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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

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Written by Letters to the Editor   
Friday, 22 March 2013

A 210Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Einstein on Surveying and Angle Points
I am a proud graduate of the Troy University Geomatics Program in 2009, a PLS in Tennessee, and an assistant project manager of the Survey Department at Sain Associates in Birmingham, AL. I read "The American Surveyor" every month. I enjoy reading about different things surveyors are doing around the country, how they solve problems, and what techniques they use. My passion is boundary surveying and these types of articles are the ones I enjoy the most. I believe this is the essence of surveying and needs to be discussed more than it currently is on a national scale. I would like to thank you for putting out a quality product aimed at, what I believe to be, a worthy profession for honest men.

In Vol. 10, Issue 2, I read the two best articles on Surveying I've read to date. I would like to take them one by one.

First, the article written by Chad R. Erickson, PS titled "Einstein on Surveying". In this article, Chad brilliantly tackles Continuing Education, Required Four Year Degree, State Surveying Boards, Title and Home Mortgage Companies, and Professional Magazines and Readers. I cannot express how spot on I believe he was on each point he made about these topics. Two of these I would like to highlight are disconnecting from engineers and continuing education. Engineering and surveying are growing further apart as GIS and engineering move closer together. For now I will leave it at that. Continuing education, as I view it, is a money racket. Poor quality speakers, no good information, and no knowledge of the profession are prevalent in "Continuing Education" seminars. Surveyors deserve better continuing education on topics such as case law. Anyone can measure, it's how you use these measurements that is important. I would have contacted Mr. Erickson directly, but I don't have his contact information. If you would please encourage him to keep pressing these issues and informing people like me on what we need to do to make a change in the surveying profession, I would be very appreciative.

Secondly, the article written by Michael J. Pallamary, PS titled "Who Are You?" As a young surveyor myself, I have often asked this same question, "Who Are We?". We as surveyors wear so many different hats in the course of doing business, it's easy to lose focus on what we actually do and who we are as a profession. I agree whole heartedly with his article that we need to know who we are and stop throwing around different names for Professional Licensed Surveyors that confuse everyone, even in the survey profession. In the last 1/3 of his article, Michael touches on GIS. States like Florida and Pennsylvania have passed laws regulating GIS. I want to know what laws they have passed and how we can do it in out states in which we're licensed. GIS, with the help of attorneys and mortgage companies, WILL be the death of surveying if we don't put a stop to it now. Please express to Mr. Pallamary how his thoughts are echoed by many in the survey community that I am a part of.

In conclusion, both of these men "get it" when it comes to surveying. They are the front runners and the voice of surveyors everywhere, but without people like myself and surveyors all over the country getting behind them, their cries for help and change will go unheard. Please send this on to each of them, so I can know what steps to take to make the changes they are referring to. Again, thank you for your dedication to surveying and the platform you provide for these men to speak openly.
Jacob M. Bonds, PS
Via the Internet


Einstein on Surveying
It's hard to know where to start with a response to Mr. Erickson's wide range of ramblings. It is probably safe to say that he is frustrated with many land surveying practitioners. I am also frustrated, but I do not entirely place the blame or credit to the same agencies or individuals. My land surveying experience exceeds 40 years in private and public sector surveying with a fair amount of college legal course work. In everyday boundary determination, the most glaring deficiency of surveyors is the lack of understanding legal limitations. Nearly every surveyor would be well served to have a better understanding of the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Among other things it includes this passage: "No person shall--be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." Any time surveyors potentially deprives a land owner out of their written or unwritten rights, they have exceeded their legal limitations.

I have never been employed by the BLM, so I will neither defend nor criticize its method of determining boundaries of federal unpatented land. The 2009 Manual of Surveying Instructions that guides their work certainly seems to be comprehensive. A misconception among some surveyors is the belief that BLM manual controls surveying of patented lands. In 1985, Curtis Brown put things in proper perspective with the statement: "Understand the portion of the Manual that is applicable in your state; treat the rest as interesting reading." Mr. Erickson stated: "In the PLSS states, every misconception, every bad practice, all arrogance over the courts by private surveyors has it lineage in the actions of the GLO and BLM." I am unaware of the problems where he works, but poor practice in the areas that I am familiar with have very little to do with "actions of the GLO or BLM."

Erickson Responds: It is true that BLM has little direct influence in most private surveys, but I was speaking of lineage. In many areas where I have worked, proportioning was not prominent among private surveyors until BLM came into those areas and proportioned everything, ignoring most evidence. Proportioning became prominent afterwards.

It simply stems from surveyors that practice like they have limitless authority to determine boundaries. Justice Cooley stated it best with his statements: "No statute can confer upon a county surveyor the power to establish corners, and thereby bind the parties" and "Surveyors are not and cannot be judicial officers." As a legal scholar he clearly understood Constitutional law.

We have finally opened our eyes and recognized that professional land surveyors need a better foundation that can only be achieved with college degree programs. Such programs are only the start of a longer education process necessary to properly serve the public. Unfortunately some of the current degree programs have too much emphasis in technologies and too little legal concepts. Ideally, students in a Case Law 101 curriculum would learn that most laws related to boundaries are decided by state courts. As an example, decisions by the Oregon Appellant Court may be interesting to read, but unless you practice in that state the decisions could be irrelevant.

Erickson Responds: True enough, state precedence must be considered first, but the strength of Dykes v Arnold is that few state courts have yielded decisions on evidence v protraction to such depth. Its beauty is that none have given such clarity. While Dykes v Arnold is not precedence in your state, it can be very persuasive, as it already has been, even in eastern states. Persuasive Professionals win cases.

Regardless of what Jeff Lucas and others have stated in articles and seminars, first know and understand your state laws related to determining boundaries. Those in PLS states also need to know how state laws properly interact with federal laws.

I am certainly not a legal scholar and I doubt that Mr. Erickson is either, so I will not criticize "90% of the judges and attorneys" for decisions by the courts. Anyone that has read much case law recognizes at least some cases with questionable decisions, but it is important to understand that case law reports are typically short summaries of potentially hundreds of pages of transcripts.

Professional surveyors need to understand that in some circumstances we can make limited judgmental calls in a quasi-judicial sense, but in strictest terms we are not judicial officers.
John Freemeyer, PS,
County Surveyor Carver County, MN


Erickson Responds: The 90% comment was part of a metaphor containing the words, "It is as though". Actually, I have high regard for our legal system and its rightful place as final arbiter of problems. I wish all surveyors were so well enlightened as they. Incidentally, the nature of the comments received in response to Einstein on Surveying compels me to lower my estimate of non-illuminated surveyors to 50%. We have come a long way since Jeff Lucas started rattling our cages in the 1990's, and the pace is accelerating. Way to go. Someday soon "proportioning" will be a hiss and a by word. We may still have to proportion, but we should be embarrassed to do so. Please pardon my pessimism; it results from daily bumping into too-hastily proportioned, projected and protracted monuments. But John, methinks that you and I are of the same faith, and singing on the same page, just different parts.

Erickson, Blake and Pallamary
Wow, what a great magazine you have. I must admit, I didn't give your publication the attention I have given others initially, but you have grown on me, as you have also grown. After reading Volume 10 issue 2, I have now elevated your magazine to the top of my must read list.

"Einstein on Surveying" was a great read, my hats off to Chad R. Erickson for a great article. Chad's lament touched several raw nerves of mine and had me standing at my desk clapping, bravo.

Footsteps by Landon Blake is transforming into a column which I intend to keep an eye on as well. Knowing the law without practicing it should be something all land surveyors strive for. I agree with Mr. Blake that we should "...acknowledge we are perpetual students..." I am nearing the end of my career but feel like there is so much I still don't know.

Angle Points by Michael J. Pallamary, OMG (oh my goodness), Michael touched on a subject that I have been preaching for years, attire. You only get one chance to make a first impression; I wish I knew who coined that phrase.

Lastly, within two of these articles Jeff Lucas's name was used; I have always been careful of putting someone on a pedestal for fear of them falling off, however Mr. Lucas has begun to make a difference. Jeff's newest book, The Pincushion Effect, should be required reading in any school teaching land survey courses. In fact when this book first came out and I finished reading it, I contacted every school in Oregon with courses on land surveying and asked them to weave this book into their curriculum. Currently these schools are still producing, some excellent measurers. Going back to the article "Einstein on Surveying", Mr. Erickson touched on "Continuing Education;" FYI, Mr. Lucas produces a monthly newsletter on a wide range of subjects all of which are important to us and may be eligible for PDHs.
D. Michael Jackson, PS,
County Surveyor Eugene, OR

Footsteps: Court Case Review
Your latest installment of Footsteps is very well written and explains the need, and limitations of gaining understanding of land survey principles through court case review. Since most boundary principles have been developed and refined in the common law, as you've explained, boundary surveyors need to study this body of knowledge. Your explanation of the factors which potentially limit our understanding of cases read is thorough. The surveyor needs to bear them in mind when reviewing cases.

But I would like to point out that although there is an occasional anomaly, and there are certain variations on basic themes in some jurisdictions, the overall body of boundary jurisprudence in the U.S. has been pretty consistent. The same principles seem to come up and be applied similarly time and time again. In most cases, the courts discuss what they feel are the important pertinent facts informing their rulings, and quite often will discuss why other facts or legal arguments asserted by one party or the other is not pertinent or not applicable. The explanations of what is not pertinent or applicable can often be as enlightening as which facts are pertinent and which law is applicable. Each case rides on its own set of facts, and surveyors should take note of the full set of facts that the court found to be pertinent. One or two seemingly minor changes to the fact set may have yielded a very different result in many cases.

Studying this area of knowledge is within the professional end of what we do, where measuring and calculating is the technical end. As Michael Pallamary routinely points out, measurements can increasingly be competently performed by the minimally trained using increasingly easy to use, highly precise, accurate, and affordable equipment. Your column fits in very well with Mr. Cheves' focus on bringing the reader professional level knowledge. That focus makes TAS by far the best of the 3 major (free subscription) survey publications. Keep up the thoughtful analyses. I find that I agree with them far more than I disagree.
Evan A. Page, PS
Diamond Springs, CA

Blake responds: Mr. Page correctly points out that the principles of boundary law are not subject to great change. However, the application of those principles by the courts, and the circumstances to which they are applied, do change. An understanding of how the boundary principles are applied to the unique facts of each case help us, as boundary surveyors, understand how the same principles would likely be applied to the unique facts of our surveys.

Vol.10, Issue 2
Great issue--I've already taken the first hour of my day to read:

Erickson (I know little of BLM, but I like this unabashed author's style)

Lathrop--There's money in that zoning dispute!

Pallamary--I will read the Curtis Brown article later, but tell Pallamary, P.S. that I look forward to more of his recommendations in the next Angle Points.

By the way, did Jeff Lucas buy advertising in all those articles? (I met him once--great proponent of the profession)
Peter D. Zwick PE, PS
Cleveland, OH
 

A 210Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

 
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