Select Page

Property I
University of Illinois School of Law
Reynolds, Laurie Jo

What is property?
·         Definition of property varies
·         Prof. Reynolds defines it as a bundle of rights
o    Law’s determination off a legal relationship among people in relation to a thing
o    Use, transfer, exclude major rights of property owner
o    Decide how to protect the owner from others and from interfering in their property rights
o    Want to protect individuals/society from property owner from interfering with someone else’s rights
§  Create incentives to use resources efficiently
§  3 criteria for efficient property rights system
·         Universality; Exclusitivity; Transferability.
o    Resources are shifted to their highest valued, most productive uses and efficiency is maintained
·         Objects and Classifications of Property
·         Real versus Personal Property
o    Real- land, fixed/unmovable thing
o    Personal- intangible or movable, of temporary character
Moore v. Regents
Synopsis of Rule of Law. That no action based on a theory of conversion may be prosecuted where the subject matter of the allegation are excised cells taken from Plaintiff in the course of a medical treatment; however, that an action may be based on theories of breach of fiduciary duty or lack of informed consent.
o    Does law of conversion apply to this case and allow him to claim property interest in cell line created by using his cells?
§  Conversion: taking of someone else’s goods and using them for their own use
o    Cell line is fundamentally distinct from Regent’s cells
o    Decided that legislative intent is to prevent cells from being considered as property
o    Extension of conversion in this area will hinder research
o    Can’t impose conversion liability for the use of human cells in medical research (case law)
o    To establish a conversion, plantiff must establish an actual interference with his ownership or right of possession….Where plantiff neither has title to the property alleged to have been converted, nor possession thereof, he cannot maintain an action for conversion.  (State law)
Attributes of Property
Right to exclude
-right of the owner to control access to that property so long as it does not invade the rights of another person
State v. Shack
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Trespass does not include a situation where representatives of recognized charitable groups enter private land in order to provide government aid to those workers who need it.
○    Shack prevented workers of programs that aid migrant workers from entering his property to speak in private with migrant workers who worked on his farm.
○    Doctrine of Necessity: necessity, private or public, may justify injury upon the lands of another
○    No legitimate need for the right in the farmer to deny the worker the opportunity for aid available from the federal, state, etc to help him.
○    Ownership of property does not include the right to bar access to governmental service available to migrant workers and hence there was no trespass.
                                            ■Title to property does not include dominion over person the owner permits to come on the premises.
Right to Disposition
Jones v. Alfred Mayer Co.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. 42 U.S.C. Section:1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in sale or rental of property. The statute is a valid exercise of the power of Congress to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment.
○    Black purchaser prevent from buy home because of his race.
○    Court applies statute, which “grants all citizens without regard to race or color the same right to purchase and lease property as enjoyed by white citizens”
                                            ■deals with racial discrimination and does not address discrimination on the grounds of religion or national origin
                                            ■court looks at the intent of the legislature and say the statute was intended to cover discrimination in private transaction, as well as public one.
○    cited Hurd v. Hodge where the court decided discrimination in home sales was illegal, but the difference in facts here is that the discrimination was affirmed by a governmental hand
Objects and Classifications of Property
-What are the objects of property? In what things can an individual claim private ownership?
-land law demonstrates how common law has evolved
Edwards v. Sims
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Despite the historical principle that property ownership includes ownership of both the air above and the soil below real estate, there are certain cases, such as this, where a court of equity is empowered to make rulings which prevent the property from being used to the detriment of or interference with contiguous property and owners.
o    Allows for survey of one’s land if 2 reqs are met:
·         Bona fide claim (common law)
·         Necessity of inspection- need to survey land to know where the cave is
o    Cave case, court analogizes caves to mines
o    Old rule: whomsoever the soil belongs, he owns also to the sky and to the depths
·         Owner of realty is entitled to the free and unfettered control of his own land above, upon, and beneath the surface
·         Dissent: believes the rule should be he who owns the surface is the owner of everything that may be taken from the earth and used for profit or happiness. A cave or cavern should belong to he who owns its entrance and this ownership should extend even to its utmost reaches if he has explored and connected these reaches with the entrance.
Role of Property in Society
Johnson v. McIntosh (Native American case)
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The title of land which has been discovered and conquered belongs entirely to the conquering nation, subject only to the right of those natives present to occupy the land.
o    Whether title can be recognized in the U.S. courts. Will a court deny the legitimacy of a title given by its own country?
·         No, the U.S. courts will never invalidate a claim to title by the U.S. government
o    Doctrine of Discovery
·         Authority of possession, ordered relations between conquering European nations
·         2 ways to take property by rights of discovery
o    Purchase
o    conquest
Shelley v. Kraemer
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection applies in this case to prohibit the enforcement of the restrictive covenant at issue due to the fact that the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment apply only where there is state action, which is found in this case due to the action of the Supreme Court of Missouri in enforcing the agreement, the result of which is to deprive the Petitioners of their property.
○    Disagreement over how to apply rule-
○    the original transaction of the sale of a home occurred between two consenting parties
○    at  trail other homeowners on the block asked the court to overrule this sale because it allowed a black family to purchase a home on the block, which went against the agreement enter into by most of the residents on the block
○    on appeal, the court finds that the court’s role in preventing the black family from buying the home constitutes discrimination and this is unconstitutional because it was done by an arm of the government
●      had this transaction only taken place between private parties, without court interference then the ruling may have been different
●      Judicial action= state action
Conversion, possession, right of occupancy, trespass to chattel,
●        Goal: focus on facts and notion of legal analysis
○    Tells why factual differences lead/do not lead to varying decisions
●        Questions of fact that affect decisions
○    Nature of object found- movable or part of the earth?
○    Relationship between the parties?
○    Where it was found…public place versus behind the cash register
○    Mental state of the true owner
○    Possession varies, not always the same
○    How do you choose the rule to apply?

○    Established right of the finder to property lost over everyone except the original owner
○    Boy found jewelry took it to the jeweler to be appraised and upon finding worth of the jewelry he steals it.
○    Court finds in favor the boy, the original finder. Only person who can take possession from him is the original owner
o    Rule: A finder prevails against all but the true owner or prior possessors (whether they are thieves or finders).  (Good is found in public place)
§  Reasons for ruling:
·         1.] ownership means productive use
·         2.] clear rule: if there is none, it encourages self-help
·         3.] assigning responsibility for costs
·         4.] encourages return to true owner
·         5.] finding is socially productive
○    Constructive bailee – Finder
Bridges v. Hawkesworth
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The mere fact that the banknotes were found on the floor of Defendant’s shop was not sufficient for the Defendant to retain possession of the notes against the claim of Plaintiff, the finder.
○    Applies  Armory rule: Although notes were found in Hawkeworth’s shop he does not have legal possession of the notes because
                                            ■Not the original owner
                                            ■Never in his custody until after someone else found them
                                            ■Court dismisses significance of the place lost items are found in, public place, not Hawkeworth’s home
                                            ■Bridges finds bank notes on shop floor and gave them to Hawkesworth to hold them for the true owner. When no one claims the notes, Bridges tries to get them back, Hawkesworth denies him.
South Stafforshire Water Co v. Sharman
Synopsis of Rule of Law. There is a presumption that whenever something is found on a person’s land, possession of that object is maintained by the landowner.
○    Water co. hire  Sharman to clean their pool, Sharman finds rings near pool and tries to claim possession of rings.
○    Rule: Possession of land carries with it in general, by law, possession of everything which is attached to or under that land and in absence of a better title, the right to possess it
                                        ■    Court says when a person has possession of house/land with intention to exert control over it and things on it then possession presumed to be that of the owner.
○    Court rules in favor of water co.
○    Agency: “If a man finds a thing as the servant or agent of another, he finds it not for himself, but for that other.”
Hannah v. Peel
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Because Defendant was not physically present in the house at any time, Plaintiff’s find was defensible against all parties except the rightful owner.
○    Rules:
                                            ■Man owns everything attached to his land
                                            ■Just because something is lying on your property and not possessed by someone else, does not automatically belong to owner
○    Court applied Bridges v. Hawkesworth rule
○    Brooch was found on owner’s property, Owner tries to exert possession over item, but court rule on behalf of the finder, not owner