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Friday, September 14, 2007

Equity time

Long before I started law school in 1977, American law had mostly blurred the distinction between law and equity. Bits and pieces of the distinction persist, mostly in connection with injunctions — civil court orders requiring that someone do or, more often, stop doing something, as opposed to judgments requiring them to pay someone. I still end all my petitions and complaints with a request for "such other and further relief, at law or in equity, to which [my client] may show itself to be justly entitled." But that's actually an affectation, a deliberate use, as a quasi-religious invocation, of archaic language of the sort that I otherwise generally try hard to avoid. The days of going to separate courthouses to obtain distinct remedies "at law" and "in equity" are long since past. (Except, I think, in Delaware — which is why Pennzoil, having established a "probability of success" but not the "inadequacy of its remedies at law" in a Delaware Chancery Court preliminary injunction proceeding, dropped its original lawsuit there against Texaco and refiled in Houston precisely to get a courtroom that included a jury box. Skadden Arps may still be smarting over the black eye it took for permitting that to happen, but that's another war story entirely.)

This week, though, I decided that I needed to buy a new alarm clock/radio — a cheap one that is minimally functional will suffice for the need I had in mind. And I found one at the drug store pharmacy CVS store around the corner. On a corner of its box I find: "Equity Time USA" with a California address. But "Made in China." Well, yeah, for $19.99 I pretty much expected that.

"To locate the product without AC outlet nearly, install 3xAA fresh alkaline batteries in the rear compartment following the polar direction. Note the power of these batteries cannot be lost with connecting the AC power." Duly noted. But there is only room for 2xAA fresh alkaline batteries in the rear compartment, whether I'm facing north or south. I suppose two will work okay. The manual clearly warns me: "Specifications are subjected to change and improve without notice." That's something to hope for, I guess. The radio dial has the highest frequencies at the left side, and the lower ones at the right; maybe they'll switch themselves, without notice. But as soon as I plug it in, it sets the time for itself. That's nice, but not essential: I'm just on the current side of that age/technology divide that separates people whose appliances flash 12:00 from those whose appliances don't.

I'm bemused, though, by the notion of "Equity Time." Will it sound my alarm a half hour later than I've set it for, after I've had a hard day and really needed a good night's sleep? "You deserved an extra half hour, Beldar!" If I tell it, when I go to bed, to wake me at 6:00 a.m. sharp, will it tell me the next morning that I'm estopped from hitting the snooze button? If it notices just how lazy I really am, will it stop working, too, because I'm guilty of laches? And will it care if I have clean hands? God's bodkins, man, if I have a clock radio that uses me after my desert, shall I 'scape whipping?

Posted by Beldar at 11:58 PM in Humor, Law (2007), Technology/products | Permalink


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(1) nk made the following comment | Sep 15, 2007 10:36:54 AM | Permalink

Worry that it will stop working altogether because electronics did not exist in the common law.

(2) Old Coot made the following comment | Sep 15, 2007 12:38:32 PM | Permalink

Please warn when humor follows a routine headline. Coffee spews really hard to clean. ;-)

(3) Linus made the following comment | Sep 15, 2007 3:16:40 PM | Permalink

The cool thing about an Equity Time clock is that if it ever fails to wake you up on time, such that you are late for something, it will transport you back in time, because it already knows that the loss of time is an irreparable injury and money would not be an adequate remedy.

(4) charclax made the following comment | Sep 18, 2007 9:50:42 PM | Permalink

The archaic, two-courthouse system is alive and well in the great state of Tennessee . I'll confess that I prefer our Chancery courts to our Circuit courts. You can generally move a case along faster there. Thanks to concurrent jurisdiction, we are permitted to bring 'law' matters before the chancellors.

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