Law blog roundup

harrell and barberaWelcome to Monday — and Tax Day 2013. Here’s hoping for many happy returns as you take these news items into account.

– Two Maryland Court of Appeals judges watched as the U.S. Supreme Court considered their DNA-case opinions.

– Delays in justice reportedly afflict New York courts.

– A lawyer became a hero in a dispute between Chicago and apartment tenants.

– A Minnesota Supreme Court justice — and former Purple People Eater — has written a children’s book.

(Photo: Melissa Golden for The Wall Street Journal)

Law blog roundup

Welcome to the first Monday in December, which means there are only 29 days until the Gator Bowl. Let’s kickoff the week with these news items.

– A venerable coffee maker, search engine and bookseller might find a British parliamentary investigation very taxing.

– Texan targets terrorists’ tweets.

– Military judge delays opening of WikiLeaks trial.

– Egypt’s top court goes on strike.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The National Labor Relations Board is looking at the intricacies of back pay and taxes in the next couple months.

The board is asking whether an employer is responsible for paying taxes on back pay owed to employees in a case where the company was found to have violated fair labor practices when it fired employees.

The board asked for briefs in light of a decision it issued Tuesday dealing with a Chicago charter bus company. An administrative law judge found the company, Latino Express, violated fair labor practices. The judge ruled the company illegally fired two employees during a union organizing campaign.

While the board agreed with the judge, it is still considering two questions pertaining to the case and those interested can submit briefs on the matter to the board before October 1. Briefs can be uploaded here. The case number is 13-CA-046528.

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Volunteers help eligible apply for stimulus payments

This morning I visited the Southwest Senior Center in West Baltimore. It was the site of a free financial clinic hosted by the Baltimore CASH Campaign, an outreach group that’s comprised of nonprofits, community-based organizations and city agencies.

This past Monday, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Congressman John Sarbanes launched the CASH campaign’s effort to help underprivileged people apply for economic stimulus payments.

Altogether, 36,000 eligible residents from Baltimore city and county (many of whom are senior citizens or are disabled) have not filed a tax return and therefore have not received a stimulus payment.

Before I arrived at the senior center — which is one of three sites set up for free clinics — I envisioned the tax return process to take at least half an hour. But with a tax professional on hand, the applicants were out the door after five minutes.

About 50 people have come to the free clinics so far, according to Pam Cheney, the Director of the UMD Law School Tax Clinic.

Cheney said media exposure and word on the streets should increase awareness and draw an even bigger turnout to the clinics planned for September.

The deadline to file for a stimulus check is October 15th and the payments are worth a minimum of $300 per person.

RICHARD SIMON, Multimedia Reporter

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Happy new year! Now pay your property tax

mailbox.jpgGuess what could be waiting for you at home?

Your latest Maryland property assessment, and be prepared: it’s not going to reflect the slowdown in the real estate market.

The assessments will arrive this week at homes and businesses, and the average one is rising 33 percent over three years ago.

It’s an average 75 percent increase in Baltimore and nearly 52 percent increase in PG County. MoCo had the smallest increase on average: about 16 percent. The jumps reflect the overall increase in the market in the past three years.

There is one silver lining: the Homestead Property Tax Credit, which limits tax increases on homeowners’ primary residences to no more than 10 percent per year. And it’s a one-time application.

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Call us if health care bill will affect your business

So who here knew that a health care expansion bill snuck through at the last second of the special session? It was not one of the highest-profile issues of the marathon, three-week legislative blitz overshadowed by the slot machine debate and measures to raise $1.4 billion in new revenue.

But it could be important for small business. Legislative analysts wrote that a plan to subsidize employee health coverage for small businesses could help add 15,000 people to the rolls of the state’s insured, with a price tag around $30 million.

The coverage isn’t for everyone – just businesses with between 2 and 9 employees that want to offer insurance with “wellness” options like health club membership assistance. And the source of the money is not necessary solidified forever. It could change within a few years.

Will this affect your business? If it doesn’t, do you think you’re being unfairly left out? Or is this a good start on helping small businesses keep their workers healthy?

I’m working on a story about this for Friday. Want to get in on it? Call me at (443) 524-8175.

-ANDY ROSEN, Business Writer

Local IT industry up in arms over new taxes

As of Monday morning, legislators agreed to levy a 6% tax rate on “computer support services, data center support, custom programming, consulting and disaster recovery services.”

I know, that’s not news to you.

What is, is this: the state’s IT industry (along with small local businesses and workers) is angrily asking, “What gives?”

After all, “The IT industry is … helping to maintain the competitiveness of Maryland’s businesses.” So says Roger Cochetti, a director at the Computing Technology Industry Association.

Roger keeps going, telling InformationWeek:

“Just at the time that most cities, states, provinces, and countries around the world are encouraging the computer industry to locate there, the Maryland Assembly and Governor chose to discourage the computer industry from locating and providing services in the ‘Free State,” he said.

Cochetti said the tax could encourage Maryland IT users to outsource computer services…. He called the move one of the “least informed and most harmful actions ever undertaken by the Maryland State government.”

Do you think that more companies will keep IT in-house to avoid paying these taxes to local outside vendors? Or outsource operations? Would you?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Taxes, taxes, taxes

When reporter Andy Rosen was preparing for the weekend ahead on Friday, no doubt he knew it would be a long one.

And it was.

From Annapolis, he filed updates from the Special Session for the web on Saturday and Sunday; an updated story, which he filed at 2:45a.m. this morning, was posted to our Web site today.

The conclusion of the marathon session? Lawmakers agreed to raise $1.4 billion in new taxes, including sales tax expansion, a rise in the corporate income tax, and increased personal income taxes for the wealthy.


-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor