Panic Street Lawyer: The true North

Sunday, 22 September 2013 06:00 AM Written by  Jay Hornack

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This week’s PSL starts out in one direction (not to be confused with One Direction):

-- Soon the Pittsburgh Penguins’ NHL regular season will begin, and when clubs from Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto come to town, fans at Consol Energy Center will be treated to two national anthems. One of the lines in “O Canada” – the official English language version only – says “… we see thee rise/ the True North strong and free…”

-- On Sunday September 29, the NFL sends the Pittsburgh Steelers (a member of the AFC North division) to London UK to play the Minnesota Vikings (a member of the NFC North division) at Wembley Stadium. Odds are good that someone will win this game.

-- One week earlier – in fact, right now, if “right now” for you is Sunday September 22 at 11:00 A.M. Pittsburgh time – is the start of the Manchester derby: Manchester United v. Manchester City at The City of Manchester (a/k/a Etihad) Stadium. The two clubs are from the same Northern city and are the last two English Premier League champions (City in ‘11-’12, United in ‘12-‘13). It would be exactly like a 2013 New York Giants versus New York Jets regular season NFL game if (1) both teams played its home games in New York City, (2) both teams had played each other in the regular season 165 times since 1881, (3) both teams had their own stadium, and (4) both teams were good.

20130922rdroke pittsburghskyline 490Pittsburgh at night. Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette

Are there any other connections to be made this week between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Great Britain? Well, if you are looking for great live hockey talk while watching a Penguins game, I recommend the British Pens Fan Club on Twitter (I am one of over 3,000 @BritPensFanClub followers). Yes, members have been known to even tweet throughout Pens’ West Coast games, which means that they don’t stop until right around the time when some in the UK are waking up for breakfast.

20130922 bigbenparliament photocom168307530 150Matthew Dixon/Getty ImagesBut there are non-sports connections to be made as well. Two weeks ago, I wrote a preview piece on six hot-button legal issues that were likely to make news this fall in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. How does the British treatment of these six issues compare to their treatment here?

Health Care: As you may have heard, the British National Health Service (NHS) is free at the point of service and is funded by tax money. As you may not have heard, it is surprisingly popular. PSL UPDATE: Health care “decisions” of sorts were made in the last two weeks by two rather unpopular Pennsylvanians: Governor Tom Corbett and UPMC.

Voting Rights: I actually found an online article that mentions both Pennsylvania and British law on the subject of voter identification legal requirements. As the introduction to two competing student op-eds mentions, as of October 2012 Pennsylvania was one of 30 U.S. states to enact laws requiring voters to have government-issued ID cards in order to cast a ballot (although a judge’s order enjoining its implementation here will now extend to a third election). Both students describe the British system as more like the good old days in Pennsylvania: “on arriving at a polling station you need only your name and address.”

Same-Sex Marriage: While this issue – for now at least – continues to be decided on a state-by-state basis in the United States, same-sex marriage became law throughout England and Wales this summer. But if two men or two women from Pennsylvania chose to marry each other in London next weekend, a U.S. Supreme Court 2013 decision told us that a foreign marriage – like the Windsor/Spyer marriage in Canada -- could have legal implications here. PSL UPDATE: A Pennsylvania judge declared in the past two weeks that same-sex marriage is not to be decided on a county-by-county basis.

Fracking: British Prime Minister David Cameron, like Governor Corbett, is a proponent of hydraulic fracturing as a method to extract natural gas from underground. And just as in Pennsylvania, there is opposition to fracking in England. The opposition includes some members of the royal family – rock and roll royalty, that is.

Gambling: Sports wagering is legal throughout the United Kingdom, and a Google search will give you online options for betting on both “Football” and “American Football.” Meanwhile, back at the Pittsburgh International Airport, employees are disciplined for friendly but “illegal” gambling on the Super Bowl and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Talk about madness… PSL UPDATE: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia decided in the past two weeks that New Jersey’s attempt to permit certain sports gambling is a violation of federal law.

Athletes’ Health: Transparency with respect to sports injuries is important to those who bet on sporting events. Meanwhile, soccer critics in the United States like to say that athletes in the sport fake or exaggerate injuries in order to get an opposing player penalized. Of course, sometimes there is photographic evidence of an injury that is hard to make up.

If you are heading to London this week to watch Steelers-Vikings in person, you should also try to experience a nearby EPL match one day earlier: Chelsea is at Tottenham Hotspur and Cardiff City is at Fulham on Saturday, September 28. If you are not heading to London but instead staying in Pittsburgh, consider yourself lucky. That is because there will be no 40-foot-tall rubber duck floating in the River Thames on Friday, September 27.

(Top image: Elnur Amikishiyev /Getty Images)


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. and follow Jay on Twitter: @panicstlawyer

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