The end of the year is time for reflection and looking back, not to mention the proliferation of year-end lists to deal with, as we prepare to move forward.
I have unscientifically selected the five most important legal stories of 2012. I did so by looking back over my columns, asking the other attorney in my office — he said the top story was Disney buying the Star Wars franchise — and then Googling: “Top Legal News Stories 2012.”
One amusing story I found that didn’t make my list was that high numbers of recent law school graduates are taking their newly minted degrees and suing their law schools for false advertising of employment rates after graduation. My question is, did the law schools count the students suing them as self-employed?
So, without further ado, from bottom to top, my top five legal stories of 2012:
5. Fun and games with the Utah Legislature. I’m actually anxiously waiting for the Legislature to get back in session. I will inevitably have lots of great topics to write about. This last year, the Legislature passed a law outlawing sex ed in sex ed, which after public outcry was vetoed by the governor.
Also, you need to be wary of wielding your smartphone camera or other photographic or recording device around cows, pigs, horses, hay and alfalfa, because the Legislature outlawed recording images or sounds of agricultural operations.
Finally, the Legislature committed the worst act a client can commit, from the lawyer’s perspective, when it failed to follow its own legal counsel’s advice before passing HB148 in an effort to take land from the federal government.
The Legislative General Counsel wrote about the bill, “Thus, that requirement (forcing the federal government to turn over land), and any attempt by Utah in the future to enforce the requirement, have a high probability of being declared unconstitutional.”
When your lawyer tells you there is a high probability you are going to lose, you are going to lose. Unfortunately, Utahns will be paying the legal bill in this losing legal cause.
4. Intellectual property: big fights and protecting nature. The Apple iPhone took out the Samsung Galaxy in a patent infringement suit in the U.S. to the tune of a $1 billion verdict (although the matter is still unsettled). Samsung took its swing at Apple in Japan and won. The pair fought to a split decision in South Korea. Look for more patented swings in the heavyweight smartphone division.
Not wanting to be left out of the intellectual property fracas, the Supreme Court took intellectual property to a biological level. In Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, the court ruled that the laws of nature cannot be patented. How far that decision extends will be seen next summer when the court rules in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Inc.
Myriad Genetics is a Utah-based company founded by a University of Utah professor. The Supreme Court will be deciding whether Myriad can patent two genes related to breast cancer.
3. Top Five Mortgage Servicers settles with the U.S. Attorney General and states’ attorneys general, bringing some teeth to home loan modifications. The National Mortgage Settlement brought some legal teeth and sanity to the loan modification process just as the housing market began to creep back from the 2008 abyss.
2. Hostess goes Twinkies up. A billion dollars in debt couldn’t be supported by a cream-filled yellow sponge cake and, as a result, a lot of employees lost their jobs, Hostess went bankrupt and the company began to be liquidated. In 2013, we await the return of Twinkie the Kid with the hope that he can bring back some jobs.
1. Chief Justice Roberts single-handedly declares the Affordable Care Act constitutional. In my column on the Affordable Care Act, I compared Supreme Court watching to professional wrestling.
The high court didn’t disappoint in providing high partisan drama and decision making. With 4-4 tie on Commerce Clause grounds, Roberts decided to go his own taxing way. The result is that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. Only in the coming years, as it begins to be implemented, will we know the full impact of the law on our nation’s health care and pocketbook.
So with the health care law as the top story, I wish you all a happy and healthy new year.
E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. Reach him at 801-392-8200 or email@example.com.