Issues to Watch

Taxing & the Internet: Is It Time to “Reevaluate” National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Illinois?


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Taxing & the Internet: Is It Time to “Reevaluate” National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Illinois?

Gregory Waterworth*

Marylanders pay taxes on purchases from Amazon.com, but do not pay taxes when shopping at Overstock.com. This arbitrary phenomenon stems from one source, National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Illinois.  386 U.S. 753 (1967). Years ago—before the Internet, smart phones, or the ability to have an online order delivered within an hour—the Supreme Court drew a line in the sand.

Bellas Hess determined when a state can require a retailer to collect and remit taxes. Id. Bellas Hess, a clothing retailer based in Missouri, challenged an Illinois law that required out-of-state companies, such as Bellas Hess, to collect and remit taxes for in-state consumers. Id. Illinois argued that because the retailer advertised in the state and delivered orders via common carriers and mail, it had enough of a presence in the state to justify taxing. Id. at 754. The Court disagreed. Id. at 759–60. To the Court, Bellas Hess was an issue of interstate commerce and the ever popular dormant Commerce Clause. Id. The Court reasoned that allowing Illinois to require out-of-state sellers to collect taxes would be the equivalent of inviting every other locality nationwide to do the same. Id. Further, the Court warned that to do so would “entangle [Bellas Hess’s] interstate business in a virtual welter of complicated obligations to local jurisdictions with no legitimate claim to impose a fair share of the cost of the local government.” Id. at 759. Thus, the Court created a bright-line rule: no taxing, unless physical presence. Id. at 760. So why do Marylander’s pay taxes on purchases from Amazon.com, as opposed to Overstock.com? The answer is an Amazon.com warehouse on 2010 Broening Highway in Baltimore. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Hold Your Horses, Bureau of Land Management! The 10th Circuit is Rearin’ to Protect Equine Rights: A Closer Look at Federal Legislation Affecting Wild Horses


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Hold Your Horses, Bureau of Land Management! The 10th Circuit is Rearin’ to Protect Equine Rights: A Closer Look at Federal Legislation Affecting Wild Horses

Jacey Smith*

From carrying pioneers to the West, soldiers to war, Denver to the Super Bowl, and coal from the mines, horses have been viewed as an integral part of American society.  Despite the weighty compassion that many Americans feel for horses, since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the population of wild horses in the West has decreased by 75%.  The Issue, Am. Wild Horse Preservation, http://www.wildhorsepreservation.org/issue (last visited Jan. 13, 2017).

In 1971, Congress acted to help prevent this rapid decline by passing the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (“the Act”), which recognizes that “wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; [and] that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people . . . .”  16 U.S.C. § 1331 (2012).  In order to protect the horses, Congress declared that “wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”  Id.

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Issues to Watch

But It Wasn’t Me! Can McDonald’s Be Held Liable for the Alleged Labor Violations of Its Franchisees?


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But It Wasn’t Me! Can McDonald’s Be Held Liable for the Alleged Labor Violations of Its Franchisees?

Kimberly Boyd*

Nationwide protests over low wages and poor working conditions within the service industry commenced in November 2012 when hundreds of fast-food workers took to the streets of New York City in what workplace experts called “the largest series of job actions at fast-food restaurants ever.”  Steven Greenhouse, With Days of Protests, Fast-Food Workers Seek More, N.Y. Times (Nov. 29, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/nyregion/fast-food-workers-in-new-york-city-rally-for-higher-wages.html?_r=0.  That same month, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Office of the General Counsel began receiving charges filed against McDonald’s and its franchisees for alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  NLRB Office of the General Counsel Authorizes Complaints Against McDonald’s Franchisees and Determines McDonald’s, USA, LLC is a Joint Employer, NLRB (July 29, 2014), https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/news-story/nlrb-office-general-counsel-authorizes-complaints-against-mcdonalds.  By the end of 2014, the NLRB had amassed a trove of complaints accusing the franchisor and certain franchisees of unfair labor practices against employees “for engaging in activities aimed at improving their wages and working conditions, including participating in nationwide fast food worker protests about their terms and conditions of employment during the past two years.” NLRB Office of the General Counsel Issues Consolidated Complaints Against McDonald’s Franchisees and Their Franchisor McDonald’s, USA, LLC as Joint Employers, NLRB (Dec. 19, 2014),  https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/news-story/nlrb-office-general-counsel-issues-consolidated-complaints-against.  The allegations of unlawful conduct against McDonald’s and franchisees include:

[D]iscriminatory discipline, reductions in hours, discharges, and other coercive conduct directed at employees in response to union and protected concerted activity, including threats, surveillance, interrogations, promises of benefit, and overbroad restrictions on communicating with union representatives or with other employees about unions and the employees’ terms and conditions of employment.

Id.

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Issues to Watch

Conover v. Conover: Maryland’s Recognition of De Facto Parent Status


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Conover v. Conover: Maryland’s Recognition of De Facto Parent Status

Brett Smoot*

In July 2016, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned the Court of Special Appeals in Conover v. Conover, 450 Md. 51 (2016), overturning 224 Md. App. 366 (2015).  In a major win for the LGBT community, the Court of Appeals established de facto parentage in Maryland, giving those who qualify as de facto parents greater legal standing to contest custody and visitation decisions.  The Conover ruling signals a major shift in Maryland family law, one that coincides with the growing recognition of LGBT rights nationwide.

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Issues to Watch

Keep Your Clients Close but The Bluebook Closer: Maryland Federal Judge Threatens to Dismiss Pleadings over Failure to Comply with The Bluebook


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Allyson Blazey*

On August 23, 2016, United States District Court Judge James Bredar issued a memorandum that made it clear that Maryland’s attorneys may need to read The Bluebook more closely. North Valley GI Med. Grp. v. Prudential Invs., Civ. No. JKB-15-3268, 2016 WL 4447037, at *1 (D. Md. Aug. 23, 2016). Prior to making his ruling on a defendant’s motion to dismiss, Justice Bredar warned practitioners that non-compliance with The Bluebook and local court rules would cause their clients’ cases to be tossed out of court before even reaching their merits. Id. While this may seem to be a miniscule error on the attorney’s part, Maryland is not the first state to draw attention to the importance of compliance with The Bluebook. See In Re Shepperson, 674 A.2d 1273, 1274 (1996) (suspending a Vermont attorney for filing briefs that “contained numerous citation errors that made identification of the cases difficult, cit[ing] cases for irrelevant or incomprehensible reasons, [and] ma[king] legal arguments without citation to authority”).

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