- SPECIAL REPORTS
- THE MAGAZINE
I read with annoyance Joseph V.R. Paiva's assertion that “some surveyors treat the results of their boundary line location as a secret to be kept between the client and themselves.” Most professionals understand the difference between secrecy and confidentiality, and I doubt Mr. Paiva could produce a single example of a licensed land surveyor explicitly advocating the former.
Mr. Paiva goes on to recite the timeworn canard that “every line set also sets the line of at least one other adjoiner” in support of some unstated mode of disclosure. He asks “when will surveyors realize that they never only mark their client's line?”* I would respond: when we are given the power to “set” a boundary line in the first place, which we have never had and which would likely require a constitutional amendment. I can't "set" my client's line; I can only provide a professional opinion, and many such opinions have been rejected by the courts. My survey and opinion do not in themselves legally determine where the adjoiner's line or, for that matter, my client's line actually lie, and there is thus no compelling reason why third parties have any broad right to know their contents. We don't have nearly the power nor the importance that the advocates of such disclosure assume.
Furthermore, in Maine at least, if I were to shrug off confidentiality and disclose survey results to adjoiners against my client's wishes, I could face discipline from my licensing board, whose rules state that “a licensee shall not reveal information which has been designated as confidential by the client or employer without the prior informed written consent of the client or employer, except as authorized or required by law.” This is not some idiosyncratic rule whimsically imposed by a maverick board; it reflects the long-standing practice of professionals in this state and, I suspect, many others, especially outside the PLSS. Yes, it sometimes poses an obstacle to interested third parties. So does confidentiality in the legal, medical, and other professions. But it has served our clients well. Folks are free to seek to change it, but they ought not meanwhile impugn the professionalism of those who respect it.
--Creston Gaither, PLS, Maine
*This question was cited from “Opinion: There’s No Such Thing as ‘the Client’s’ Line,” by Maurice L. Schumann, posted Feb. 23, 2010, www.pobonline.com.
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