Panic Street Lawyer: 2012, When all is said and done

Sunday, 01 January 2012 06:00 AM Written by  Jay Hornack
20120101_forecast2012_150There were two gag gifts my wife and I received this holiday season. We received in the mail (along with lots of others in Allegheny County) a “court-ordered” 2012 market value for our property. For folks who gagged when they read their reassessment notices, they can start Two Thousand Twelve with a legal dispute (by requesting an “informal review” and/or filing a formal appeal of the value).

We also received a beautifully-wrapped 2012 calendar under the Christmas tree which had the last 11 days missing from the month of December. The gift was from “The Mayans,” who I assume are a jokester family new to the neighborhood …

While I keep hearing about how many people are saying “good riddance” to 2011, I personally think there’s a lot to be anxious about going forward. As I did a year ago when another January arrived, today’s column will both make some predictions and send out some wishes for the New Year.

First, I predict that I’ll write one or more columns this year on these legal topics:

1. The First Amendment

20101010supremecourtbuilding_150The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument and decide before Independence Day whether the Federal Communications Commission’s policy of enforcing regulations which prohibit “indecent” content on broadcast television and radio violates the Free Speech Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Yes, this will be reconsideration of one of the Court’s own landmark precedents (the 1978 George Carlin “seven dirty words” case).

Locally, an Allegheny County judge will hear oral argument this month and then decide whether Occupy Pittsburgh is free to continue assembling on Mellon Green.

2. Our Federalism

20101021_whitehouse_150The Supreme Court will hear arguments in March on whether Congress exceeded its Article I constitutional authority when it passed – and President Obama signed into law – the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But be prepared to be disappointed: the Court could avoid deciding on the merits of the main legal challenge by ruling that state challenges to the health insurance “individual mandate” were premature.

The Supreme Court also agreed to hear this term the state of Arizona’s argument that its passage of a tough anti-immigration law (SB 1700) was a proper exercise of police powers. In 2010 the Obama administration sued Arizona, arguing that SB 1700 was preempted by federal law on the subject and was therefore unconstitutional.

3. Elections

20120101_votescreen_150The “substantive” issues associated with the two federalism cases above will no doubt be a factor in how some Americans choose to cast their votes for U.S. President on November 6. And the Supreme Court’s nine-member vote breakdown in those cases could become a fall campaign issue over which man or woman should be given the Article II power to nominate Supreme Court justices starting in 2013.

But courts may play an even more significant “procedural” role in determining 2012 election outcomes by – to give just two examples -- determining whether new state redistricting schemes and state voter identification laws are constitutional and legal.

Other Predictions, a Scorecard and Two Wishes

20120101_byrne_150While on the subject of politics, I predict that I’ll be writing this year about at least one Republican candidate for a high-profile office who uses a musician’s intellectual property as that politician’s campaign song without permission.

Sure, I safely predict that I’ll write about the Super Bowl, Grammys and Oscars again (although I’m going to have to become knowledgeable on more of the nominated films before February 26). And in other sports news, I predict that I’ll have column-worthy observations at both the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and NHL playoff games that the Consol Energy Center will be hosting this spring.

I also predict that I’ll write at least one column about England in 2012 without travelling there for business or leisure. The hit musical “Billy Elliot” arrives in Pittsburgh around the same time that the movie “The Iron Lady” arrives here. And then there’s Queen Elizabeth’s scheduled Diamond Jubilee and the London Summer Olympics …

In live music news, I’m only able to predict my attendance at one Pittsburgh concert so far in 2012 (I purchased a ticket for the February 4 Kathleen Edwards show). Will I get to apply my big $25.50 Ticketmaster class action settlement award to other concert purchases here?  Here’s a scorecard for 2012 -- hopefully we’ll end up with a better batting average than the 2012 Pirates do:

1. Any artist whose announced 2012 tour so far does not include Pittsburgh: Wilco, Ryan Adams, Black Keys, Kaiser Chiefs, Coldplay
2. Feist
3. Tom Waits
4. Any artist from Manchester UK  (or Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey)
5. The Shins
6. Band of Horses
7. The Cranberries
8. Mark Knopfler
9. Arcade Fire
10. Radiohead

I’ll end this column with two wishes. First, I wish for good physical health from the neck up, for musicians, for active and retired athletes, and for the rest of us.

But I also wish for a Talking Heads comeback. There have already been two big 2012 music comebacks announced: one by a US band (the Beach Boys) and the other by a UK band (the Stone Roses). Yes, I know that ex-Oasis member Noel Gallagher just publicly wished for a Smiths reunion.  But I’m going to wish instead for David Byrne to change his mind at age 60 and agree to rejoin his bandmates on stage for one final tour. I just hope they perform in Pittsburgh PA before December 21 -- just in case the Mayans were trying to warn me about something with that calendar …

The Panic Street Lawyer is a personal opinion column by attorney Jay Hornack. Contact him right here at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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