Select Page

Property I
University of Oregon School of Law
Wood, Mary Christina

Spring 2012
Seven Principles of Property Law
1.                  Property Law derives from a social compact which finds its form in the mandate of the sovereign
2.                  The sovereign determines the property interest to be protected
3.                  Property Interests operate on Two levels: Inter-governmental allocation & Individual Interests
4.                  Sovereigns hold title to public property and resources which benefit the commons; they also regulate the property to protect the commons (water, parks, air, roads, etc.)
5.                  Each individual has Two sets of Property Rightsà Private & Public
6.                  Property Law is a combination of rights and responsibilities – “these are two sides of the same coin”
7.                  Property law is encumbered by the laws of nature à don’t be a douche.
Property Law is a Bundle of Sticks
I.                   A piece of land can have all sorts of interest in it, current or previous owners may convey interests out of the bundle, then when the previous owner conveys the land to the current owner, the current owner is only getting the sticks they are given – he must buy back sticks to complete the bundle
II.                The Sticks in the Bundle
a.       License: temporary use
b.      Easement: (express or implied)
c.       Profit a prendre: someone wants to fish your lake and you let them
d.      Express view easement: negotiate w/ someone to not build in front of you or to compel the property owner to keep his trees trimmed.
e.       Split mineral estate: one person owns the land, one owns below the land
f.       Conservation Easement: land trusts negotiate w/ willing business or private landowners so the trust holds the right to enforce the owner from not building
g.      Leasehold: an estate in property (a big portion of the property)
h.      Right of first refusal: first right of refusal FMV of the property
i.        Future interest following life estate: after the owner’s life ends, you get their sticks in the bundle.
j.        Tenants in common: split among many owners, all of whom have equal access
k.      Mortgage: to secure interest in the property, the property owner gives the bank an interest in the prop
Property rights between sovereigns (fed, state, tribal)
I.                   Beginning the chain of title on personal title is either a conveyance form a State or a patent from the Fed
II.                Discovery Doctrine
a.       European right of discovery – extinguished through the Evolutionary War
b.      Native right of Occupancy – Extinguishing title through Purchase or Conquest/Treaty
I.                   Original Indian Title
a.       Viewed as a right of occupancy – it is not full FSA
b.      Traditional American Indian concepts of property à Spiritual and Communal
II.                Indian Treaty Rights/Sovereign Easements
a.       Reserved rights by tribes àThese treaty rights maintain, run w/ the land, and are an encumbrance against the private property
b.      Tribe’s property rights are inalienable: can be xfrd only w/ permission of the Fed government, otherwise the grant is void.
Public Rights to Crucial Resources and the Sovereign Duty to Protect
I.                   Public Trust Doctrine à Flexible doctrine that changes to meet society’s needs
a.       Three Component Parts of PTD – how it works
                                                  i.      Trustee à Sovereign – legal owner
1.      Duties
a.       Protection of the res (corpus) for the benefit of the citizens
b.      Restoration of the asset
c.       Duty against wasting the asset
d.      Reclaim asset when damaged
e.       + Duty of loyalty and Duty of accounting – central in private trusts and on its way to the PTD
                                                ii.      Beneficiary à Present and Future citizens of the State or Nation
                                              iii.      Corpus/Res
1.      Must be lands of special character- so valuable that they are important to all of mankind
2.       “Natural Resource” includes: WWW.GOATS
b.      PT issues arise under Four main situations:  PT limits what the Gov. can do w/ the resources
                                                  i.      When government tries to xfr public property out of the Public Trust
                                                ii.      When the government mismanages the trust
                                              iii.      Private property takings claims
                                              iv.      When the trustee goes after 3rd party who has damaged the trust.
c.       Questions to ask in Public Trust Cases (go through in every case)
                                                  i.      What are the trust assets at stake?
                                                ii.      What are the interests of the public in that asset?
                                              iii.      What are the duties of the trustee?
                                              iv.      Can a legislature alienate a public resource? & for what reasons?
                                                v.      What is the court’s role in enforcing a trust case and how much deference does the court give to the legislature in managing that trust? (is PTD Constitutional…)
                                              vi.      What is the relation of public trust rights to private trust rights?
d.      Oposa Case (Philippines case)
                                                  i.      These basic rights (of the PTD) need not be written in the Const b/c it is a basic human right
e.       Illinois Central Railroad -1892: Famous Case
                                                  i.      A grant of lands of special character (submersed lands) of a State has never been w/in the legislative power; and any attempted grant of the kind would be held, if not absolutely void on its face, as subject to revocation.
                                                ii.      The legislature cannot extinguish a trust that is a necessity for present and future generations
1.      Some lands are so important to the public that they cannot be conveyed to private parties
f.       Lake Mich.Fed v. US Army Corps
                                                  i.      Threshold test for the alienation of Public Trust Property
1.      Must show that the primary purpose of the alienation is to benefit the public
2.      The public purpose advanced by the grant must be direct.
3.      The alienation may not cause substantial impairment to the remaining assets (‘res’)
                                                ii.      Judicial Check States (ex; CA) Deference to the legislature to decide these two prongs.
                                              iii.      Judicial Veto states (ex; IL) Whatever the legislature says isn’t that important b/c they will always try to justify what they did or want to do.
                                              iv.      Reserved Powers Doctrine + Illinois Central = PTD is a Const. principle
g.      Marks v. Whitley àStanding for PT claims brought by members of public
                                                  i.      Where the interest concerned is one that constitutes a burden upon public land and affects the defendant as a member of the public, standing exists.
h.      Matthews
                                                  i.      Recreation is a part of the PT
                                                ii.      Moving the public trust (jus Publicum) up the beach, past the high water mark to dry sand
i.        Stevens à Public Trust and Takings law intersect
                                                  i.      Doctrine of Custom à access where access is historically conferred, it inheres in the title
                                                ii.      No right to exclude public b/c public already has access – don’t have private right
Reliance, Possession, Use, and Title – as basis for property rights in land
I.                   Ground Water Rights
a.       Absolute ownership
b.      Re

Benefit to run w/ the land
1.      Appurtenant easement – benefit the parcel (writing, intent, notice)
f.       Subdivision and Apportionment
                                                  i.      Appurtenant – can be subdivided
                                                ii.      In Gross – can be subdivided only if Grantor has not retained any rights in the easement
g.      Changes, Improvements, and Restrictions
                                                  i.      Owner can make reasonable repairs and improvements to the easement but can’t go over physical cope – not one inch  
                                                ii.      Servient owner cannot inhibit the “dominant purpose of the easement”
h.      Termination/Modification of Easements
                                                  i.      In writing (quitclaim deed)
                                                ii.      Agreement of parties
                                              iii.      By their own terms
                                              iv.      By prescription/adverse possession
                                                v.      Merger Changed conditions
                                              vi.      Frustration of purpose.
                                            vii.      Abandonment
                                          viii.      Marketable title act
II.                Land Trust & Conservation Easements
a.       Negative Easements –as such, they have to be affirmatively allowed into the State’s statutory law
                                                  i.      Land Trusts preserve the land – legacy
b.      Held only by Qualified Organizations: (Land Trusts; Federal/State Agency; Indian Tribe)
c.       Fee conservation Arrangements à donate or sell property to Gov. or private land trust
                                                  i.      Tax write-offs
d.      Characteristics of the Conservation Easement
                                                  i.      Conforms to intent of the parties
                                                ii.      Purposes- sets forth what uses are available
                                              iii.      Prohibits certain activities on the easement
                                              iv.      Development footprint section
                                                v.      Affirmative Restoration Agreement (not required)
                                              vi.      Public Access (not required)
                                            vii.      Monitoring and enforcement by Land Trust- Land Trust gets access- usually yearly
Public Policy Limits on The Right to Exclude
I.                   Cannot violate human rights à State v. Shack: Property rights can be suspended when those rights directly conflict w/ the fundamental rights of people living/working on the property.
I.                   Trespass – Intentional intrusion upon the land of another w/o consent.
a.       Fraud alone does not constitute a trespass à fraudulent consent also needs a violation of a protected interest (ownership or possession) as well to amount to trespass (food critic)