Select Page

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



What is property

The right to exclude

the ownership of real property does not include the right to refuse access to individuals providing govt services to workers who are housed on the property. Property owner alleges trespass when field workers enter farm to give legal aid to migrant farm workers without consent and did not leave when asked. State v. Shack
Man’s right to his real property not absolute; can’t use property to injure others (CL maxim).
Necessity (private or public) justifies entry upon another’s land.
Property rights serve human values. Title to real property cannot include dominion over the destiny of persons the owner permits to come upon the premises.

Esp, highly disadvantaged segment of society

The right of disposition

Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. – Congress may make whatever laws are necessary and proper for enforcing the Thirteenth Amendment’s abolition of slavery and the negative effects of slavery (“all badges and incidents of slavery in the United States”). Jones sued alleging Mayer refused to sell a house to Jones simply because Jones is Af Am. 42 USC sec 1982 grants the right to all citizens to “inherit, purchase, lease, hold, and convey real and personal property”…”grants to all citizens, without regard to race or color, “the same right” to purchase and lease property “as is enjoyed by white citizens.”‘ Congress acted within its power in enforcing the 13th Amdt through sec 1982, even when the prohibited discriminatory conduct is performed by private individuals, and not state actors.

Court action – not purely private; “arm” of the govt.

Objects and classification of property

Fixture: although originally a movable chattel, by reason of its annexation to, or association in use with land, it is regarded as a part of the land.

Common issue: whether the tenant on the termination of his lease can remove from the premises those articles which he has attached, or whether they remain the property of the landlord.

Edwards v. Sims – KY law: one who holds exclusive property rights to surface lands also possesses exclusive property rights to subterranean areas beneath the surface lands. Edwards discovers cave and develops, part of it under Sim’s property.

RULE: whatever in direct line between surface and center of earth, sky above, belongs to the owner of the land.
BUT, one can enter another’s property, limiting absolute rights to land if they have a bona fide claim and there is necessity for inspection (analogizing caves from mines).
Maj: Sims has bona fide claim and there is necessity to inspect; Dissent – no necessity/bona fide claim b/c wouldn’t be able to inspect had Edwards not discovered/developed cave.
Counter: In states with a history of mineral development, mineral rights are often severed from surface rights. Effect is to create two horizontally separate estates in the same tract, w/ the owner of the minerals having an implied right to use the surface estate in order to access the mineral estate.

Absolute title

Land title transfers are only valid when made under the rule of the currently prevailing government. The US has absolute title over land; incompatible w/ absolute title in Indians. The fed. Govt. and only the fed. Govt. can take away Indians’ property rights. Johnson v. McIntosh
Notes: Indian occupancy may be extinguished by the govt w/o just compensation.

Shelley v. Kraemer – State court enforcement of a racially restrictive covenant constitutes state action that violates the EPC of the 14th Amdt.

Agreement between private entities (prop owners signing restrictive cov which provides no races other than whites welcome as tenants on the property for the next fifty years).


Private agreement not state action (no breach of 14th EPC)

Courts supporting private agreement

Laws that enforce discrimination (clear state action)

BURN INTO BRAIN: equal protection of the laws is not achieved through indiscriminate imposition of inequalities.


How society distributes property rights when a person acquires possession of an item of personal property through a finding. This area of the law balances the rights of many interest holders – the finder, the true owner, the owner of the real estate where the item was found, subsequent finders, and society in general.
Rule: The finder of lost articles (movables), even when found on the property, in the building, or w/ personal

. Plaintiff and defendant both have an equal and undivided interest in ball. Sell, split proceeds.
A person who finds a piece of chattel has a possessory property interest in the chattel, which may be enforced against anyone except the true owner of the chattel. Armory v. Delamirie – [chimney sweeper finds jewel, takes to jeweler to inspect, jeweler doesn’t give back, ct says must return] When a lost item is found upon property that is open to the public, ownership of the lost item vests in the finder as opposed to the owner of the real property where the item is found. [P finds money on ground of shop, tells shopkeeper to hold for owner; 3 years later, after no one has claimed, P asks shopkeeper for money he found. Ct: Armory rule still applies]. Bridges v. Hawkesworth – Rule: Unwitting possession =/= possession
Property owner owns everything on land exclusively; has legal possession constituted by general power and intent to exclude unauthorized interference. When a lost item is found upon property over which the property owner exercises exclusive control, ownership of the lost item vests in the property owner as opposed to the finder. [person hired by property owner to clean pool on property finds gold rings in pool] South Staffordshire Water Co. v. Sharman
BUT – A finder of lost chattel on another’s property has rights to that chattel superior to the rights of the property owner. [here, important that owner of prop had never stepped foot on property, thus could have never had exerted control over the brooch] Hannah v. Peel – [brooch on window sill belongs to finder, not owner of house] distinguishes Staffordshire.
One who finds lost property has possessory rights to it against everyone except its true owner. Ct: distinct from Bridges; there, money dropped accidentally, here pocketbook left “voluntarily” w/ barber. “lost” v “mislaid”; court distinguishes leaving a pocket book on the table, (with purpose) and forgetting to pick it up, and losing something. McAvoy v. Medina