Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Well, it's Halloween and that means it's time for a little fun at propertyprof. I'll begin with one of the most amusing law review articles I've ever read: James Gordon's "How Not to Succeed in law School," which appeared in the Yale Law Journal in 1991. My favorite line among many good ones:
Just to prove that at heart they are really gentle, fun-loving people, professors will occasionally do something a little bit zany, like wear a costume to class on Halloween. This makes the students laugh and cheer. Before you laugh and cheer, however, you should check your calendar. It is often difficult to tell whether a professor is wearing a costume or not.
Of course, propertyprofs all know Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254, 258. Ah, what a great case. (You may recall this entry from summer 2006 on psychological defects.) And, along these lines, you might also enjoy Judith Richardson's book, Possessions, on the haunted landscape in the Hudson Valley.
You might find Gates v. Roberts, 350 S.W.2d 729 (Mo. 1961) of some interest, because it's about adverse possession of a house reputed to be haunted back in the 1930s. Nice case of squatters establishing a right to a house.
Then, going back a bit further, William Sampson argued to the New York Supreme Court in 1810 that the common law ought to evolve. He pointed out that a number of states had abandoned English law. Then he contrasted old, superstitious the common law with the modern, American law. Those efforts to abolish the old common law would have been in vain,
if ever and again some unsubstantial specter of the common law were to rise from the grave, in all its grotesque and uncouth deformity, to trouble our councils and perplex our judgments. Then should we have for endless ages the strange phantoms of Picts and Scots, of Danes and Saxons, of Jutes and Angles, of Monks and Druids, hovering over us like "ravens o'er the haunted house" or ghosts "That inglorious remain Unburied on the plain." In vain would this country advance in commerce, this and industry; in vain science and philosophy make their abode among us; in vain propitious heaven designate with a favoring hand our station on the globe, and distinguish us by freedom and prosperity, if we mar our own destiny by such servile adherence.
Never know where images of witchcraft will appear in conjunction with the common law, do we?
Maybe next year for Halloween, I'll link to some ghost stories where property is important.... Then again, maybe I'll try to figure out John Dryden's role in William Sampson's thought....
Endnote: The image of the St. James Hotel in Selma--which looks like it might be haunted! and is rumored to be (nice article from the Selma Times-Journal, one of our nation's oldest newspapers)--comes from our friends at the Library of Congress' Historic Buildings Survey, conducted during the 1930s. Check out their website for some great photographs. They're a source I often use when looking for public domain illustrations for propertyprof entries.
Alfred L. Brophy
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