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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Colorado Adverse Possession Case: Outrageous or Not?

Here's an interesting case for the Thanksgiving weekend: a successful adverse possession case in Boulder, Colarado.

The facts are straight out of first-year Property class. Couple #1 buys a piece of land in Boulder, Colorado. They do nothing with it for 23 years. During this time, neighboring Couple #2 (a former Boulder mayor/judge and his lawyer wife) trespasses on the land, regularly taking walks and having parties on the property. Couple #1 then decides to do something with the land, and Couple #2 sues to take the portion of the land that they've been using through adverse possession. (Colorado has a 18-year time period for adverse possession claims.) The state court judge agrees with Couple #2 and gives them the portion of the land they've been using.

Outrage ensues. Check out the various news articles, blog comments, and newspaper editorials, screaming bloody murder about this "obscure" and "little-known" legal doctrine. The decision has generated loud protests with people claiming that the former judge and his wife are liars and thieves, and claiming that the local legal community is corrupt and in cahoots with their former colleagues.

Couple #1 filed a complaint for a probe into the actions of Couple #2. Not surpisingly, the ethics board found nothing wrong; after all, a court of competent jurisdiction had found that Couple #2 had a viable legal claim for the land under Colorado adverse possession law.

It looks to me to be a clear-cut, and completely legal, case of adverse possession. (Okay, maybe in Christian charity, Couple #2 shouldn't have staked a claim to the land or should have offered some compensation to Couple #1.) It appears that I'm in the minority, but the facts don't strike me as particularly outrageous. Then again, maybe I'm just a cold-hearted attorney. Should I be outraged?