Author: University of Baltimore Law Review Staff

Issues to Watch

Cruel and Unusual Payment: The Supreme Court Incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment to the Fifty States in Timbs v. Indiana.


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*Emily Schreiber

On Wednesday, February 20, 2019, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced the unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court in Timbs v. Indiana: the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution applies to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Timbs v. Indiana, 139 S. Ct. 682, 687 (2019).  Timbs “pleaded guilty in Indiana state court to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft.”  Id. at 686.  His sentence included one year of home detention, five years of probation, and costs and fees of $1,203.  Id.  When Timbs was arrested, law enforcement seized his Land Rover vehicle, which Timbs had purchased with money from his deceased father’s life insurance policy.  Id.  The state of Indiana hired a private law firm to bring a civil suit for forfeiture, given law enforcement’s belief that Timbs used the vehicle to transport heroin.  Id.  Despite the trial court’s finding that the vehicle was used to transport heroin, in violation of criminal law, the request for forfeiture was denied, as “Timbs had recently purchased the vehicle for $42,000, more than four times the maximum $10,000 monetary fine assessable against him for his drugs conviction.”  Id.  Though the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the trial court’s decision, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed, finding “that the Excessive Fines Clause constrains only federal actions and is inapplicable to state impositions.”  Id.  Thus, the Supreme Court of the United States ultimately granted certiorari to decide the issue of whether the Eighth Amendment’s clause could properly be applied to the states.  See id.

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Issues to Watch

Prophesizing Pot: LAX Marijuana Policy Highlights the Need for Uniformity


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*Joe Stephan

The internet was set ablaze in late September 2018 after catching a whiff of the official marijuana policy of Los Angeles Airport (LAX), which allows individuals to possess marijuana on airport property in accordance with California state law.  See Lilit Marcus, LAX Airport to Allow Marijuana in Carry-ons, CNN (Oct. 1, 2018), https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/lax-los-angeles-airport-marijuana/index.html.  The five-sentence policy concludes with notices—or perhaps warnings—that TSA screening stations remain under federal jurisdiction and that marijuana laws may be different in the state in which a passenger lands.  LAX Marijuana Policy, L.A. World Airports, https://www.flylax.com/en/lax-marijuana-policy (last visited Mar. 7, 2019).  The problem presented by the LAX policy is exactly that—the uncertainty to which the conclusion of the policies allude—as improving the ability to predict legal outcomes is “[f]ar the most important and pretty nearly the whole meaning of every new effort of legal thought . . . .”  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Path of the Law, 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457, 457–58 (1897). (more…)

Issues to Watch

Home Sharing Regulations Coming Soon to a City Near You: The Recent Evolution of Local Short-Term Rental Regulations


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*Elizabeth Strunk

Home sharing has existed in many forms for centuries.  Jamila Jefferson-Jones, Airbnb and the Housing Segment of the Modern “Sharing Economy”: Are Short-Term Rental Restrictions an Unconstitutional Taking?, 42 Hastings Const. L.Q. 557, 561 (2015).  The premise of home sharing has always been “lodging purchased on a time- or space-limited basis . . . .”  Id.  Originally, short-term rentals existed as inns and boarding houses, but recently a home sharing economy has emerged through online platforms.  Id.; Kellen Zale, When Everything Is Small: The Regulatory Challenge of Scale in the Sharing Economy, 53 San Diego L. Rev. 949, 952 (2016).  Globally, short-term rentals have grown from 2012 to 2017 despite efforts to regulate the practice.  Robert McCartney, Political Contests Erupt as Critics and Hotel Industry Struggle to Curb Airbnb, Wash. Post (Oct. 15, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/political-contests-erupt-as-cities-and-hotel-industry-struggle-to-curb-airbnb/2018/10/15/7819efdc-ce34-11e8-a3e6-44daa3d35ede_story.html.  In fact, home-sharing is forecasted to continue expanding and permanently change the lodging industry.  Id. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Has Canine Racism Reached the End of Its Leash?: The Impending End of Breed Specific Legislation


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*Raquel L. Flynn

In a time where pet ownership has become increasingly popular, more and more people are turning to shelters and rescue dogs to find their forever companion.  See, e.g., Zac Ezzone, Local Animal Shelters Reporting Higher Live-Release Rates Amid Montgomery County Investigation, Community Impact (Oct. 3, 2018, 8:00 AM), https://communityimpact.com/houston/lake-houston-humble-kingwood/city-county/2018/10/03/local-animals-shelters-reporting-higher-live-release-rates-amid-montgomery-county-investigation/.  However, with most of the adoptable dogs in shelters being “pit bull” mixes, potential dog owners are turned off from adopting those animals due to local laws.  Zach Barrett, Are Pit Bulls Man’s Best Friend or Too Dangerous?, St. Joseph News-Press (Feb. 4, 2018), http://www.newspressnow.com/news/local_news/are-pit-bulls-man-s-best-friend-or-too-dangerous/article_e4beaabd-9825-5635-86e3-fe3a4c1b9da5.html.  But, over the last few months, many counties have voted down, or even outlawed, breed specific legislation (BSL).  See, e.g., Dominic Trimboli, Michigan Senate Passes Bill Banning Breed-Specific Legislation, Ogemaw Herald (May 15, 2018, 9:30 AM), http://www.ogemawherald.com/stories/michigan-senate-passes-bill-banning-breed-specific-legislation,107012.  As more dog activists across the country are speaking up, BSL may become a thing of the past in many areas, including in local counties such as Prince George’s County, Maryland.  See id.; Andrea Swalec, DC-Area Pit Bulls Are in Special Need of ‘Forever Homes’ Amid Bans, NBC Wash. (Aug. 17, 2018, 7:01 PM), https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Pit-Bulls-Are-in-Special-Need-of-Forever-Homes-Amid-Bans-491119241.html. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Does Memory Matter?  Implications of Dementia on the Imposition of the Death Penalty


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*Bridget Mentzer

I.  Vernon Madison’s Crime

In 1985, Vernon Madison was convicted of killing a Mobile, Alabama, police officer.  Matthew Vadum, Supreme Court Considers Whether Dementia Makes Death Penalty Cruel, Epoch Times (Oct. 3, 2018), https://www.theepochtimes.com/supreme-court-considers-whether-dementia-makes-death-penalty-cruel_2677601.html.  The officer was guarding Madison’s then-girlfriend following a domestic dispute, when Madison snuck up behind the officer and shot him twice in the head.  Id.  Madison was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.  Id.  Madison and his attorneys filed many appeals in the following years, all unsuccessful.  Id.  Madison’s situation changed, however, in 2015 following a series of debilitating strokes.  Id.  These strokes left Madison with significant brain damage leading to long-term memory loss, as well as other chronic conditions that “have rendered him bewildered and confused most of the time.”  Transcript of Oral Argument at *3, Madison v. Alabama, 2018 WL 4746437 (Oct. 2, 2018) (No.17-7505); see also Vadum, supra. (more…)