Saturday, September 15, 2007

Changes in Tree Law

Thanks to Carl Christensen for this story from the Washington Post about the Virginia Supreme Court's decision to change its law regarding neighbors and trees.

In the suburbs, there are few issues that can cause as much rancor and neighborhood discord as a deep-rooted, mature tree that has no regard for the neat boundaries of a property line.

Who pays if your neighbor's tree damages your house?  Yesterday, the Virginia Supreme Court weighed in on the contentious issue with a decision that overturns a nearly 70-year-old precedent. Now, for the first time, homeowners can sue to force a neighbor to cut back branches or roots or take out the tree altogether if it poses a risk of "actual harm" or an "imminent danger" to their houses, the court ruled. Tree owners can now be held liable for any damage caused by the tree. ...

In the past, most states used the "Massachusetts rule," which held that if a tree grew on your property but the branches hung into your neighbor's yard, that neighbor could cut them back as far as the property line. If the roots cracked the neighbor's patio or if the branches ripped their siding, it was their problem. And if the neighbors' pruning killed your tree, you could sue them for damages.

Maryland and the District still follow the Massachusetts rule, according to officials there. ...

[Virginia's new] rule, modeled after a 1981 case in Hawaii, says that a neighbor can't sue a tree owner for the little annoying things -- "casting shade or dropping leaves, flowers, or fruit." But it's a different story if the tree becomes a nuisance. The owner of a nuisance tree "may be held responsible for harm caused to [adjoining property], and may also be required to cut back the encroaching branches or roots, assuming the encroaching vegetation constitutes a nuisance," the court said.

Sounds like a fabulous topic for a student note!

Alfred L. Brophy
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September 15, 2007 in Recent Cases | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cemetery Law in the News

Thanks to Carl Christensen for two recent news stories on cemetery law.  First, one on relocating graves for the expansion of O'Hare Airport.  Second, one on the latest on the Whole Foods construction on Oahu.  From the Honolulu Star Bulletin article (linked to above):

Work on the planned Whole Foods Market store in Kakaako has stopped again after the discovery of still more remains at the construction site, bringing the count to 58.

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., meanwhile, filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order yesterday on behalf of cultural descendant Paulette Kaleikini to stop the removal of any more human remains from the redevelopment site.

In the motion, NHLC attorney Moses Haia asks that, in light of the additional finds, construction be halted at the entire Ward Village redevelopment site.

Propertyprof readers will recall that we've been following this story for a while.  The image of Kakaako from the 1920s is from the University of Hawaii's Center for Oral History.

Al Brophy
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September 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Reminder -- Sept. 15 Deadline for AALS Junior Workshop Panel Submissions

Just a reminder that the deadline for submissions for the AALS Property Section Junior Scholars Works-in-Progress Panel is September 15.  Details on the panel, and instructions for submissions, are available here.

Ben Barros

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September 13, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Junior Property Scholars Conference - February '08

On February 8 and 9, 2008, I’ll host a works-in-progress conference for junior property scholars at Widener Law School in Harrisburg, PA.  I’m pretty flexible on the definition of “junior property scholar,” though the basic rule of thumb is teaching for six or fewer years.  People who are from outside the U.S. or teach in related fields would be very welcome.

The basic idea is to give junior people a forum to get feedback on their scholarship and to get to know each other.  There will be two types of presentations.  First, people with a paper that is pretty far along can submit their paper in advance for people to read before the conference.  The conference is timed in part to allow people to get drafts ready for the Spring law review submission season.  Second, people with early-stage ideas can present their thoughts to the group to get feedback.

The exact structure of the conference will depend on how many people want to attend.  To give me a rough head count, please e-mail me ( if you think you might want to join us.   Please note that because this is a works-in-progress conference, we’ll ask attendees to cover their travel and hotel costs.  We’ll cover the meals.

Ben Barros

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September 10, 2007 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Anderson on Teaching the Right to Exclude

Jerry L. Anderson (Drake University Law School) has posted Comparative Perspectives on Property Rights: The Right to Exclude on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

A comparative perspective can help students understand that the bundle of rights we call property can be allocated in a variety of ways, in order to serve societal interests. This article examines two variations on the right to exclude, which the American Supreme Court has declared to be essential to property ownership. Laotian hunting rights allow public access to private lands, clearly violating the right to exclude but providing important public benefits. Likewise, the right to roam in Britain qualifies the right to exclude to allow public hiking on private land. These examples help students realize that property rights represent a balance between private and societal interests.

Ben Barros

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September 10, 2007 in Property Theory, Recent Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

At last some honesty (and perspective) about rankings

In the wake of Appalachian State's defeat of Michigan, there has been interminable discussion around my college town about rankings of college football teams.  Almost rivals the feeding frenzy around the US News rankings of law schools--almost, but not quite.  At last this morning's Newsday brings some honesty about rankings, a quotation from the man who started the AP rankings of college teams back in 1936:

The idea of a national poll, Alan Gould said when he introduced it for AP in 1936, was "to develop interest and controversy between football Saturdays. Newspapers wanted material to fill space between games. That's all I had in mind, something to keep the pot boiling. Sports was living off controversy, opinion, whatever. This was just another exercise in hoopla."

Isn't what this law school rankings business is all about--some more hoopla?  It sells some copies of US News, gives deans and students some bragging rights, and gives us in the academy something to shoot for and something to talk about.  But Mr. Gould helps us keep these sorts of things in perspective.

Now, back to work on my essay on Thomas Roderick Dew's Digest of the Laws, Customs, Manners, and Institutions of Ancient and Modern Nations.

September 9, 2007 in Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)