by Anniel 8/27/17
In the case of United States of America vs. Joseph Bishop, Case No. xxx. In the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, Judge Steven D. Merryday, has set a new precedent for legal jurisprudence in the United States. And it all came about because of the “Total” Eclipse of the Sun, which set hearts atwitter across the nation on August 21, 2017.
Judge Merryday certainly tutored some legal beagles about the law and how it is supposed to work, and about the history of eclipses and how they do work. I would have loved to be a spectator when the good Judge handed down his Order, but I probably would have been embarrassed by my snorts of laughter.
Now if the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the most overturned court in the U.S., could be persuaded to put their supposed brains and legal acumen to use and follow Judge Merryday’s example, maybe they wouldn’t appear to be such dunces.
The first part of the Judge’s Order, signed on August 18, 2017, sets the stage well:
Definitely recurrent, sometimes consequential, and occasionally spectacular, the solar eclipse understandably occupies a provocative and luminous place in history and in art. For example, Herodotus reports that a solar eclipse during the war between the Medes and the Lydians caused the combatants, who interpreted the eclipse as a divine omen, to suspend hostilities, and to negotiate peace. In Borodin’s magnificent opera, an eclipse portends disaster for Prince Igor’s military campaign against the Polovtsians. In a popular 1970’s song the splendid Carly Simon introduced the attendance of a former suitor (reportedly the actor Warren Beatty) at a solar eclipse as probative evidence of his putatively insufferable vanity:
Well I hear you went to Saratoga
And your horse, naturally, won
Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you’re where you should be all the time
And when you’re not you’re with some underworld spy
Or the wife of a close friend
And you’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
My children all seem familiar with this song. I often feel like an old fogey when it comes to music. Judge Merryday is younger than I, but he certainly is more – is the word “hip?” about the music. Back to the Judge:
On a higher plane Wordsworth wrote about an eclipse in 1820:
High on her speculative tower
Stood Science waiting for the hour
When Sol was destined to endure
That darkening of his radiant face
There is your music and history lesson for the day. And now, more of the science:
The solar eclipse is no longer mysterious, supernal, foreboding or ominous (or even “total”; owing to the solar corona, the darkness of a “total” eclipse is only partial). An eclipse is just another astral event, precisely predictable since the day the Babylonians discovered the governing formula (although some contend for an earlier discovery).
Did you know that the Babylonians knew the heaven’s well at such an early time? It was news to me. And someone (Who? When?) may have found the governing formula even earlier.
And now – Ta-Da – to the “meat” of the present day case:
On this occasion, an Assistant United States Attorney boldly moves (where no AUSA has moved before) to postpone a trial because an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has pre-paid the cost of visiting the zone of “totality” of a solar eclipse that will occur on August 21 (about the eclipse, the motion oddly uses the phrase “scheduled to appear,” as if someone arbitrarily set the eclipse, as an impresario sets a performer, to appear at a chosen time and place, subject always to some unstated exigency).* Cruel fate has dictated that the August 21 eclipse will occur during the trial of an action in which the agent is a principal participant on behalf of the United States.
*According to the motion of the United States, a total solar eclipse last occurred in June 1918. . . But total eclipses occur far more frequently than the United States claims; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration identifies six opportunities in the last decade to view a total eclipse. . .
Not nearly as rare as everyone thought, so what was all the fuss? Back to Court:
In any particular month, about four-hundred actions pend before each active district judge in the Middle District of Florida; each action typically involves several lawyers, at least two parties, and an array of witnesses. A trial prompts the clerk to summon scores of potential jurors. The present motion proposes to subordinate the time and resources of the court, of the opposing counsel, of the witnesses, and of the jurors to one person’s aspiration to view a “total” eclipse for no more than two minutes and forty-two seconds. To state the issue distinctly is to resolve the issue decisively.
I love that last sentence. All cases and words should be so precise that “To state the issue distinctively is to resolve the issue decisively.”
When an indispensable participant, knowing that a trial is imminent, pre-pays for some personal indulgence, that participant, in effect, lays in a bet. This time, unlike Carly Simon’s former suitor, whose “horse naturally won”, this bettor’s horse has – naturally – lost. The motion . . . is DENIED.
ORDERED at Tampa, Florida, on August 18, 2017.
STEVEN D. MERRYDAY
United States District Judge
Can you just imagine the embarrassment, sweating and squirming (well deserved by the way) that all the U.S. Attorneys, Assistants and the BATFE witness felt as their Motion went down (or is it up?) in flames?
Bless Judge Merryday.
Don’t you wish you had been there? • (206 views)