Property


Hello, and welcome
to Property Law. My name is David Konig. My last name, like many
American last names, originated elsewhere. When my family came
to the United States shortly after World War
I, it got misspelled, and subsequently has been
mispronounced all the time. In German it means king, but as
it’s pronounced in the United States it depends on
where I happen to be. When I grew up in the
mid-Atlantic people mispronounced it as Konig. Moving to Midwest people
now mispronounce it as Kay-nig Well,
what can you do? I say this to you
for two reasons. One is a personal reason. I say it out of respect. That is to say I don’t want
to mispronounce your name. And if I do I please, I
urge you to correct me so that I can show you
the respect of using your name as you wish
it to be pronounced. The second reason
is more related to the substance of the course. And that is the fact that
American law, like the United States itself, is a varied
and diverse country. Varied and diverse country. It has a diverse
geography, a geography that runs from the
Northeast, or we might say the Northwest, whichever, to
the south, to the Great Plains, to the arid regions
of the Southwest. And the law of property
is affected by geography. Geography is one of
the features that affect the law of geography
and make it very different. So just as I would say,
how is my name pronounced, I would say, well, it depends. It depends on where
I am at the time. The same effects American
law in many, many regions. That is to say, it
depends, whether we’re talking about property
law in New England or we’re talking about
property law in Arizona. The difference can
be very, very great. Geography explains part of this. But so too does our
diverse origins. Very important for
us to understand that North America was settled
not just by the English. And although the vast bulk of
our law is Anglo American law, we still have vestiges of
legal mechanisms and principles that come from the fact that
even before the English got to North America the
French and the Spanish had established colonies here. And to this day the legacy
of their legal tradition, that is to say the legacy of the
old Roman law civil tradition, is followed in certain
important respects. So we have to
understand that as well. Also we have to realize that the
vastness of the United States has meant that law has
developed locally in many cases without any
centralized influence. There notion of
centralized courts is a much later development
in American law. And law therefore, in fact,
this is an English common law tradition, is very sensitive to
local factors, to local needs, to local norms, and local ideas. Property law is largely
the creation of the states, of the individual states. State courts develop
and interpret rules. State legislatures enact their
own statutes to govern law. There are some unifying factors. There have been efforts for
example to restate the law. The restatement of property
is one way to do this. And we shall see the overarching
influence of protection of rights by the United
States Constitution is going to impose a
certain kind of uniformity on American law. But the fact is the
law varies, especially the law of property
from state to state. Now, 50 states and
District of Columbia law varies tremendously. Now, we should ask, and I
think you deserve to know, does this mean am
I going to have to know 50 sets of rules
of property in order to get through this course? No. You’re not. There are certain common threads
that I will be emphasizing, and at times pointing out
where those common threads fray and become divided up into
different localistic regional applications, and
different rules. The purpose of this
course is to prepare you to know about American
law, American property law, well enough to
pass the bar exam, well enough to take the
bar exam, especially the multi-state bar exam,
which has many of these more common issues presented to
them, and to do so confidently. I want to make sure that
you do know the law, and this is an important
foundational principle of this course and we will be
returning to it all the time. At the same time I
want to convey to you the excitement of property law. Now, excitement? Property law? How can you get excited
about recording deeds? How can you get excited
about spending hours in a county courthouse searching
the title of a property? How can you get excited
about condominium owner, and whether she can
keep her pet cat or not? Well, these are the things of
which property law is made. Property law deals with
relations between people. Property brings people together. It also divides people. It brings people together in
a form of husbands and wives, parents and children,
neighbors, and the individual and the state. All of these are
areas that are human. We are going to look
through our case book at some very human situations,
situations where emotion plays a great deal in the way
that the law can be used, and the law is needed
in many respects to control some of this emotion
that makes these cases so heated, and as we like to
say about America, litigious. We love to sue. We are a litigious people. My own interest in
property law derives from my original
training as a historian. I have a Ph.D. In history
from Harvard University. I have written about property
law, the history of property law for nearly 40 years now. And I’ve become
ever more interested in the way it applies
to our daily lives. It’s something that has enabled
me to be an expert witness or consultant to cases before
the Supreme Court of the United States, before the
highest courts of Maine and Massachusetts, and has
enabled me to really convey to my students, I hope,
my first year property students at the law school at
Washington University in Saint Louis, the real meaning and
importance of property law and the way to understand
not just what law is, but as we’ll be returning
to in many ways, what law does in our society. Now, to get this across
we will have to lecture. We will have some
roundtable discussions that you will observe
with students, and then be brought in,
and drawn in, and engaged in it with your own answers. This will be a very, very
important part of it. We’ll also have live
sessions where I really hope that we can
connect in this way, that we are not
thousands of miles apart, but that we are
brought together, just as property
brings people together, but that this course
will bring us together. So I’m looking forward to this. I hope that I can share
my excitement with you. And we should now move on.

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