I. Approaches to Law
1. Doctrinalism or Autonomism:
a. When trying to figure out the answer to a legal question, we should look to prior legal authority. Look for the values and principles already present in legal authorities; Law is autonomous and distinct from other fields of learning.
i. Legal Realists: We need to refresh laws based on the current social situation and thereby allow courts and legislatures to make changes.
2. Functionalism / Law and…
a. Let’s look actively to other principles that aren’t present in current law. Look outside the field of law and prior authority for principles that should guide the law. Law isn’t autonomous; it is dependent on these other fields
b. Coase theorem (Law and economics):
i. Assuming a perfectly functioning market . . .
1. No transaction costs
2. Perfect information
ii. . . . It doesn’t matter what the court decides or who a rule favors, because they can decide amongst themselves and obtain an efficient outcome (They can arrive at a solution via a market transaction in which both would be satisfied). In a perfectly functioning market they will get together and reach an optimal solution for the both of them. (There are many reasons that a market may not be considered perfectly functioning.)
iii. This theory assumes that everything (all needs and desires) can be reduced to a monetary value.
*But, People don’t always act rationally and sometimes act strategically
3. Legal Process School:
a. Which institution is best situated to make the best decision? Craft the rule of law that will place the power to decide in the institution best situated to render the choice.
i. Legislature: when the decision should represent the will of the people.
ii. Courts: when the decision involves a determination of fact
4. Law and Status:
a. Craft rules of law that address the impact of the law on groups of particular concern / people that are often exploited (e.g., the poor, women, minorities, men, etc.)
II. Concepts of Property – Why does property exist?
1. Five Theories of Property
a. To Protect First Possession
i. First come, first serve; applies to how unowned things became owned (especially in the early US); Less relevant today because most tangible things are already owned
ii. Still in play in our daily lives (standing in line, parking spots, seats, etc.-this is a matter of custom)
b. To Encourage Labor – LaborTheory
i. Each person is entitled to the fruits of their labor
ii. Things (land) don’t have a value until labor is added
iii. In modern days this applied to patents, copyrights, etc.
c. To Maximize Societal Happiness – Utilitarianism (Traditional vs. the Law and Economics Theory)
1. Property is distributed to maximize the overall happiness of society
2. Recognizing property is a means to an end for all citizens not just those who own property. (It allows for greater happiness for everyone)
ii. Law and Economics Theory
1. Land is viewed as a commodity
2. Property is an efficient method of distributing wealth
3. Property is used to ensure that owners use the resources in the most efficient manner possible (whatever will increase its value the most). Being able to transfer property is essential to this point
4. Property can protect against waste (overuse) and degradation
d. To Ensure Democracy – Civic Republican Theory
i. People have property to be independent of the government.
ii. With economic security comes political freedom (making money at jobs also serves this purpose)
iii. “Property is a ticket to harness the coercive forces of government against others.”
e. To Facilitate Personal Development – Personhood Theory
i. Property is necessary for a person’s development
ii. People have emotional connections to tangible items which in turn causes those items to become part of who they are (personhood property)
iii. Rights to personhood property should be granted special consideration; people should be afforded broad control over these items.
*Legal Positivism – Property only exists to the extent that it is recognized by the government.
*Private property is a human intervention not a divine right.
2. Rule of Capture – Pierson v. Post
a. Post pursued; Pierson shot and captured
b. Tompkins applies first possession approach by asserting the rule of capture i. Hunter acquires a property interest in a wild animal when the animal is reduced to possession by capture, by mortal wounding or by bringing them into certain control.
c. The Dissent (Livingston) argued that a labor approach should be applied allowing Post to keep the fox.
4. Moral, philosophical and religious outcomes are impossible to predict.
2. The right to exclude
a. The right to exclude is considered the most important aspects within the rights of property.
b. Elements of Trespass: Trespass is a strict liability tort and doesn’t requires damages
i. Intentional (intent to do the act)
ii. Entry on a legally protected interest (generally has to be a physical invasion) of another
iii. Exceptions to the above elements:
c. Jacque v. Steenburg Homes:
i. With intentional trespassing we don’t actual harm to the land, rather the damage is the violation of the individual’s right to exclude people from their property. The court determined this violation is an actual damage even though it can’t be measure in dollars and cents.
ii. Individual’s and society have an interest in protecting this right (the right to exclude), which is meaningless unless protected by the government
*Society should have confidence in their legal system to punish wrongdoers, which in turn leads to less people taking the law into their own hands.
iii. Intentional trespassing leads to potential harm (adverse possession)
iv. Nominal Damages may support a punitive damage award in a case of intentional trespassing
b. Shack v. State:
i. Property rights serve human values, which is a concept that continues to evolve as society becomes more populated.
ii. There is a long history indicating that property rights aren’t absolute (you can’t injure the rights of others).
iii. Title to property doesn’t include dominion over those who you allow on your premises.
iv. Privacy and dignity are fundamental rights that cannot be denied on the basis of property interest.
3. The right to use
a. Elements of nuisance: