Florida Judge Steven Merryday rejected a request to postpone a trial so a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agent could view Monday's solar eclipse.
Merryday, who presides in the Middle District of Florida, denied the motion, noting that the eclipse would last "no more than two minutes and forty-two seconds" while the trial has involved many people's time and effort.
"Definitely recurrent, sometimes consequential, and occasionally spectacular, the solar eclipse understandably occupies a provocative place in history and in art," Merryday wrote. Referring to the song "You're so Vain," he continued, "In a popular 1970s song, the splendid Carly Simon introduced the attendance of a former suitor [reportedly the actor Warren Beatty] at a solar eclipse as probative evidence of his putatively insufferable vanity."
Lest people think Merryday so vain that the denial was about him, he wrote, "The solar eclipse is no longer mysterious, supernatural, foreboding or ominous (or even "total"; owing to the solar corona, the darkness of a "total" eclipse is only partial). An eclipse is just another astral event, precisely predictable since the day the Babylonians discovered the governing formula (although some contend for an earlier discovery)."
The judge also scorned the assistant U.S. attorney who made the motion "where no AUSA has moved before"— a Star Trek allusion — for using the phrase "schedule to occur" about the eclipse, "as if someone arbitrarily set the eclipse, as an impresario sets a performer, to appear at a chosen time and place, subject always to some unstated exigency."
"Cruel fate has dictated that the August 21 eclipse will occur during the trial of an action in which the agent is a principal participant on behalf of the United States," Merryday wrote. "When an indispensable participant, knowing that a trial is imminent, pre-pays for some personal indulgence, that participant, in effect, lays a bet. This time, unlike Carly Simon's former suitor, whose "horse, naturally, won," this bettor's horse has—naturally—lost."