The Thinking Director
When the Laws Require Thinking
Incorrect Laws
Contradictory Laws (you are here)
Vague Laws
The Unexpected Situation
Laws About Directing (you are here)
Supporting Directors

Do the Laws allow Thinking?

It seems to be a common view that directors are "required to follow the Laws ... and nothing else." I have argued so far that this is not possible or wise. But what about the laws themselves? Do they say that directors should just follow laws?

I don't think so. Probably the most important law is this.

Law 84B: If a case is clearly covered by a Law that specifies a penalty for the irregularity, he assesses that penalty and sees that it is paid."

This does constrain the director. Even if a ruling seems inequitable, if the case is clearly covered by the Law, the ruling should be made.

But this Law does not say what to do when two laws contradict or when a law is vague. And if there seems to be a mistake in the law -- it was not written in a way to properly handle the given situation -- I do not know what this law is saying should be done. To me, if the law might be errant for that situation, the Law is not clearly covering the situation. But if this means directors should not use any common sense and instead follow all laws even when they are obviously errant -- then this is an errant law and should not be followed in that situation.

Law 81B2: The Director is bound by these laws.

What does "bound" mean? We sometimes use it to mean someone is so tied up they can't move. By analogy, the director is so tied up by the laws that the director cannot do anything else.

But this could also mean that the Director is obligated to follow the laws when they prescribe an action (or lack of action). Then the Director has other options when the laws do not say what to do.

Law 12B: The Director may not award an adjusted score on the ground that the penalty provided in these Laws in either unduly severe or advantageous to either side.

This pertains only to the awarding of adjusted scores, not to the rulings themselves. So it is irrelevant to the discussions here. To be more precise, if the case is clearly covered by the laws, you apply the penalties and can't adjust. If you just make a ruling you don't like, then perhaps this law says you can't adjust. Or maybe it doesn't, but why would you make a ruling you don't like?

Perhaps most importantly, look at what the laws do not say. They laws do not forbid a director from using common sense, making judgments, or trying to fathom the lawmaker's intentions in writing the laws.

Law 81C5: "The director's duties and powers normally include to administer and interpret these Laws."

I don't know if these are duties or powers. If they are duties, they limit the director; if they are powers, they enable the director.

The word "interpret" could mean that the director should take the laws as a whole and then construct a meaningful ruling at the table; when there is a situation not covered in the laws, the director translates the meaning of the laws into the new situation. This would give the director the power needed to handle the situations not addressed in the laws.

Unfortunately, interpret could also mean just that when explaining a ruling to the players, the director can phrase it in plain English (or whatever) rather than the legalspeak of the laws.

So it is very important to intrepret the meaning of intrepet. According to the first interpretation of interpret, the director has the right to interpret the meaning of intrepret, but according to the second interpretation, the director does not.

Adminster also is ambiguous. To me, following a will is just following rules and adminstering an estate is making decisions consistent with some guidelines or intentions. But I suppose "admiinster" could also mean just applying the laws.

Self-Referential Problems

There is a horribly self-referential problem with the laws about following the laws. For example, the director is given the right to interpret the laws. Does that mean that the director can interpret the word "interpret" and thereby given himself/herself the right to interpret that word? Of course, there is no on available for most interpretations, so if the director doesn't do it, who does?

Or there is a horrible gap in the laws -- they do not cover the problem of what to do when a problem isn't covered by a law. If the answer is that the director should fill in the gaps, then the director can fill in this gap and decide that it is legal to fill in gaps. (The director cannot decide that this is inappropriate to fill in the gap, because then the director loses the right to make this decision.)


Because of their self-referential nature, I do not believe the laws clearly say the director has a right to think -- make judgments, use common sense, and try to infer the intention of the lawmaker's. But the important thing is this -- the laws do not forbid it. They clearly limit the director's rights, and in fact they clearly limit the director's rights for situations clearly covered by the laws. But that is it.

Meanwhile, as already demonstrated, the director is forced to make judgments, use common sense, and use principles to infer the intention of the lawmakers.

Next: Supporting Directors

Going Deeper

Godel proved that any laws of mathematics are either incomplete or contradictory. I suspect that this applies also to the laws of bridge (though perhaps not for Godel's reasons). First no finite book of laws will ever cover all possible situations. Second, the more laws there are, the more chance there is for contradictions. Vagueness is also unavoidable, though longer descriptions can reduce the problem.

Do we really want a lawbook that is three times as long and only slightly better? Also, because that means less attention is given to each part of the law book, the book might actually be worse.

The point is, there will always be contradictions, vagueness, and a need for a director to make judgments and decisions.

Next: Supporting Directors