Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This Land is My Land

We've noted a number of times the central role real property plays in our Legal Schnauzer story. Let's look at a few other property-related stories that have been in the news lately:

Immigration and Property Rights
Immigration evidently will be a hot topic throughout the 2008 presidential campaign. But the issue goes beyond people crossing the American border illegally. It also involves property rights.

The Associated Press reports that landowners in South Texas are gaining legal ground in their efforts to keep the federal government from meeting Congress' demand for 670 miles of fencing along the Mexican border by the end of the year.

An earlier story provided details about the U.S. Justice Department and its legal action against landowners and municipalities who have refused to give government surveyors access to their land.

Eloisa Tamez owns three acres along the border, and she has no intention of helping the government build its fence. About 100 other landowners have joined her. "I will not allow them to come and survey my land. I have an American-given right to protect my property," she says.

She ought to try telling that to the "conservative" judges in Shelby County, Alabama.

In the border-fence litigation, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ordered the government to first try to negotiate the price of access with landowners.

Hanen evidently is the rare Bush appointee who cares at least a little about the rights of regular folks. It's possible Hanen just wants to look like he cares about the "little guy." But that's more than we can say for most Bushies.

Hanen has repeatedly denied government motions for immediate access and instead has held hearings for property owners to voice their concerns before ultimately siding with the government.

How much has the government offered Tamez for six months access to her property? A grand sum of $100.

The Doctrine of Adverse Possession

A Colorado couple recently lost one-third of their property in the Boulder area when a couple that lives next door to the vacant lot claimed it as their own.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Richard McLean and Edith Stevens had trespassed on the vacant lot for more than 20 years. The couple eventually claimed the land as their own under Colorado's adverse possession law, once known as squatter's rights. A district judge awarded them one-third of the lot, which its owner values at $1 million.

Think this sounds nuts. So did Don Kirlin and his wife, who saw part of their property taken away. "This scares the hell out of landowners," Kirlin said. He and his wife first thought the adverse-possession action was a joke. Interestingly, squatter Richard McLean is a former judge. Hmmm.

The nuttiness doesn't stop there. McLean and Stevens said they planted a garden, stacked firewood, and held parties on the vacant lot. They say they walked the land so often that they wore a path in the grass.

And get this? Had Stevens or McLean, or any of their partygoers, been hurt on the property, they could have sued the Kirlins. The Kirlins insurance probably would have provided coverage, but they might have faced much higher premiums or even been dropped by their insurer.

See why I took it seriously when my nutjob neighbor and his minions started trying to take over my property?

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