The Law's Clock

56 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2015

See all articles by Frederic Bloom

Frederic Bloom

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: October 28, 2015


Time is everywhere in law. It shapes doctrines as disparate as ripeness and retroactivity, and it impacts litigants of every status and type — the eager plaintiff who brings her case too early, the death-row inmate who seeks his stay too late. Yet legal time is still scarcely studied, and it remains poorly understood. This Article makes new and better sense of that time. It begins with an original account of time as a tool of institutional power, tracking the relocation of that power from the first western cathedrals to the earliest Supreme Court. It then links time’s revealing past to our messy doctrinal present — first by compiling an initial doctrinal tally, then by sorting the doctrine into a novel time typology. This typology splits into three core categories — all time, some time, and broken time — and it brings analytical coherence to a concept too-long ignored. Even more, it sketches a blueprint for worthwhile reform. This Article proposes four such reforms — to Hicks v. Miranda, to mootness and desuetude, to retroactivity doctrine, and to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) — and it rethinks the courts’ most enduring time commitments. It also builds the foundation for what is to come, opening a discussion about time as a legal technology, arguing for a more critical investigation of the law’s clock.

Keywords: time, chronology, procedure, judicial power, judicial sunsets, Hicks, Calder, retroactivity, mootness, desuetude

JEL Classification: K00, K4, K40, K41, K49

Suggested Citation

Bloom, Frederic, The Law's Clock (October 28, 2015). Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 104, No. 1, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Frederic Bloom (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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