Panic Street Lawyer: Waiting for something

Sunday, 24 June 2012 06:00 AM Written by  Jay Hornack

20101010supremecourtbuilding_150As I type this week’s Panic Street Lawyer, I feel like I am still waiting for something. And, indeed, I am.

Two United States Supreme Court cases still pending from this term – their respective oral arguments were held months ago -- are challenges to the exercise of Congressional power regulating interstate commerce (Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and establishing a uniform rule of naturalization (Arizona v. United States). My wait for these decisions has been much longer than my wait for the decision in another recent high-profile Supreme Court constitutional law case with major political implications: Bush v. Gore (2000).

Bush v. Gore delved into an issue so unusual – “equal protection in election processes” – that the Court declared that its decision would not be treated as precedent in its consideration of future cases. But the pending 2012 Commerce Clause case in particular – which will announce whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional -- covers familiar ground and will certainly be treated as precedent, however it is decided.

I am getting the strong impression that both of the Court’s decisions this week are going to go against the conventional wisdom that I have taught for years in my undergraduate law and ethics course. When that happens, whenever a decision in the legal system shakes the very foundation of my being (e.g. O.J.), my immediate reaction is to look elsewhere, to look to other areas of legal practice where things appear to be more predictable. My mind races to areas where things are less confrontational and where the practice of law appears to be less stressful.

At first blush, representing musicians, music venues, and music promoters would appear to meet my “escapist” criteria for a legal practice. It looks like a lot of boilerplate contract work, with the fringe benefits of getting to hang out with celebrities in the entertainment world.

So you wanna to be a rock and roll suit? Well listen now to stories from this month’s headlines, which show that this type of legal practice is not all fun and games:

20120624wap_radioheadconcert_150The Canadian Ministry of Labour has asked four companies to comply with an investigation into the non-weather related stage collapse at Toronto’s Downsview Park in which a drum technician was killed just hours before a Radiohead concert. One of the companies is Ticker Tape Touring LLP, whose filings list the members of the band as board members. A second company asked to comply is Live Nation, the concert promoter.
(Right: Emergency crews at scene of a collapsed stage at Downsview Park June 16. Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

20120624wap_islewightconcert_150Hundreds of concertgoers were stranded in their vehicles after traffic turned to gridlock when this weekend’s Isle of Wight Festival turned into a “mudbath” caused by heavy rains. Festival organizers said they will consider refunding tickets. This follows last summer’s worldwide weather-related music festival tragedies in the news.
(Right: Festival goers at their muddy campsite at the Isle of Wight Festival on the Isle of Wight, England Friday. Hundreds of music fans were stranded in their cars overnight by rainstorms.)

20120617wap_susquehannacenter_150The Susquehanna Bank Center, concert promoter Live Nation and other defendants were sued by a man who was beaten in the parking lot following a 2010 Jack Johnson (!) concert at the Camden, New Jersey amphitheater. The man’s lawsuit seeks more than $1.4 million in damages. It was filed a few days after a country music festival at the waterfront site that produced almost 200 arrests and multiple injuries.
(Right: The dome of Susquehanna Bank Center rises along Camden's
Delaware River front. AP)

20120624wap_pearljam_150It has not been a good month on the legal news front for either Live Nation or Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam was identified as one of the bands that used the stage installation company now complying with the Downsview Park inquiry, and Pearl Jam is one of the scheduled performers at the 2012 Isle of Wight Festival. And this week, the band’s former chief financial officer was charged in Seattle with 33 counts of allegedly stealing $380,000 from the band’s management company.
(Right: Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder and Matt Cameron in

Toronto in 2011. John Carucci/AP)

20120624wap_adamclayton_150Pearl Jam’s losses pale in comparison with the losses of U2 bass guitarist Adam Clayton. Clayton testified yesterday in the Dublin criminal trial against his former personal assistant, who is charged with 181 counts of allegedly stealing $3.5 million from him. Hopefully the matter will not turn to allegations of harassment following the verdict, which is what happened after Leonard Cohen successfully sued his former business manager for stealing over $5 million from his personal savings.
(Right: U2's Adam Clayton (left) arrives with U2 manager Paul McGuinness
at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court earlier this week. Julien Behal/AP)

OK, so maybe I will give the practice and teaching of constitutional law another try. But the Supreme Court would be wise to remember that, with the celebrity that comes from agreeing to hear politically charged appeals, they will find that they will continue to be less and less popular.


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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