Traversing the Law
September 2008

Mr. Lucas is correct that many recently licensed land surveyors lack education in land law. As Mr. Lucas knows, some laws differ between states; therefore, why study the law? The problem existing in this premise is that boundary location requires a very well-developed knowledge of land law. Surveyors mistakenly believe that we just set property corners and forget that unwritten rights may exist. Surveyors do not adjudicate the conflicting boundary, but we must properly delineate the features that could involve unwritten rights. The course of instruction imparts technical knowledge but little information regarding property rights. Research of the prior surveys is very important as well as research involving the title company. There is a mistaken belief that as surveyors we must measure the foot very accurately and not take into account the fact that old surveys were measured with a tape or chain. Until the survey profession insists on a course curriculum that includes property law, we as a profession cannot educate the courts to make consistent decisions.

George L. Wilkinson, PLS

On page 58 of the September issue, Mr. Lucas states that “a typical surveying curriculum appears to use ‘Evidence and Procedures’ as the law course.” Mr. Lucas next states that “with all due respect, ‘Evidence and Procedures’ was an excellent textbook back in the day … but it is full of errors, omissions and contradictions.” What day is Mr. Lucas referring to? Are the authors to be somehow held accountable for the deficiencies of our institutions of higher learning?

I have read the 5th Edition, copyright 2006, of “Evidence and Procedures,” and nowhere in the book can I find any statement by the authors that this is the be-all and end-all of surveying reference books. Having spoken with one of the authors on a few occasions, I believe his message has always been that this profession is one of constant studying and learning, and never once has he implied that his work is the definitive answer to all questions. In fact, the preface of the 5th Edition asks who will take up the challenge to continue writing reference books. ... Seeing the problem is easy; actually tackling the problem and trying to do something about it is something else. I will continue to read Mr. Lucas’ articles as a person must remain open to all ideas because there is always something to be learned, but I am afraid that the time to “put up or shut up” is approaching. I eagerly await Mr. Lucas’ definitive text on survey law. This will require a monumental effort of painstaking and time-consuming work. I don’t think a compendium of Mr. Lucas’ greatest-hit POB columns will do it.

Martin L. Sikorski, PLS, CLA, PP, CPSI
New Jersey

While I would not put it in quite such dire terms, I agree that all bad practice detracts from the profession as a whole, and it does not take much of it to further erode our collective reputation. I also agree there are too many surveyors who fail to take seriously the solemn professional mandate to practice only in areas of genuine personal expertise or to understand the significance of the consequences to the public, clients, the profession as a whole and to themselves when they fail in that regard.

Many see their license as a blanket certification of expertise when, in fact, a more sober view reveals it to be only a certification of minimal competence. It’s really just a ticket to begin learning on a higher plane.

Many love to blast Jeff for harping on the negatives. I think, rather, we have no shortage of cheerleaders. Someone needs to point out the issues that call for attention, to improve the reputation of the profession by elevating the standard of professional service to something higher than a purely technical function, and I appreciate Jeff’s efforts to do just that.

Brian Portwood

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