Articles Posted in General

Maryland’s Supreme Court will hear arguments on Friday regarding the state’s digital advertising tax, which targets companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. The tax applies to gross revenue from digital ads earned by companies with over $100 million in annual revenue.

The Act imposes a tax on companies with over $100 million in global annual gross revenue from digital ads earned in Maryland, ranging from 2.5% to 10%. Plaintiffs challenged the Act, alleging violations of the Commerce Clause, First Amendment, and preemption by the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Alison L. Asti’s ruled that the online tax contravenes the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act’s ban on discriminatory taxes on online services, given that Maryland does not impose a similar tax on non-digital advertising. The Circuit Court, in its ruling, stated that digital advertising is akin to traditional advertising and, as a result, Maryland’s DAT is discriminatory under the ITFA.  The Comptroller has appealed, arguing that this ruling ignores substantial and fundamental distinctions between the operations of digital advertising platforms and traditional advertising methods.

A bill in the Maryland General Assembly, sponsored by state Del. Joe Vogel, D-Montgomery, aims to require hospitals to conduct a fentanyl test on patients suspected of a drug overdose, in response to the alarming number of overdose deaths caused by fentanyl in the state.

According to data from the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center, fentanyl accounted for over twice as many overdose deaths as the substance with the second-highest number of deaths. Hospitals are the first line of defense, and testing for fentanyl would help inform opioid prevention strategies.

Fentanyl Problem in Maryland

Facebook yet again finds itself involved in another lawsuit. The social-networking service is being sued by people claiming that showing ads that network friends can “like,” violates a California law regarding commercial endorsements. Goodness, being big sure does generate a lot of lawsuits. Facebook’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit was rejected this week, and it was ruled that the plaintiffs may pursue claims that the company’s sponsored ads violate state law and are fraudulent.

The court found that “plaintiffs have articulated a coherent theory of how they were economically injured by the misappropriation of their names, photographs, and likeness.” According to the plaintiffs, a sponsored story is a paid ad consisting of another friend’s name and profile picture and claiming the person likes the advertiser, and they further feel that it’s unauthorized use of their names and likenesses and they feel they deserve compensation. Raise your hand if you think this sounds ridiculous.

Facebook’s argument is that this case should be dismissed by the court before it is dismissed by a jury because Facebook is immune under the law’s “newsworthiness” exemption, which doesn’t require consent, and that the plaintiffs are public figures to their friends, and expressions of consumer opinion are generally newsworthy. What are they complaining about? As Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer puts it, “Nothing influences people more than a recommendation of a friend” and a “trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.” The “liked” ads are doing nothing but benefit the plaintiffs, but yet they are asking for more money for the unauthorized use of their names. Plaintiffs’ lawyers have an undeserved reputation for a willingness to sue their parents for a buck. This article lends credence to it.

It is anticipated that the U.S. Department of Justice will file suit today against Apple, as well as several publishing companies. The reason? A scheme to fix e-book prices.

In 2010, when the iPad was released, and the iBookstore was new, Apple reached an agreement with five publishers to release books on the iBookstore. Before the release of the iPad, Amazon’s Kindle was the preeminent e-book reader. Amazon forced publishers to sell most books at $9.99, a price that came in below the cost of the books. Apple’s agreement placed many books on the market for approximately $12.99, and gave Apple a 30% cut, resulting in Amazon raising its prices.

The European Commission, in an investigation similar to the DOJ, is probing whether Apple conspired to raise the price of e-books with CBS’s Simon & Schuster, News Corp.’s HarperCollins; Hachette Book Group; Pearson’s Penguin unit and Macmillan.

Everyone should take jury duty seriously, and there should be no exceptions. Rudy Giuliani served on a jury in 1999 while he was mayor. John Kerry was the foreman in a personal injury trial after his loss to President Bush in 2005. Good for them.

A few weeks ago, President Obama received a summons from the Cook County in his home state of Illinois. President Obama notified the court he had more important things to do.

Well. The President is too important for jury duty? Does he think he is above the law? Incredibly, this is President Obama’s quote, “I have better things to do than serve on a jury. Do you have any idea who I am? I’m the President of the United States. Please.”

I was musing on the Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog yesterday that I thought it was a better practice for Maryland to follow what appears to the Connecticut model keeping out names of parties if the subject matter is sensitive. Coincidentally, the 2nd Circuit ruled this week that a woman seeking to bring sexual assault lawsuit pro se under a pseudonym may continue to bring her case anonymously.

This is obviously a more intricate issue that what names should be used in appellate court opinions. And I’m not one of these big privacy people. I’m perfectly fine with the FBI listening to any conversation I have, for example. I don’t care. But it just seems so easy to take people’s actual names out of appellate court opinions. Sure, the names are a part of the public record. But if you are a doctor who has a great career and makes one malpractice mistake before he retires, should he have to spend his retirement seeing the case’s facts laid out for all to see anytime someone Googles his name?

In June’s Anne Arundel County Barrister, a newsletter for the Anne Arundel County Bar Association, the president’s message from Saul McCormick highlights his lawyer/hero of the month, an African-American lawyer named Anthony Griffin. A volunteer lawyer for the ACLU, Mr. Griffin defended “grand dragon” of the Texas Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Michael Lowe, back in 1993 when the government subpoenaed Lowe to provide Ku Klux Klan membership lists. Griffin won the case before the Texas Supreme Court.

The article quotes Griffin saying, “If I don’t stand up and defend the Klan’s right to free speech, my right to free speech will be gone.”

Respectfully, I disagree. People’s rights are being violated all over this country. Why offer free representation to someone who represents an organization you find repugnant? I agree that a judge has to make the right call and follow the law and the Constitution. But as a private citizen with a rooting interest, I’m rooting again the Klan and I wouldn’t lift a finger to help them even if I thought their First Amendment rights were being violated at $500 an hour, much less pro bono.

Marcy J.K. Tiffany, the wife of 9th Circuit chief judge Alex Kozinski, writes a defense of her husband in the Patterico Pontifications Blog. (Click here for background on the Judge Kozinski story.) Her defense comes from two angles: (1) attacking the accuser and, (2) a line I liked: “The fact is, Alex is not into porn – he is into funny – and sometimes funny has a sexual character.” She probably also believes that Tiger Woods is not playing golf to win, he just enjoys the game and a good walk with friends.

She seems like a nice, articulate woman put in an awful situation by Judge Kozinski. But try as she might, you can’t bundle up this package up and call it humor. I find a lot of things funny. But – and I know I keep going back to this – I find it inconceivable to find humor in a photo that appears to be a child giving oral sex to a Catholic priest.

The accuser that Ms. Tiffany attacks, Cyrus Sanai, defended himself in a Maryland Lawyer Blog comment this weekend. I have not looked into the allegations against him. Honestly, they ring true based on my limited understanding of the facts, but who knows. And who cares? Mr. Sanai is just some random lawyer. Alex Kozinski is the Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguably the 10th most important judge in the country. This is why we are talking about Alex Kozinski and not Cyrus Sanai.

The Patterico Pontifications Blog has a post today about Judge Alex Kozinski, the Chief Judge for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Kozinski has been a prolific and relatively public conservative judge. I remember thinking it was pretty cool when I heard that he closed one important opinion with the line: “The parties are advised to chill.”

Anyway, apparently Judge Kozinski had gone Eliot Spitzer on us. He has website filled with a lot of pornographic images, photos of transsexuals, naked women on all fours painted to look like cows, people fooling around with barnyard animals, and lots of other images that I really don’t feel like describing. Let’s just say the guy is twisted and leave it at that.

To this, I say creepy, but who really cares? But he also had a picture on his website of what looks like a child giving oral sex to a priest. The Patterico Pontifications Blog provides a picture that I would have done just fine without seeing.