Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yankee Stadium Home Run Baseball Dispute

From the NY Times:

Yankees catcher José Molina hit the last home run at Yankee Stadium. That is not in dispute. Who should have pocketed the ball seems to be.

In Sunday night’s Yankees-Orioles game — the last baseball game in the long history of the ballpark in the South Bronx — the ball that Molina hit in the fourth inning soared over the left-field fence, and ended up in a net over Monument Park.

As Molina ran the bases, there was the usual skirmish in the stands. Arms-in-the-air fans did what fans do when a ball is headed their way: They craned their necks, reached up and tried for the catch. So did Orioles left fielder Jay Payton, on the field.

But it was the net that made the catch.

Fingers poked through, or tried to. Some might have even touched the ball. It stayed put.

A fan, identified by news organizations in Wyoming as Steve Harshman, a state legislator and a high school football coach, staked his claim. “I had the ball on the net and I said, ‘Well, I’m going to pull it right through this netting,’ ” Mr. Harshman told station KCWY-TV in Casper, Wyo.

A security worker warned him not to rip the net and to let the ball go, Mr. Harshman added. He said he was reassured by the workers, who told the crowd, “It’s his ball.” Then the workers told him, “You just release it when you’re ready,” he said. When he did, “a guy” jumped up and grabbed, it.

“It went right into my hands,” said Paul Russo, 31, a schoolteacher in the Bronx and a lifelong Yankees fan. “I have possession of the ball. I’m like, wow.”

Two security workers ordered him to hand over the ball, he said — for safekeeping, he figured.

But then the unthinkable — to him — happened. “They flip it to this other fan,” he said. “I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ ” . . .

All that left Mr. Russo considering options like going to court to ask for custody of a baseball. . . .

Yankee Stadium had a long-established procedure for when a ball is caught in a net and a fan reaches into the net to grab it, according to Howard J. Rubenstein, a spokesman for the Yankees.

He said that the guards were instructed to tell a fan to let go of the ball, and once it was free of the net, a guard would return it.

The fan “doesn’t give up his ownership, he only gives up custody,” Mr. Rubenstein said. . . .

Legal experts have studied this kind of thing. Paul Finkelman, a professor at Albany Law School, was quoted in a Cardozo Law Review article titled “Fugitive Baseballs and Abandoned Property: Who Owns the Home Run Ball?” The article described a symposium that touched on Barry Bonds’s 500th career homer.

As for the Molina homer, Professor Finkelman said, “it appears to me that when it went into the net, it went into the legal possession of the New York Yankees, and if stadium officials retrieve the ball and say ‘We’ll give it to you’ — whoever they’re pointing to — they have the right to do that.”

I'm not sure Professor Finkelman is right about why Harshman owns the ball, but I agree with the result -- I think that the Yankees had a policy to abandon their claim to balls in the net, and that Harshman got possession by stopping the movement of the ball.

Ben Barros

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

September 24, 2008 in Personal Property | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fernandez on Pierson v. Post

Angela Fernandez (U. Toronto) has posted The Lost Record of Pierson v. Post, the Famous Fox Case on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Pierson v. Post, the famous fox case, has been reproduced in countless law school casebooks and written about endlessly in law review articles. A surreal air has hung around the case, in large part because scholars interested in it could access little more than what appeared in the reported appellate case at the New York Supreme Court in 1805, the rarefied "high law" in the case. Any documents setting out what happened at the lower court level were presumed lost. The judgment roll has now been found and is being made available to scholars for the first time. This article is a report on the discovery of that lost record and an introduction to the record highlighting the new information it gives us about the case. This is the "low law" we knew nothing about, specifically, the account of Post's jury trial before a Justice of the Peace, the amount of money he was awarded, and the grounds of Pierson's appeal. The new record does not answer all the questions we might have about this famous case. However, it provides much in the way of important new information that was previously unavailable to those with an interest in the case.

Ben Barros

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

August 27, 2008 in Personal Property, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Who Owns Animals?

Here at propertyprof we talk about things like who owns native culture (and who owns American folks culture--in the form of the game of monopoly)?  Now, our friends over at The Slippery Slope have a podcast with animal rights lawyer Adam Karp about companion animals and the rights related thereto.

Alfred Brophy


August 7, 2008 in Personal Property | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Griffey 600th Home Run Baseball Dispute

Looks like we might have another case about everyone's favorite fugitive resource.  From

Controversy ensued in the stands following the home run. Justin Kimball, a 25-year-old from Miami, said he caught the home run ball, put it in a wool cap and then had the cap ripped from his hands. Kimball said someone ran off with the ball.

Police said they had found the fan with the baseball and would look at video tape to see if Kimball's claims could be supported.

However, the Florida Marlins announced Major League Baseball had authenticated the home run ball for a middle-aged male fan who would only give his first name as Joe.

Ben Barros

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

June 9, 2008 in Personal Property | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Property Students in Second Life

At Terra Nova, Rachel Goda has an interesting post on sending first year property students into Second Life to see how property concepts are reflected in the virtual world.  Hat tip:  David Post at the VC.

Ben Barros

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

April 5, 2007 in Intellectual Property, Personal Property | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Herein of a lost rare stamp, absentee ballots, and Florida voters

What is it about Florida voters? An article today at Yahoo news begins:

A Florida voter may have unwittingly lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by using an extremely rare stamp to mail an absentee ballot in Tuesday's congressional election, a government official said on Friday.

The 1918 Inverted Jenny stamp, which takes its name from an image of a biplane accidentally printed upside-down, turned up on Tuesday night in Fort Lauderdale, where election officials were inspecting ballots from parts of south Florida, Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom told Reuters.

Only 100 of the stamps have ever been found, making them one of the top prizes of all philately.

Suppose the absent mined absentee voter realizes what he has done and asks for his stamp back? Well, it appears that the quality of mercy is strained after all in Broward County. Mr Rodstrom "said he doubted the stamp would ever be handed over to someone claiming to have mailed it inadvertently. 'It would be hard to prove, I guess you would have to say it was a person who had Alzheimer's,' he said." 

As they say in Florida, finders keepers, losers weepers.

But query? Suppose a voter shows up and can prove that he owned such a stamp and claims to have used it unintentionally? Is this abandoned property? Lost property? How should such a case come out?

Hmmm. I think I see an exam question beginning to take shape!

Rick Duncan

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

November 11, 2006 in Personal Property | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Possession as the Root of Title

Over at How Appealing, Howard Bashman reports on a recent 4th Circuit property case (excerpt):

"That possession is nine-tenths of the law is a truism hardly bearing repetition. Statements to this effect have existed almost as long as the common law itself." A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today issued an opinion that begins, "This case concerns the ownership of papers from the administrations of two governors of South Carolina during the Civil War."

In that opinion, written by Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, the Fourth Circuit affirms a federal district court's ruling that the State of South Carolina "failed to establish that the papers constituted public property under South Carolina law of the Civil War era." As a result, a man who, according to today's opinion, "found the papers in 1999 or 2000 in a shopping bag in a closet at his late stepmother's home" retains ownership of the documents.

More discussion and more links at How Appealing here. This is the same case Al just posted about.

Rick Duncan

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

October 29, 2006 in Personal Property | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rights in Property Created Under Duress

Today's NY Times has an article about Dina Babbit, a holocaust survivor who was directed by Mengele to paint portraits of Gypsy prisoners at Auschwitz.  The paintings now hang in a museum at Auschwitz, and Ms. Babbit and the museum are in a long-running dispute about ownership.  The museum acknowledges that Ms. Babbit created the paintings, but argues that the paintings should be the property of the museum.  Based on the article, the museum seems to have two arguments in support of its claim of ownership.  First, it suggests that because the paintings are of such cultural and historical importance, the rights of the museum should trump those of the creator/original owner.  Second, a spokesperson for the museum suggested that because the paintings were created under duress, the creator has a reduced interest in the work:   “we do not regard these as personal artistic creations but as documentary work done under direct orders from Dr. Mengele and carried out by the artist to ensure her survival.”  I both arguments troubling, but the second argument is appalling.  I don't see how duress reduces the creator's claim to the created object.

Ben Barros

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

August 30, 2006 in Personal Property | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Property and Russell Banks's Cloudsplitter

    I've been invited to guest blog for a while, an invitation which I am happy to accept.  I have been reading Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks's enormous and fascinating novel about John Brown and his sons.  Cloudsplitter has been in print for eight years but I'm sometimes slow to catch up.  Read (or re-read) it, as it offers remarkable insights into the nature of property (human slavery, of course, in this instance), the way some things lose their status as property, and the psychological process that produces extreme political violence, usually called terrorism. As to the latter point, Banks's fictional account of the process by which John Brown and his sons turned to radical violence in their moral quest to end slavery in America resonates particularly strongly in this era of global terrorism rooted in religious conviction. As to property, Cloudsplitter raises, at least to a property prof, questions about how things lose their status as property.  As we all know, property is not about the relations of people to things, but about the relations between people with respect to things.  How does (should) society restructure these relationships to "de-propertize" (if that's a word) such relationships?  We use ordinary legal processes to (mostly) increase the range of legal entitlement to intellectual property, and we rely on custom to create socially (if not legally) recognized entitlements to such things as a parking place from which one has cleared the snow, or a seat at a meeting.  These processes work in reverse, in theory, but how often do we actually eliminate property?  Extending the public trust doctrine to provide waterfront access is an example, but such extensions are limited by the takings clause.  Did Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation constitute a taking?  Odious thought, of course.  We start out Property by asking students to figure out where property rights come from in the first instance.  Cloudsplitter caused me to wonder whether we ought to spend a little time also in the beginning asking students to figure out when and how property rights ought to disappear.   

Calvin Massey

Comments are held for approval, so there may be some delay in posting 

August 17, 2006 in Books, Personal Property, Property Theory, Takings, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)