Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Favorite Property Cases To Teach

In a comment to my last post, Al Brophy had the very good idea of taking an informal survey of property profs' favorite cases to teach.  Mine are Popov v. Hayashi (which I do the first day of class, right after Pierson v. Post), Moore v. Regents and Kelo (which I covered last year before the S.Ct. decided the case).  Other candidates include two from Judge Kozinski:  Kremen v. Cohen and White v. Samsung.  If you have a favorite or favorites, please leave a comment.

Ben Barros

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Tracked on Jul 8, 2006 9:40:09 AM


Great idea, Ben!
My favorites (because I think they teach important points while teaching well) include: Johnson v. McIntosh; Euclid; Shelley. Boomer and, of course, Del Webb, both fit there.

Then there are the cases I like because you can do some fun things with them in class, like O'Keefe v. Snyder; Stambovsky; and Delfino v. Vealencis.

Then there are a lot that I like because they teach well--Van Sandt v. Royster (though I know a lot of people may disagree with this one); Neponsit; Eli Di v. Bethany Beach; Caullett v. Stanley Stilwell.

But this raises a second question: what are the cases that don't teach well? I have a long list of those, as well. And a third question: what are the statutes and other material that teach well or poorly?

Posted by: Alfred L. Brophy | Feb 15, 2006 4:15:03 PM

As far as cases that I don't think teach well, I'd include Van Valkenburgh v. Lutz (I've replaced it w/Marengo Cave), Ernst v. Conditt (I fail to see why a case that gets the privity of contract v. privity of estate distinction wrong is used to teach the distinction; Neal v. Craig Brown is much better), and Rockafellor v. Gray. Also, the Virtual Works v. Volkswagen case included in the current edition of D&K stinks; Kremen v. Cohen is an excellent substitute.

Posted by: Ben Barros | Feb 16, 2006 7:43:42 AM

By far my favourite case to teach--and my students' to learn, so they tell me--is Mabo's Case, . I beleive it is an essential companion/contrast to Johnson v. McIntosh.

Posted by: jeremy debeer | Feb 16, 2006 8:28:11 AM

I love to teach Nollan and Lucas (I even wear my Maui beach shirt to class that day). I also love to teach Euclid, because it is so much fun to point out to students the way the court viewed apartment dwellers as "parasites" and compared them to "pigs in the parlor." A little honesty about exclusionary zoning helps clear the focus.

I also love to teach RLUIPA, a topic that many property courses don't cover. It is fun to bring religious liberty into the property course, and the students really appreciate such a timely and important issue.

Posted by: Rick Duncan | Feb 16, 2006 8:42:28 AM

Ben, funny you should mention Ernst v. Conditt. I just taught that yesterday. Over the years, my attitudes towards it have changed rather significantly. Once I thought it was fun to talk about the ways of figuring out the puzzle of privity of estate. Of course, thanks to the magic of the unjust enrichment doctrine, I'm not sure that it matters much. And then there's the sort of hidden part of Ernst: the question of whether there's a contractual basis for holding Conditt liable.

I'd certainly put Schwartzbaugh v. Sampson down as one of the other cases that's more confusing to students than helpful, which I think is the standard I use to judge cases that I don't like to teach. Still, I love the facts.

As to Lutz, my sense is that it's falling out of fashion. I continue to like it because I think it teaches a pretty important lesson: judges don't always get the law right. And in unpacking the contortions in Lutz, you can talk about a whole lot of adverse possession law.

I wonder if we're going to see a new generation of cases to replace those going-out-of-fashion? I'm curious to see the next generation of property teaching materials. My guess is that there will be more drafting exercises and real estate transactions.

Posted by: Alfred L. Brophy | Feb 16, 2006 1:48:56 PM

Interesting observation on Schwartzbaugh, which I actually like to teach. I agree that Lutz has a lot in it, but it takes a while to get through and is based in part on a somewhat unusual NY statute. I also don't like its placement in D&K as the first adverse possession case -- if I'm going to do a case that is interesting but dense and maybe wrong, I'd rather do it after some basic cases that give a good understanding of the core concepts.

New generations of property casebooks probably should have more drafting exercises, but the introduction of writing into doctrinal classes is going to continue to run up against the hard problem of requiring doctrinal profs to do more work. I do a drafting assignment in my bus orgs class, and think it is the right thing to do, but it takes a big chunk of writing time away.

Posted by: Ben Barros | Feb 16, 2006 2:11:21 PM

I also teach from D&K and enjoy most of the same cases you've all mentioned. I want to add one more honorable mention from D&K - Symphony Space v. Pergola Properties. I have found that the students enjoy working with all of the ways that the Court of Appeals could have solved the problem posed by the RAP, and speculating as to why it chose the outcome it did.

Posted by: Nestor Davidson | Feb 17, 2006 8:45:30 AM

My two favorite cases in Property are Johnson v. M'Intosh which is taught in the third or fourth class in a four-hour Property course and Robinson v. Diamond Housing which I add to the casebook to bring my class a dose of reality in terms of urban housing choices.

Posted by: bruce m. kramer | Feb 17, 2006 11:51:14 AM

Does anyone else teach RLUIPA in Property?

Religious land use is a very important issue these days, since many communities seem to believe that churches belong in neither residential nor commercial districts (and that minority churches don't belong anywhere in town).

I also teach a First Amendment course, so maybe it is only my research interests at work here. But I really enjoy teaching RLUIPA, and my students seem to enjoy it as well.

Any thoughts?

Posted by: Rick Duncan | Feb 17, 2006 6:47:51 PM

Rick, I don't teach it at all, but would like to include it in my land use unit. Is there anything that use beyond the statute itself?

Posted by: Ben Barros | Feb 18, 2006 3:28:45 PM

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