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Maryland

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on February 8, 2014

  • Hearing set for February 26 on bill to ban knives and other weapons from private school parking lots and other property [Maryland Legislative Watch]
  • Bill would join Ohio in banning hidden compartments in cars, but one legislative sponsor withdraws it following public outcry [MLW]
  • Minimum wage a poor way to support working families [Todd Eberly]
  • Italian-based gunmaker Beretta: “Maryland disrespects us and gun owners, so we expand in Tennessee” [Ugo Gussalli Beretta, Washington Times]
  • Would a per-bird environmental tax, as proposed by two Montgomery County lawmakers, drive chicken farming out of the state? [DelmarvaNow, followup (governor pledges veto)]
  • “The Parallel Failures of the Oregon and Maryland Health Exchanges” [Peter Suderman, Reason]
  • State has resisted general tide toward dramshop (alcohol server) liability for misdeeds of drunken patrons; bill in Annapolis would change that [MLW, earlier]

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One would think the whole concept of the union-backed “correctional officers’ bill of rights” might have been thrown into disrepute by last year’s Maryland scandal, in which the statute was found to have entrenched problem guards even as the Baltimore jail descended into a scandalous state of gang-run corruption. But apparently not: the Pennsylvania House has unanimously (!) voted in favor of having that state adopt its own such “bill of rights,” weakening administrators’ power to investigate possible officer misconduct. Details of H.B. 976 here.

“It’s too early, but I’m sure there will be something,” he said. “We call it ‘Sixty Minutes’ legislation – something happens and legislation is introduced.” — Maryland Del. Joseph Vallario, Jr., chair of the House Judiciary Committee in the state legislature, on prospects for the introduction of new legislation following the murder of two skateboard store employees at the Mall in Columbia. [Washington Post] As of Sunday police had not assigned a motive to the slayer, who killed himself at the scene.

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on January 18, 2014

Legislature’s back in session and no citizen’s liberties are safe:

  • SB 65 (Benson) would require gas station dealers to maintain operational video cameras and retain footage for 45 days [Maryland Legislative Watch]
  • HB 20 (GOP Del. Cluster) would require all public schools to hire cops [Gazette, MLW]
  • SB 28 (Frosh) would lower burden of proof for final domestic protective orders from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of the evidence” [MLW, ABA] One problem with that is that orders already tag family members as presumed abusers in the absence of real evidence, are routinely used as a “tactical leverage device” in divorces, and trip up unwary targets with serious criminal penalties for trying to do things like see their kids;
  • Driving while suspected of gun ownership: what unarmed Florida motorist went through at hands of Maryland law enforcement [Tampa Bay Online] 2014 session in Annapolis can hardly be worse for gun rights than 2013, so it stands to reason it’ll be better [Hendershot's]
  • State begins very aggressive experiment in hospital cost controls: “I am glad there is an experiment, but I’m also glad I live in Virginia.” [Tyler Cowen]
  • Scenes from inside the failed Maryland Obamacare exchange [Baltimore Sun] Lt. Gov.: now’s not the time to audit or investigate the failed launch because that’d just distract us from it [WBAL]
  • Corridors run pink as Montgomery County school cafeterias battle scourge of strawberry milk [Brian Griffiths, Baltimore Sun]
  • Plus: A left-right alliance on surveillance and privacy in the legislature [my new Cato at Liberty post]
  • How did Maryland same-sex marriage advocates win last year against seemingly long odds? [Stephen Richer, Purple Elephant Republicans citing Carrie Evans, Cardozo JLG; thanks to @ToddEberly as well as Carrie and Stephen for kind words]

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I’ve got an op-ed in today’s Baltimore Sun urging lawmakers in Annapolis to keep an open mind (as many of them indeed seem to be doing) on the growing movement to end the war on cannabis. One plan proposed by delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur (D-Takoma Park) would legalize and tax the plant; others have suggested various degrees of decriminalization. I did not at all care for the reaction of one of my own representatives, Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Middletown), who told a reporter: “It’s my firm belief that marijuana makes you lazy and stupid, and while this may really encourage Delegate Mizeur’s base, my base are the hard-working taxpayers of Maryland who are probably not the ones who are smoking marijuana and being lazy.” Yikes!

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on December 4, 2013

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on November 16, 2013

  • Even if some of its speedcams were illegal, Montgomery County says it doesn’t plan to issue refunds “because drivers admit guilt when they mail in their signed tickets and pay the fines” [WUSA, auto-plays video]
  • Per state’s highest court, “repose statute does not bar the plaintiffs’ wrongful death action because it refers to suits for ‘injury,’ as opposed to ‘death.’” [Alex Stein, Bill of Health] Introduce comparative negligence while also reforming old doctrines like joint/several liability? [Don Gifford and Christopher Robinette via TortsProf]
  • Double-blind photo lineups: “Baltimore Police Take Steps to Avoid Wrongful Convictions” [John Ross, Reason]
  • State shuts down day care center. An overreaction? [Free-Range Kids]
  • Reporter Audrey Hudson worries investigative sources were compromised after her notes were seized in armed Coast Guard raid on husband [Maryland Morning]
  • Baltimore detective convicted of shooting himself to get workers’ comp benefits [WBAL]
  • Santoni’s grocery, southeast Baltimore institution since 1930s, cites city’s beverage bottle tax as reason for closure [Baltimore Sun, auto-plays video]
  • New Maryland laws effective last month include some dubious ideas passed unanimously [Maryland Legislative Watch]

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I’ve got a new piece at Reason.com expanding on my earlier reports on the new pilot program by which Facebook will give Maryland school officials a dedicated channel with which to seek takedown of posts and other material that in their view contributes to the problem of “cyber-bullying.” I think the program represents a disturbing step toward a wider government role as arbiter of what is allowed to be said in social media, the more so as it will be difficult or impossible to know whether takedown decisions at Facebook’s discretion are an entirely neutral application of the service’s “Community Standards” or are swayed in part by the wish to keep government bodies happy. I quote various press accounts, some affording additional insight into the existing and proposed takedown process, as well as commentary by Scott Greenfield, TechDirt, and the Daily Caller in which I’m quoted. Some additional commentary: Joy Pullmann/Heartland, Josh Blackman. More: Instalanched, thanks Glenn Reynolds.

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Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 8, 2013

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on October 4, 2013

  • You might as well live: estate and inheritance tax make it highly inadvisable to die as a Maryland resident [TaxProf]
  • “Foreclosures: The Chickens Come Home to Roost” [Calvert Institute, earlier]
  • Courts task force created earlier this year will study costly and open-ended Civil Gideon proposals [courts]
  • For your own good: state’s commissioner of financial regulation goes after banks that service payday lenders [Funnell]
  • Governor candidates angle for union support, bids include “greater use of collective bargaining agreements on state construction projects” [WaPo]
  • Really, it won’t kill you to respect people’s consciences on Frederick County boards and commissions [Bethany Rodgers, Frederick News Post on Pledge of Allegiance controversy, update, Ken at Popehat ("Freedom of conscience is like the good couch in the living room; it's there to be had, not to be used."), Gene Healy background] About time: city may ease restrictions on bed and breakfasts [Jen Bondeson, Frederick News Post]
  • Only a handful of states join Maryland in policy of unionizing home child carers [Go Local Providence, more]

That’s the gist of an announcement this morning from the office of Maryland attorney general Doug Gansler, following on the passing into effect of the state’s groundbreaking “cyberbullying” law, which I criticized earlier this year. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is involved too in the Educator Escalation Channel, which will start with a pilot Maryland program. Gansler says those targeted for post takedowns will include Facebook users who are “not committing a crime… We’re not going to go after you, but we are going to take down the language off of Facebook, because there’s no redeeming societal value and it’s clearly hurting somebody.” Although the rationale is to protect Maryland juveniles from unwelcome and hurtful online communications, the initial press reports offer no indication that the Facebook users whose speech is targeted for takedown will necessarily be other Maryland juveniles.

What could possibly go wrong? I’ve got some thoughts on the question at Cato at Liberty. More: Scott Greenfield (“Facebook becomes the agent of the state. … Welcome to the start of something big.”)

Speaking in Baltimore Thursday

by Walter Olson on September 16, 2013

I’m speaking in downtown Baltimore this Thursday at 12 noon about my most recent book, Schools for Misrule. I’ve given versions of this talk many times around the country but I think this marks the first time I’ve done so in my own state of Maryland. It’s free and lunch is served, but you’ll need to RSVP to the Federalist Society Baltimore Lawyers’ Chapter. Details here.

A natural experiment: Virginia law allows foreclosures to happen rapidly, Maryland law delays them. Which state has bounced back more smartly from the housing crash? [Michael Schearer, earlier]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on August 8, 2013

  • Error-plagued speed camera program even more error-plagued than had been realized [Fox Baltimore]
  • Del. Joseph Vallario, Jr. [D-Prince George's] chairs House Judiciary panel while practicing criminal defense law, but as conflicts of interest go we’ve heard worse [Washington Post]
  • Theme of recent dramshop, contributory-negligence rulings by Maryland Court of Appeals is restraint [Michael Schearer, more; my WaPo letter on the alcohol-serving case; for a view different from mine, Donald Gifford]
  • Pleading guilty in massive Baltimore jail scandal, Tavon White says “many other” guards involved in misconduct, 13 have been indicted [City Paper, Baltimore Sun/CorrectionsOne, AP/HuffPo]
  • One view from the other side on unpopular “rain tax” on impervious surfaces [Tom Coale, HoCo Rising]
  • “Alas, The Maryland Court of Appeals Has Reversed Ford v. Dixon” [on "every fiber, every breath" asbestos theory; David Oliver]
  • What is it with Maryland and surveillance, anyway? State police zealously collect license plate-cam data [J.D. Tuccille]

The Maryland high court recently declined an invitation to discard the common-law rule against server liability in a case where a patron of a Gaithersburg craft brewery got on the road and caused a fatal accident. Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney wrote in favor of the wider liability rule, and I responded in a letter to the editor just posted at the newspaper.

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Some had urged the state’s highest court to abandon the old common-law standard in favor of a comparative negligence standard, but the court said any such move will need to come from the Maryland legislature. [Daily Record, earlier; Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on June 25, 2013

Yesterday the Supreme Court decided it was okay to require arrested persons to submit to DNA testing meant to match them to unsolved crimes. [Maryland v. King; Robert Kaiser, Washington Post; Nina Totenberg, NPR] In an impassioned dissent joined by liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Justice Antonin Scalia warned that an important civil liberties line is being crossed as the Court now approves suspicion-less searches of persons at a stage at which the law presumes them innocent, without any primary motivation except to gather evidence of unrelated crime.

I’ve got an article in The Daily Beast this morning on the Scalia dissent and its warnings that lawmakers may soon embrace a genetic surveillance state in the name of security. Excerpt:

In his dissent, Scalia warns of such a “genetic panopticon.” (The reference is to Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a prison laid out so that inmates could be watched at every moment.) And it’s closer than you may think. Already fingerprint requirements have multiplied, as the dissent points out, “from convicted criminals, to arrestees, to civil servants, to immigrants, to everyone with a driver’s license” in some states. DNA sample requirements are now following a similar path, starting reasonably enough with convicts before expanding, under laws passed by more than half the states as well as Maryland, to arrestees. (“Nearly one-third of Americans will be arrested for some offense by age 23.”) Soon will come wider circles. How long before you’ll be asked to give a DNA swab before you can board a plane, work as a lawn contractor, join the football team at your high school, or drive?

With the confidence that once characterized liberals of the Earl Warren–William Brennan school, Scalia says we can’t make catching more bad guys the be-all and end-all of criminal process:

“Solving unsolved crimes is a noble objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law-enforcement searches. The Fourth Amendment must prevail. … I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”

More: I’ve got this related piece in Newsweek on the Justices’ shifting Fourth Amendment alignments. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the Instalanche. And other commentaries from Daniel Fisher, Lowering the Bar (on the Jeremy Bentham angle; Scalia’s dissent mentions Bentham twice; Scott Greenfield; Julian Sanchez; Jacob Sullum). And Mississippi has just announced plans to match offspring of underage mothers to responsible fathers through DNA database checks based on umbilical cord blood. [NPR]

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