The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for March 1, 2021

Today on March 1, 2021, read about:

Of course, if these or any other legal questions are impacting you and your family, then don't hesitate to reach out to JC Law for your free initial consultation with one of our expert domestic, criminal, or civil litigation attorneys.

Baltimore Inmates File Suit against State Corrections Department

Original Story

What's Going On:

Inmates at the Chesapeake Detention Facility in Baltimore, Maryland filed a class-action lawsuit against the state run lock-up. It alleges the staff mishandled the virus leading to one-third of the staff and inmates contracting COVID-19 in less than a month.

According to the suit, the inmates do not have the means to properly clean cells, facility staff do not clean common areas after recreation, and not enforcing mask wearing regularly.

The goal of the suit seeks a court order for an independent expert to inspect the facility and force them to follow CDC guidelines. Also, asking for inmates with underlying conditions be released or transferred to another facility.

Why This Matters To You:

Many of us see litigation as frivolous and a money grab. This one, not at all. The ultimate reward sought in this lawsuit is human decency.

The suit only makes claims, and no specific evidence is mentioned supporting a detention facility ignoring public health guidelines. In fact, the state’s reply to the suit says corrections facilities stay active in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Isn’t that exactly what everyone is trying to do, actively stop the spread? The pandemic is global and not isolated, making it difficult to 100% prevent an outbreak. Jails, prisons, and detention facilities were never built with preventing deadly virus spread in mind.

On the other hand, why would inmates file such a suit? Especially when one of the requests is for hand soap and paper towels, basic necessities during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Yes, they are seeking release from the facility, but only if an inmate has underlying conditions that make them vulnerable.

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Digital Ad Tax Already Facing Legal Challenge

Original Story

What's Going On:

Well, that didn’t take long at all. A week passes by after Maryland became the first state to enact a digital advertising tax and it already faces a legal challenge.

Last Thursday a group including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Internet Association, and NetChoice filed a suit arguing the new law is flawed and unconstitutional. This lawsuit becomes the first sign of a looming legal fight only expected to grow.

Maryland lawmakers argue these tech companies have grown rapidly because of not paying taxes on revenue generated by digital ad sales in the state, essentially “freeloaders,” and contributed nothing to the future of Maryland residents. They expect around $250 million in revenue from the tax in the first year.

The tech industry sees it differently, calling the tax a legislative overreach and saying it punishes an industry supporting 100,000 jobs in Maryland as well as contributing tens of billions of dollars to the local economy.

Why This Matters To You:

Good time to talk taxes, with Tax day just around the corner. Many are excited at the prospect of a tax refund, while others are dreading what the tax bill will be.

A large majority figuring out what is owed are small business owners and they are who lobbyists believe will basically foot the bill as the tech companies “trickle down” the tax to consumers.

The consumer in this case being those who buy digital ad space. Small businesses rely heavily on digital ads due to the reasonable cost. Google, Facebook, and Amazon allow businesses to buy, create, and post ads with free marketing tools at a low cost to the business.

A digital ad is seen by many more eyes than a traditional TV ad nowadays. Low cost and larger reach equal a great opportunity for a small business to grow its customer base.

On the other side of the argument, we need tax revenue to refill the Maryland coffers to keep state services open and running. Tax revenue also helps pay for our roadways, bridges, public schools, and unemployment.

Only time will tell how this first of its kind digital tax holds up to the litigation coming its way.

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Maryland Lawmakers Hashing Out Sports Betting Details

Original Story

What's Going On:

March Madness begin in earnest on March 18th. As the NCAA Tournament approaches the Maryland General Assembly continues to hash out legal sports betting.

While technically legal after Marylanders overwhelmingly voted for the sports betting referendum, our lawmakers are working out how many licenses to grant, who can apply for them and how much of a cut the state will take in taxes to fund improvements to public schools.

Maryland’s House of Delegates currently hears testimony on a gambling proposal crafted by Democratic Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, while the state Senate hashes out issues in a work group before introducing specifics.

Part of those details includes providing minority-owned businesses get a stake in the expansion of the gambling industry here in Maryland. Traditionally, the gambling industry favored white-owned corporations.

Entrepreneurs and businesses alike are anxiously awaiting their chance to compete for licenses, urging lawmakers to create an unlimited number of sports betting licenses.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission reports the states illegal gambling market to be $2.7 billion a year. Meaning, if those illegal bets turn into legal bets, the state could potentially receive $20 million to $32 million in tax revenue.

Why This Matters To You:

The excitement over legal sports betting in Maryland is palpable, especially with March Madness, the NBA Playoffs, and NHL Playoffs just around the corner. Lawmakers look forward to the possible large influx of tax revenue, while residents hope to strike it rich betting on their favorite teams.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emptied much of Maryland’s coffers and this legislation will instantly pump-up dwindling funds in the state’s Treasury.

Compared to the recently enacted digital ad tax, this revenue stream guarantees funds. Marylanders’ already said this is a good idea with the positive outcome from the November election cycle, while the digital tax faces an uphill legal battle.

We just need our lawmakers to produce and implement a plan of action to open the cash flow spicket. The digital ad tax’s likelihood of adding any money to the state’s coffers is up in the air as it already faces a lawsuit (Read above).

Plus, not only does the bill help the state’s tax revenues, but it will also be inclusive as legislators focus on making sure minorities have a stake in this soon to be booming industry in Maryland. A win-win.

Much of that revenue will go back to our communities by helping to fund and improve Maryland’s public education system.

The Maryland State Department of Education has struggled to fund local public schools’ budgets in recent years with a struggling revenue stream. Sports betting provides an influx of cash to help the strain on our public schools’ budgets.

More About Maryland Gambling Matters

Maryland Delegate Seeks To End Permits and Licenses for Lemonade Stands

Original Story

What's Going On:

Legislation season continues in Maryland, and a relatively small bill could make a HUGE impact on kids. Soon they’ll be allowed to participate in an American pastime again without the fear of repercussions…selling refreshment from a Lemonade Stand.

House Bill 961 bars local jurisdictions from preventing or regulating minors who sell non-alcoholic beverages on private property. Current Maryland law requires someone to get a permit or license to run a stand.

Back in 2011, a young entrepreneur from Montgomery County set up a lemonade stand in front of the PGA’s US Open, which was held in Bethesda, Maryland that year. The kids were selling the lemonade to raise money for cancer research. A county inspector soon shut down the stand and fined the children’s grandfather $500.

The story picked up media attention along with negative feedback, which did cause the county to waive the fine and allow the children to reopen the stand.

This happened 10 years ago, but still influences parents. Many parents are still too intimidated by the potential trouble to allow their children to partake in an American tradition much like apple pie.

Why This Matters To You:

Growing up in the US many of us took part in this summertime entrepreneurial adventure. Lemonade stands are basically a right of passage for kids in the US. Who hasn’t done this to make some spending money or to raise money for a good cause when they were younger?

In fact, you probably did so without any thought of repercussions or consequences. Who shuts down a kid’s lemonade stand? Local governments do, which is pretty absurd.

Yes, licenses and permits are needed to run a restaurant or food truck for health and safety measures, but should they be needed for someone running an operation that is not likely to serve a large population of people? The health risk is minimal at best.

And, should permits be required for a venture not bringing in large profits, if any at all? Honestly, the cost of the permits means you’re probably underneath this little venture, which doesn’t make sense.

First of all, kids do not have the money to purchase the needed permits and licenses. Secondly, the business is not intended to be a long-term venture.

How many lemonade stands do you see going during the winter? (Hey kids, Hot Chocolate stands…that’s your next entrepreneurial venture, especially those living north of the Mason-Dixon).

And, the majority of lemonade stands are operated on a persons private property, not public.

Finally, during a time of division in our country, we have something we can all agree on; giving kids the ability to take part in an American tradition, lemonade stands.

Contact your local Senator or Representative and urge them to pass this legislation, do it for the kids.

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National Harbor Suspect May Be Incompetent to Stand Trial

Original Story

What's Going On:

The man authorities alleged to carry out an Islamic State-inspired attack on the National Harbor is dealing with a delusional disorder. A federal judge ordered the Germantown, Maryland man hospitalized in a mental institution for treatment.

That judge ruled back in February 2020 that there is strong evidence the man is not competent to stand trial. A report provided during the ruling noted the suspect could not be tried while he suffered with delusions.

The design of the hospitalization is to ready the defendant for trial, by receiving psychiatric and psychological treatment. He is charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Police arrested the suspect in March 2019 after they saw him exit a rented U-Haul van and jump a security fence at the National Mall.

Law enforcement allege the defendant told them he wanted to carry out an attack like the one in which a driver ran over and killed dozens of people in Nice, France.

Why This Matters To You:

Terrorism, whether domestic or foreign, is a fact of life nowadays. The enemies of the US are brazening in their attempts to destroy our democracy. We have become a different world in the wake of 9/11.

No longer do we feel safe walking our own neighborhood and city streets, not because of ordinary crime, but terrorists who threaten to destroy our way of life through bombings, shootings, and other deadly forms of attacks.

An unfortunate fact of life. Many of us wonder what drove them to become terrorists and commit these atrocities? How could they hate us so much? Mental health plays an important role in our own vulnerabilities.

Diving further into the matter, the defendant will serve time in a mental institution for treatment to make him competent for trial. If he wasn’t competent to know right from wrong during his attempted attack, how can he be competent after the fact?

A person with a mental health disease that effects their competency needs treatment for the disorder, not punishment for a crime they really didn’t understand they were committing.

And, if their competency is always affected because of their mental health, should they ever be brought to trial?

This man immigrated to the US to make a better life, but somewhere along the way his delusions led him astray and he lost his way. He needs treatment and help, not prison time.

More About Federal-Level Charges

New Law Introduced top Train Judges and Lawyers on Child Abuse and Domestic Violence

Original Story

What's Going On:

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard a bill presentation last Wednesday that will protect children from violence carried out by their parents. Sen. Susan C. Lee’s legislation looks to train judges in family law and domestic violence cases how to protect children from abuse.

Judges and attorneys would be required to undergo a minimum 60 hours of training on subjects including child brain development, child abuse investigations, impacts of domestic violence, physical and mental abuse and child sexual abuse, as well as the effect of domestic violence on children and how it should be considered in visitation and custody rulings.

The bill tries to put final recommendations from the Workgroup to Study Child Custody Proceedings Involving Child Abuse or Domestic Violence Allegations into action. If the bill is enacted training for judges starts in 2021, then in 2023 attorney training would begin.

Why This Matters To You:

A relative or someone close to the family is usually the person who abuses a child. The child are also told not to tell or more harm will come to them or another family member, so it’s imperative that judges and attorneys recognize when a child is in danger.

Medical professionals are trained to recognize child abuse when it is brought to them to remove a child from a bad situation. It only makes sense that judges and attorneys who deal directly with these incidents of abuse and domestic violence get training, too.

False allegations of abuse and domestic violence sometimes come up during divorce or custody battles. These can cause serious harm to a person’s reputation and even lead to someone losing their job.

Judges and attorneys need to recognize real abuse from allegations in order to uphold the correct penalty. They should also be looking out for the best interest of the child, regardless of scenario.

As a Firm practicing family law and criminal law, we take protecting Marylanders and their rights seriously. We welcome this legislation and the training it requires, because it can only make us better as attorneys.

More About Abuse Charges in Maryland