General Chaos' message to agora-business, dated Thu Feb 4 04:47:07 1999,
with message-id < 199902041242.HAA2542email@example.com >,
initiated a Referendum to Impeach Chancellor Andre.
Called by: Steve
Eligible: Chuck, Crito, elJefe, Kolja. A, Michael, Morendil,
Barred: Andre, General Chaos
Had their turn: Ørjan, Macross, Blob, General Chaos, Murphy, Peekee
Already served: -
By request: -
On Hold: Ørjan, lee
Called by Steve: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 20:21:17 +1100
Assigned to Vlad: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 21:17:05 +1100
Judged TRUE by Vlad: Sun, 14 Feb 1999 11:20:09 -0600
Judgement published: as of this message
As is usual, I begin with the facts. The full text of the General's
message, which was sent to the Public Forum, is as follows. Replying to
a message from Andre, he wrote (text delimited by triple hyphens):
"Andre" == Andre Engels < firstname.lastname@example.org > writes:
Andre> I hereby again set the BOS to zero Voting Tokens.
Anybody who thinks I'm going to work for free while the Duty to Vote
exist is daft.
I hereby call for the Impeachment of Chancellor Andre.
Now, the Rules. Rule 1486 (Procedure to Impeach an Officer) states in
Any Active Player is permitted to call a Referendum to Impeach an
Officer at any time, by requesting such in the Public Forum... The
Referendum must list both the Office and the current Electee to
that Office by name.
General Chaos insists that because he did not use the word 'Referendum'
in his message, for example by saying "I hereby call for a Referendum to
Impeach Chancellor Andre", that his message did not succeed in
initiating a Referendum to Impeach Chancellor Andre. I disagree. I hold
the contrary view that in the context (i.e., the existence of R1486),
specific use of the word 'Referendum' was not necessary to initiate a
Referendum to Impeach, and that a reasonable person would interpret his
message as a call for a Referendum to Impeach Chancellor Andre. To
insist that the use of the word "Referendum" is necessary to initiate a
Referendum is to insist on an absolutely strict adherence to rigidly
defined forms of words that is not in the best interests of the game. If
allowed to stand, this ultra-finicky legalism will set a dangerous
precedent. It might, to give just one example, allow the Assessor to
discount a message of the form "6666: FOR" (following the distribution
of Proposal 6666) as a vote for Proposal 6666, on the grounds that
neither the words 'vote' nor 'Proposal' appear in the message. I ask the
Judge to reject such insults to commonsense and deliver a Judgement of
First, I note that this issue appears not be dealt with in the text of
any of the relevant Rules, so I am free to employ the other standards
listed in 217. This is a difficult issue. Certainly, some Players,
myself included, thought that General Chaos was calling for a
Referendum. Later, G. Chaos denied that he had done so. I'll note that
the case isn't as clear-cut as Steve's voting example, since there is
really only one possible meaning of "6666:FOR", but G. Chaos' message
has, at least potentially, the purpose of expressing a wish rather than
initiating an official proceeding. Steve's cautions about a too-literal
reading of the rules are cogent, but there is also the danger of being
too lax. If I happen to express my disapproval of a Proposal up for vote
in the Public Forum does that count as a vote against? If "I hereby call
for the Impeachment of Officer X" starts a referendum, does "Let's
Impeach X" or even "Down with X!" do so?
In such cases, I think a later statement of purpose, combined with the
earlier declaration, may combine to form such a legal declaration.
However, G. Chaos has made no such clarification, despite my request to.
His later denial that he started such a referendum may be considered a
weak clarification, but there is always the suspicion he changed his
mind, for whatever reasons, after the fact, or even that he simply
wishes to see the results a CFJ would bring.
In the absence of such a positive clarification by the defendant, there
is one piece of evidence that I feel tips the balance towards TRUE. G,
Chaos posted his message to the Public Forum, rather than the default
discussion list. This implies an active decision on his part, and is
prima facie evidence that he did intend to initiate a referendum.
Therefore I Judge TRUE.
I note again that intent IS relevant here. Agora allows loose language
in taking actions, rightfully so, but that means the nature of a message
can sometimes be ambiguous. Under such circumstances, I think the Player
should be allowed to clarify the ambiguity, if he does so in a timely
fashion, otherwise, no legal decision can be made concerning their
intent, and so, by default, the action does not occur. In this case the
evidence outlined above does sufficiently clarify the Player's intent.
However, this should not be construed as setting a precedent, although I
think the principle that any post sent to the PF is intended to have
legal effect, and should be construed that way if there is doubt, is in
general a good one.