws but none have passed. Maryland would be the first state to have such a law if passed.

[1]Chris Cillizza, Donald Trump is never going to release his taxes, CNN, (Dec. 19, 2017, 9:12 PM), https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/19/politics/donald-trump-release-taxes/index.html; Chris Kahn, Trump calls tax avoidance ‘smart’, most Americans call it ‘unpatriotic’: poll, Reuters, (Oct. 4, 2016, 6:03 PM), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-poll/trump-calls-tax-avoidance-smart-most-americans-call-it-unpatriotic-poll-idUSKCN1242FH; Domenico Montanaro, Simple Beats Nuance, Which Is Part Of Why Trump Isn’t Releasing Those Tax Returns, NPR, (Apr. 17, 2017, 3:56 PM), https://www.npr.org/2017/04/18/524561638/simple-beats-nuance-which-is-part-of-why-trumps-not-releasing-those-tax-returns; Jill Disis, Presidential tax returns: Will it end with Trump?, CNN, (Jan, 26, 2017) http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/23/news/economy/donald-trump-tax-returns/index.html
[2]Amber Phillips, Want your presidential candidates to release their tax returns? There’s a bill for that., Wash. Post (Oct. 3, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/03/want-your-presidential-candidates-to-release-their-taxes-theres-a-bill-for-that/?utm_term=.bb44b0d123a2
[3]Disis,supranote 1,
[4]Philips,supranote 2.
[5] Presidential Candidate Tax Transparency Act, H.B. 662, 438thGen Assemb., Reg. Sess. (2018)
[6]H.B. 662.
[7]H.B. 662.
[8]Brandon Carter, California Legislature passes bill requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns, The Hill, (Sept. 14, 2017, 8:40 PM), http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/350789-california-legislature-passes-bill-requiring-presidential-candidates-to
[9]Editorial Board Memo: All Presidential Candidates Should Release Their Tax Returns Support a U.S. Senate Vote On The Presidential Tax Transparency Act, (Sept. 8, 2016), https://americansfortaxfairness.org/all-presidential-candidates-should-release-their-tax-returns-support-a-u-s-senate-vote-on-the-presidential-tax-transparency-act/
[10]Daniel l. Weiner and Lawrence Norden, Presidential Transparency: Beyond Tax Returns, Brennan Center for Justice, https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/Presidential%20Transparency%20Beyond%20Tax%20Returns.pdf
[11]Id.

Makeda Curbeam is a fourth year evening student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She served as a staff editor for the UB Law Forum. Her interests include family law and juvenile justice. She can be reached at Makeda.curbeam@ubalt.edu. You can view her LinkedIn at –

https://www.linkedin.com/in/makeda-curbeam-42889ab1/

THE $15/HOUR MINIMUM WAGE BILL CAN LEAD TO UNEMPLOYMENT AND BUSINESS CLOSURES IN MARYLAND

Maryland’s General Assembly has been considering a bill that would increase Maryland’s minimum wage.[1]This bill was intended to help low-wage workers. Across the country, there have been various protests in effort to increase workers’ minimum wage.[2]

The new bill passed by the House intends to protect minimum wage workers. The current minimum wage for Marylanders is $9.25. The reasons people support an increased minimum wage is that it will likely reduce income inequality, it will save the government money, and it will improve people’s economic security.[3]While increasing the minimum wage will benefit low-wage earners, it also has the potential of increasing the unemployment rate and costing businesses to the point that many businesses will have to close down.

A recent study showed that when the minimum wage was increased significantly, the job loss skyrocketed.[4]Specifically, in Seattle, an adopter of a $15 minimum wage, a 2017 study showed when the wage increased to $13/hr, nine-months later 5,000 low-wage jobs disappeared, low-wage earners hours decreased, and their wages dropped by $6-million.[5]Likewise, California also increased its minimum wage significantly. A study released in December 2017 showed that there was a measurable decrease in employment, and that each 10% increase in minimum wage corresponded with a nearly 5% reduction in employment where there were minimum wage employees.[6]

Both the Governor and lawmakers need to consider recent studies before increasing Maryland’s minimum wage.[7]The NFIB used a regional economic modeling firm services to determine the projected impact of increased minimum wages.[8]Based on this firm’s findings, Maryland’s employment will be reduced by 99,000 jobs over a decade, and real output reduced by over $61billion.[9]

The new bill proposed in Maryland can have unintended consequences for both low-wage earners and small businesses. Increased wages will require small businesses to lay people off because of its inability to afford such cost. The domino effect that likely will occur is many small businesses closing down, which ultimately means low wage earners no longer having a job. Before passing this legislation, lawmakers need to ensure that every moving part affected by this legislation will prosper and will not be subjected to serious unintended consequences.

[1]MarylandReporter, Mike O’Halloran, National Federation of Independent Business,http://marylandreporter.com/2018/02/25/op-ed-the-unintended-victims-of-a-15-minimum-wage-are-small-businesses-and-their-employees/
[2]THE GUARDIAN,  Ucilia Wang, What a $15 minimum wage means for US small businesses, ,  https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/apr/15/what-a-15-minimum-wage-means-for-us-small-businesses.
[3]Alternet, Cap Action War Room/Think Progress, 10 Reasons to Raise the Minimum Wage (with Charts), https://www.alternet.org/economy/10-reasons-raise-minimum-wage-chartsamericannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts.
[4]Supra n. 1
[5]Id.
[6]Id.
[7]Id.
[8]Id.
[9]Id.

Melisha Neal is a third-year day student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She will graduate in May 2018. After graduating, she will accept an associate position at Alexander & Cleaver P.A. She looks forward to spending time with her family and running marathons in her spare time. She serves as a staff editor for the UB Law Forum and is also a member of the National Environmental Law Moot Court Team. Her interests include civil litigation and estate planning. She can be reached at mneal@alexander-cleaver.com You can view her LinkedIn at –

https://www.linkedin.com/in/melisha-neal-95b59b6a/?midToken=AQHQ01t-n2uffA&trk=eml-email_notification_single_search_appearance_01-header-10-profile&trkEmail=eml-email_notification_single_search_appearance_01-header-10-profile-null-42n3pz~jh1xxcbg~wl-null-neptune%2Fprofile~vanity%2Eview&lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Aemail_email_notification_single_search_appearance_01%3BvjY4qc4zQfC0eOM%2FbwpSDg%3D%3D