Panic Street Lawyer: One day goodbye will be farewell

Sunday, 27 October 2013 06:00 AM Written by  Jay Hornack

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In a week of departures, I promise not to be emotional like Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland. But, unlike that rubber yellow duck at the Point of Pittsburgh, I will say something.

A lot happened the last 156 weeks, and I have written about some of those happenings: in free speech, same-sex marriage, marijuana (medical and non-medical), health care (for athletes and non-athletes), fracking, voting (for politicians, movies, and music), Native Americans today, and relocated Philadelphia art museums. I have experienced the thrill of election victories by candidates I supported. I have also experienced the agony of defeatism after Tucson AZ, Chardon OH, Aurora CO, Oak Creek WI, and Newtown CT.

The last three years have seen some colossal falls from grace in the world of sports: Joe Paterno, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Oscar Pistorius. It has also seen some remarkable comebacks in the world of media: Keith Olbermann alone had two.

I will also have a comeback of sorts: I come back to teaching undergrads at Carnegie Mellon University’s business school starting in January after a 19-month hiatus (I will continue to teach my Disability Discrimination course this coming semester at the University of Pittsburgh Law School).

After becoming a “Community Voice” for the Post-Gazette, I signed up for Twitter. More than 8,000 tweets later, I join outgoing Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl in saying: I wish I knew how to quit you. But I am quitting Ipso Facto.

What convinced me that the time was right to leave this space? When I started writing Panic Street Lawyer, I had no idea how long I would continue to write it. As time went on, I began to think that it would take something truly monumental to occur in order for me to justify hitting the “pause” button on PSL.

1. Newark Ranked America’s Most Livable City

OK, Rand McNally has never done that. But I continue to have a soft spot in my heart for the city in which I lived during my three years at Rutgers School of Law.

Last week, New Jersey’s largest city became more livable for gay and lesbian couples who wished to wed. On October 21, the New Jersey Superior Court’s decision in Garden State Equality v. Dow, declaring same-sex marriages (not civil unions) to be a federal and state law requirement, went into effect. It went into effect that day because the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie (born in Newark, raised in Livingston) announced earlier that the September 27 Superior Court decision would not be appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

I noticed that local counsel for Lambda Legal representing the plaintiffs in this case were from the firm of Gibbons P.C. of Newark. “Gibbons” is 88-year-old director John J. Gibbons. Born in Newark and raised in Belleville, Gibbons is a former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (he was an adjunct professor of law at Rutgers while I was there).

It was not Judge Gibbons but rather Mayor Cory Booker (raised in Harrington Park) who got his face on camera officiating one of the first same-sex marriage ceremonies in Newark on October 21. Jon Stewart (raised in Lawrenceville) had fun with that on “The Daily Show.” Five days before exercising the power invested in him, Booker was elected to a vacant U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey.

Meanwhile, people who want Newark to be even more livable with legal gambling on sporting events want Governor Christie to appeal a Third Circuit September 17 decision, which declared that scheme a violation of valid federal law, to the U.S. Supreme Court. Call it a hunch, but I will bet that Booker and/or Christie will be in the news three years from now when Americans elect their next President.

2. A Pittsburgh Pirates v. Cleveland Indians World Series

OK, that has never happened. But the Pirates made it to a National League Division Series and the Indians made to the American League wild card game this October. Back at the end of the 2010 Major League Baseball season, the team from Pittsburgh (my post-law school home) had a record of 57 wins and 105 losses, and the team from Cleveland (my pre-law school home) had a record of 69 wins and 93 losses. Three seasons later they ended 94-68 and 92-70 respectively. The Road to Respectability.

Last week I mentioned that Bing Crosby was a partial owner of the Pirates starting in 1946. That same year, Bob Hope became a partial owner of the Indians. Meanwhile, Dorothy Lamour starred in a 1939 movie entitled “St. Louis Blues.”

3. A Reunion of The Smiths

OK, that has not happened since their 1987 breakup. And I do not even think that a future induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would get all four original members of this band from Manchester, England on the same musical stage again.

But 2013 will incredibly have both vocalist-songwriter Morrissey and guitarist-songwriter Johnny Marr perform (separate) concerts in the Pittsburgh area. And this week, the influential NME voted The Smiths’ 1986 album “The Queen Is Dead” the greatest of the 500 Greatest Album of All Time and Morrissey’s “Autobiography” sits atop the UK bestsellers list (so far his book does not have a US publisher).

The other day I was listening to the two-disc compilation “Push Barman To Open Old Wounds” by Belle and Sebastian. The title of the last song on disc one, “Put The Book Back On The Shelf,” may have been a warning to me that the Morrissey autobiography will disappoint (or, more likely, frustrate). But I also felt that, by stepping aside from Ipso Facto now, I could prove the last verse of the song wrong this time:

You’re always looking for a sign
But boy you blow it every time
You hear a voice begin to speak
You ignore it and go softly to sleep

OK, I did not promise I would be completely unemotional.

(Image: Sunrise over Pittsburgh. Darrell Sapp/ Post-Gazette)


The Panic Street Lawyer was a personal opinion column by attorney Jay Hornack. You can continue to follow Jay on Twitter: @panicstlawyer

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