It is expected that the Supreme Court will soon announce its ruling on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care law passed in 2010. At the latest, the decision will be announced on June 28th, although it could come earlier.

In the meantime, a new survey that was paid for by the American Action Forum has concluded that the court will strike down the so-called individual mandate, a central provision within the law requiring that every American purchase a government-approved form of health insurance.

Using a scale from 0 to 100, the pollsters asked the 58 legal experts (38 former clerks of current Supreme Court justices and 18 attorneys who have argued before the court) to rate the probability that the individual mandate provision would be declared unconstitutional. The insiders provided an average rating of 57 percent, a significant jump from the pre-hearing survey when the average was just 35 percent. Of note, the same expert survey was conducted before the hearings began, and found that most thought the law would be upheld.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals today set the stage for an Election Day referendum on the state’s Dream Act, which would permit qualified undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at Maryland public universities and colleges.

The court ruled that the Dream Act is subject to a statewide vote, rejecting a lawsuit by CASA de Maryland, an immigrant rights group, arguing that the law governs appropriation of state funds and, thus, is constitutionally barred from being put before the voters.

The court moved on this fast: it heard arguments in the case Tuesday and gave its ruling without a written opinion today.

Four new Maryland appellate opinions today. None relate to personal injury claims, but I glanced at all four and figured I would make a blog post out of it.

  • Attorney Grievance Commission v. Butler: A 60-day suspension is in order if a lawyer shows up for trial without a good reason and without adequate communication with his client. In this case, the client got hit with a default judgment. To make matters worse, the lawyer did not tell the client, “Hey, you have a potential, ah, legal malpractice claim against me.” Judges Harrell and Battaglia argued in the dissent that the suspension should be longer. I’m inclined to agree with the dissent.
  • McNeil v. State: This was actually the subject of my moot court project during my first year of law school. I even remember my fictionial client’s name: Darryl Dare. Anyway, the question is whether jury verdicts in a criminal case can be factually inconsistent or illogical. The answer: they can. Juries don’t have to make sense because the verdict may be a compromise, but judges do. This has always been the law of Maryland, but the Court of Appeals muddied the waters a little bit four years ago in Price v. State.

In Koste v. Town of Oxford, Judge Robert A. Zarnoch starts out the Maryland Court of Special Appeals opinion like this:

Which comes first: a law’s enactment or a referendum drive? In this case, we consider the classic chicken/egg casualty riddle in the legislative/political setting. And in the context of petitioning to a referendum of a municipal annexation resolution, we conclude that the Legislature has required enactment to precede petitioning. We turn from the abstract to the concrete.

Honestly, I’m not sure what this means. In the bubble of personal injury cases in which I live, it is amazing to me how many other legal issues there are for judges to get their minds around.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled today that significant portions of a law authorizing police to collect DNA samples at the time of arrest for suspects of violent crimes are unconstitutional.

The court found that if you are only arrested – as opposed to charged and processed – and there is no warrant, you should be free from “unreasonable” searches. Accordingly, the court tossed a significant portion of the Maryland DNA Collection Act which authorizes law enforcement to collect DNA samples from suspects who have been arrested.

Judges Barbera and Wilner dissented from the majority opinion. I would have, too. I just don’t think DNA is an unreasonable search, I really don’t.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Stephanie Dawn Thacker, a West Virginia lawyer, 4th Circuit appointment. Soon to be Judge Thacker takes the vacancy created by the death of Judge Blane Michael in March. The surprisingly leftward moving court covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Thacker has been a partner at Charleston law firm, Guthrie & Thomas, for the last six years. Before that, she spent seven years with the U.S. Justice Department and has also served as an assistant federal prosecutor and worked for the state attorney general’s office.

Over that time, she must have impressed the heck out of a lot of people to grab a 4th Circuit seat.

Maryland State Senator Richard Colburn wants to help the University of Baltimore School of Law with a $500,000 grant. Okay. Deal.

Oh, wait. Nothing is really free, is it? Senator Colburn is upset because the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic is doing what law clinics do: fight for causes. Their cause is a lawsuit against a local chicken farm. Colburn represents Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, and Wicomico Counties, so he loves Purdue Chicken and chicken farmers.

Coburn wants to take the Maryland money and give it to the University of Baltimore Law School to assist “farmers in the state with estates and trusts issues, compliance with environmental laws and other matters necessary to preserve family farms.” The measure failed this year. I’m sure it will be back next year.

The Maryland General Assembly has approved a bill that would prohibit employers from seeking Facebook and other social media passwords from either job applicants or existing employees. The bill was passed by a wide margin in the House of Delegates and unanimously by the state Senate and now awaits Governor Martin O’Malley’s signature, which it will most certainly get.

Here is what you need to know about the Maryland Chamber of Commerce: they opposed the bill. Why? The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is informed only by what it thinks will help Maryland businesses. If a bill was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly that all employees have to work a weekend shift of 8 hours for no compensation, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce would immediately jump behind the bill.

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.