Equitable estoppel

From: Rob Seaman <seaman_at_noao.edu>
Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2006 11:13:07 -0700

I've had a great time reading the Parrish "temporal brief". If I
didn't have a massive deadline looming, I'd now start digging into
some of the more intriguing references from the footnotes. Maybe in
a couple of months. In the mean time (so to speak), I have some
comments on a variety of the points raised. Let's begin at the end,
and end near the beginning.

Parrish closes with a paragraph starting, "Time does not simply
regulate our activities", followed by philosophic words like "minds"
and "souls", "self-identification", "religious experience",
"mysterious and elusive". The point here is that these aren't the
words of your euphuistic, periphrastic interlocutor, but rather of a
staid law professor who chose these words with the care of the
director of a law library to summarize the findings of a detailed
legal review containing more footnotes than text.

Two paragraphs prior we are told that, "Knowing the correct time is
as important to the well-being of modern people as any prerogative
outlined in the Bill of Rights." Presumably law professors invoke
the Bill of Rights with as much care in their writings as physicists
do Schrödinger's equation, or theologians the Sermon on the Mount.
What is the "correct time", however? This is the fallacy of the
"complex question" - "something is taken for granted that ought be
regarded as doubtful", as one definition has it. Is there a single
class of "correct" time? Or is interval time, for instance, distinct
from time-of-day?

Jumping backwards once again to the previous section, "Congress
Finally Acts", we find that the "enemies of daylight saving scorned
golf, again and again, as the wasteful indulgence of a parasitical
class". Reporting, as I do, from one of the few states where the
enemies of DST triumphed, I'm taken by the thought that both sides
got what they wanted in Arizona. There certainly are a lot of golf
courses around here...

The mapping of timekeeping onto the Legal Process Theory seems very
apt: "Time determination started as a private matter, became a group
concern, ultimately required the intervention of [...] the courts,
[...] and finally was settled by the [...] Congress, who delegated
[...] implementation [...] to [...] the Interstate Commerce
Commission." The question that comes to mind is whether we've
reached a point of diminishing returns over the regulation of
timekeeping. I'd say yes, that UTC as a representation of Mean Solar
Time provides a natural arbiter for any disputes, legal or otherwise,
that continue to arise. On the other hand, a pseudo-UTC realized as
some static offset from TAI would sacrifice the traceability of civil
time to this ultimate apolitical standard. You can't argue with the
Sun, but (obviously) there is no difficulty in arguing with the ITU :–)

The "starving the jury" discussion was new to me - I would have
thought that the cost of sequestering a jury would always have been
borne by the government (that is, by the people, jointly). Subtle
legal issues - and religious, historical, social and economic issues
- should be addressed head-on in any realistic proposal for change.
"It will all be for the best" is not a plan, and the project
requirements aren't all technical in nature.

Finally and firstly, the "construction against drafter" rule is
exquisitely apt regarding UTC. "It is a general rule of
interpretation that an expression is to be interpreted most strongly
against the party responsible for its drafting." If we regard UTC as
a contract between the precision timing community and - well -
everybody else, then surely it is the interests of everybody else
that are controlling. Which is to say, that having convinced us to
adopt leap seconds three decades ago, the drafters of the UTC
standard should certainly be expected to live up to this provision of
it now.

Rob Seaman
"A type of estoppel that bars a person from adopting a position in  
court that contradicts his or her past statements or actions when  
that contradictory stance would be unfair to another person who  
relied on the original position."
Received on Sun Dec 17 2006 - 10:13:36 PST

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