Land grab case in Boulder incites anger and protests

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82 Responses to “Land grab case in Boulder incites anger and protests”

  1. Bevatron Repairman says:

    What’s so stupid about this from the folks losing their land is that this could have been cured simply by posting a sign that says “right to pass by permission.” If you look around San Francisco, the sidewalks are littered with small plaques that say exactly that. This keeps the public from ever obtaining a prescriptive easement.

    I don’t know the particularities of these guys getting 1/3 of the land, rather than an easement, but it’s pretty clear the underlying notion — we’re using your land, do something about it or give it up — is reasonable law.

    It’s a pretty dickhead thing to do, but four-square on the law.

  2. duus says:

    I maintain the only reason this seems obviously ‘unfair’ is that there is only one right in America that we don’t even think about compromising: the right of private property. Every other right is slowly being moved into the category of privilege; but not private property. That right is so sacrosanct, we can’t even imagine life without it.

    Why is that, do you think? Why is that the one and only right we don’t touch?

    Kinda makes you think.

  3. mguydish says:

    I can’t believe the country / world is wasting any time on this. You people are wasting your time on the OBVIOUS. Get armed folks. You ain’t seen nothing yet! This kind of thing really brings us back to primitive common sense. “we” are way too smart for our own good.

  4. hubercats says:

    It comes as no surprise to me that a former judge, hence lawyer, would be involved in the above-described case. I recently learned that a friend’s mom, who is suffering from dementia, had a portion of her land stolen by a Methodist church in Gigs Harbor, Washington. The church started using her land for overflow parking and the mom, now living in a care facility, was not present to protest the trespassing. It’s a pretty sad day when churches stoop to the slime ball level of the lawyer/judge in the Boulder case. A plague on their house!

  5. Nick D says:

    If this case and the Supreme Court’s Eminent Domain ruling aren’t compromises of the right to private property, I don’t know what is. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t object to this sort of thing.

    “Every other right is slowly being moved into the category of privilege…”

    Absolutely! Well put. You have the right if you can afford to pay for it.

    “…but not private property.”

    Huh?

    I think the concept of private property is being replaced with that of corporate property. In other words, it’s becoming the preserve of the few at the expense of the many.

  6. vsync says:

    duus, this is why:

    The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter; the rain may enter; but the King of England may not enter — all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!

  7. Joe MommaSan says:

    Just goes to show that expecting justice or fair treatment from the lowlife scumbags in the legal system is a fool’s errand.

  8. Keneke says:

    I don’t care if it’s a law or not, it’s just sleazy.

  9. shutup says:

    It seems nobody disputes the legality of Mclean’s actions, which is good, because the case was legal. However, it is clear that it was unethical to do that to his neighbor who had been good to him for so many years. I believe that the law should remain, but people should be made aware of the law. It is stupid that our state doesn’t inform it’s citizens of laws that may or may not apply to them. I think that all citizens of Colorado should be given a lawbook that contains all of the laws of Colorado. That way, ignorance of the law cannot be used as a defense in our courts, and somebody like Mclean wouldn’t be able to do what he did. In any event, the homeowner couldn’t complain that they were unaware of the Adverse Possession law, because they had all of the resources to defend themselves.

  10. oryoki says:

    Very limited information in this article for readers to understand the Court Order awarding the property to McLean/Stevens.

    To read in depth the Kirlin’s story go to their web site at landgrabber.org

    Don and Susie Kirlin never observed the use of their land despite visiting the property several times each and every week during the time McLean/Stevens claimed to be using the property. Kirlin’s current home is only 200 yards away.

    Judge Klein believed all the plaintiff’s witnesses and did not believe defense witnesses. An appeal will be very difficult as the judge’s opinion on believability will not be reversed on appeal.

    This is not a case of true owner negligence but out and out theft.

  11. paul beard says:

    I’m having a hard time with the idea of this going on for most of the 23 years they owned the land, especially if it was just down the street (as the comment above notes, 200 yards — no great distance). They didn’t notice the signs of use, even if they made regular visits to kill weeds and repair fences?

    Call me skeptical. Having read through the comments and the original posting, I think the grabbers are faking it. I don’t believe they can prove consistent, long-term use of the property.

    It would a good idea for them to watch their own boundaries though. Maybe Colorado has some interesting case law on other aspects of property law.

  12. BoulderBoy says:

    It is clear that Don and Susie Kirlin need to make better use of their property before their neighborhood land sharks, Edith Stevens and Richard McLean, strike again.

    I suggest installing a big hot tub and inviting the Dick Cheney Republican Hairy Back Club over for a daily breakfast soak—au natural, of course. Nightime could bring Boulder’s Ward Churchill and his pseudo-Native American sweat lodge with an all-night chant.

    Weekends, the Kirlins could begin with a paintball game between Open Space dog lovers and haters, then a nighttime kegger for the alcohol-free CU fraternities. Sundays could have a sunrise service featuring a Focus on the Family motorcycle rally.

    When the weather gets warm, it will be time to put in a hog lot featuring free range, organic, heirloom piggies—just like the ones next door.

  13. anomaly69 says:

    Whatever the legal outcome I hope lightening strikes the Stevens and McLean home and burns it to the ground. It would serve them right.

  14. Robert Anderson says:

    Waterboard the grandchildren of all the judges involved and then ask them if Grandpa did right or wrong….we’ll all accept those opinions and not resort to “matches”.

  15. FASTnFURIOUS says:

    WELL…..Thank you js7a, (post #44 & 46) spot on! This case doesn’t pass the smell test, I mean, if it isn’t a kangaroo court then it is the orient express of a railroad job. Look, you have two lifetime Legal professionals who set this up to knock out of the park. I haven’t seen such a misuse of the Law OR Process in a long time. I’m with you, this is a prime time Appeal. And let’s stay away from Intent for now but it looks pretty devious from here.

    SO….I’m not going to debate the value of this old Law here but I do know this case is in contravention to the spirit of the Law of Adverse Possession (and settled case Law). I have no doubt the case will be reversed on Appeal.

    I also know that there is a CO State Lawmaker considering bringing forth changes to the Law that would make the fiasco in Boulder impossible. Let’s wait to see what the Superiors do on Appeal. Several other states that have this Law have made changes recently but we have one of the longest periods that property must be openly and notoriously used, etc., at 18 years and there ARE some beneficial aspects of the Law as well, such as when it is found that through survey error your house was actually built two feet on the neighbors land 20 years ago. And you don’t get along with the guy, he wants the house moved. Yep, same Law!

  16. js7a says:

    To prove adverse possession in Colorado, the one claiming it must clearly show, not only that his possession was actual, adverse, hostile, and under claim of right, but that it has also been exclusive and uninterrupted for the statutory period. Segelke v. Atkins, 144 Colo. 558, 357 P.2d 636 (1960); Hayden v. Morrison, 152 Colo. 435, 382 P.2d 1003 (1963); Sanchez v. Taylor, 377 F.2d 733 (10th Cir. 1967); Dzuris v. Kucharik, 164 Colo. 278, 434 P.2d 414 (1967); Raftopoulos v. Monger, 656 P.2d 1308 (Colo. 1983); Matter of Estate of Qualteri, 757 P.2d 1093 (Colo. App. 1988); Schutten v. Beck, 757 P.2d 1139 (Colo. App. 1988); Smith v. Hayden, 772 P.2d 47 (Colo. 1989); Bd. of County Comm’rs v. Ritchey, 888 P.2d 298 (Colo. App. 1994); Goodwin v. Thieman, 74 P.3d 526 (Colo. App. 2003); Schuler v. Oldervik, 143 P.3d 1197 (Colo. App. 2006).

    Mere occupancy is not sufficient to put any of the true owners on notice that the adverse claimant claimed the land, and the burden of proof, as to open, notorious, and hostile claim, is upon the adverse claimant when it claims title by adverse possession without color of title, and every reasonable presumption is made in favor of the true owner as against adverse possession. Lovejoy v. Sch. Dist. No. 46, 129 Colo. 306, 269 P.2d 1067 (1954).

    How exactly was the possession exclusive or notorious?

  17. Takuan says:

    Is it legal in Colorado to openly pray for the death and destruction of your enemies? I mean, what if something happens and they belong to the same religion? Is there a term for murder by deity?

  18. projym says:

    I do not comment on whether or not this particular judge was corrupt. It is certainly possible he was/is. I cannot judge what I have not seen firsthand. However, judges are known to be corrupt and sometimes very inept in the law. I am involved in a similar case, and will say without a doubt, the judge in our case is either corrupt or ignorant and possibly a combination of the two. If you sincerely believe that all, or even most attorneys and judges are honest simply because they have sworn to uphold the law, you are living in pleasant, but ignorant bliss. I will be providing information on my case, as the appeal decision should be in soon.

  19. jimh says:

    Yes, as has been noted above, there is very little evidence that the use of the property has been as longstanding as the claim implies, and the “paths” could have been made in far less time. The Kirlins lived nearby and have stated that they did not recognize the property as being “used”.

    None of the witnesses on the Kirlin’s side were given credibility, while all of the Mclean/Stevens witnesses were taken at their word.

    We have and ex-mayor and powerful local attorney acting in court and executing a land grab against their neighbors. If every reasonable presumption was made in favor of the true owners, I will eat every hat I own.

  20. js7a says:

    Reading the order, I am relieved to see that it is a total crock. Thankfully this can be reversed on appeal because the judge made some mistakes far above questions of fact that depend solely on his opinion of the witnesses’ credibility, which can not usually be reversed on appeal.

    But see for example, paragraph 4 on page 1 of the order in contrast to footnote 1 on page 9. There is no indication that the defendants’ claim to have cut weeds, raked, and performed fire abatement on the property is in question at all. That is clearly “use” and not “mere casual entry” and so the use was not exclusive.

  21. RedIndianGirl says:

    Interesting how people hate it when squatter rights supersede the landowners’ rights… no wonder an entire continent was stolen!!! Welcome to the reality felt by the indigenous people of Turtle Island…

  22. danheeb says:

    #44 is right -
    Their use wasn’t exclusive or uninterrupted, so failing 2/3 requirements for adverse possession.

  23. projym says:

    I think that “Shutup” misinterprets the beliefs of the posters on the legality of this case. Clearly,pursuing an adverse possession caseis legal. However, it is not clear that every decision made in a court of law is legal. Corrupt judges and lawyers abound. Whether or not this particular case was legal – I can’t weigh in on. I wasn’t in the courtroom. What is clear to one may not be as clear to others. I, and many others across the nation are asserting a movement to drastically change adverse possession laws. A law which does no more than pad the pockets of unscrupulous lawyers and land-grabbers, needs to be changed. That change will be one positive that comes of these abuses of the law as it presently stands.

  24. Fnarf says:

    My lot is less than 0.07 acre, and my house is a dream?

  25. mrw650 says:

    Don’t forget, there were two Judges involved in this miscarriage of justice.

    FACT: JUDGE MORRIS SANDSTEAD denied the Kirlins due process of law (in the form of a Hearing) when he granted a TRO (restraining order) to STOP them from building their fence, which would have put an end to the adverse possession claim–in its infancy.

    FACT: The TRO was signed at 5:20 p.m. on a FRIDAY afternoon. TRO’s generally take weeks for everybody else, and all parties have to have a Hearing before it is issued. Why were proper procedures not followed in this case? Why were the Kirlins denied a Hearing?

    COMMENTARY: Thanks to the urgent TRO granted and signed by Sandstead, which we have yet to hear on what basis it was given/justified, McLean and Stevens were able to “railroad” the rest through Judge Klein. This would not have made it to trial without Judge Morris Sandstead’s initial “help.”

    OPINION: Judge Morris Sandstead and Judge Klein have committed a violation of their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of Colorado, they should be impeached by the Legislature without delay and investigated by the FBI for public corruption, collusion, conspiracy against rights, and deprivation of rights under color of law–all FEDERAL crimes.

  26. Aaron T. says:

    The law of adverse possession is completely counterintuitive, at least to this layperson. The idea that someone could be rewarded (with free land) for continually breaking the law (by trespassing) sounds so preposterous! Is it supposed to make sense?

  27. Michael says:

    #49 — it does make sense; if somebody really is neglecting the use of land, the law says it can be put to beneficial use. I wish to God the same applied to intellectual “property”.

    I can’t express how enthusiastic I am about the legal argumentation on this thread. It’s like knowing something about the law without actually having to! I love the Internet.

  28. kenmce says:

    I believe that while they discuss things, the Kirlins really should store some new pet hogs on what is left of their land. An old school bus or van with no wheels makes a very fine hog shelter. If they are pet hogs it isn’t even agricultural use.

  29. projym says:

    Legal as adverse possession may be, the law is abused. We were on the receiving end of this same sort of action in the midwest. The 20 years needed of “OCEAN” were not there. However, a biased judge, and a local attorney as the adverse possessor make for a Kangaroo Court. Yes, we
    (and others) contacted the state bar and the judicial commission. Of course, they found no wrongdoing. We are 1 1/2 years into an appeal. It is neither a fast, inexpensive, or easy process. My best to the Kirlins. We know what it feels like to be abused by the system. We also have lobbied to change the law. Progress is being made.

  30. Bren says:

    … and then, for years and years thereafter, School kids knocked on the McLean and Stevens doors asking when the next “notorious” party would be.

    That would be a good addition to the rash of shite these two weasels receive.

  31. jafi says:

    I live in Boulder, I’m not rich, though I’d have to be to afford my house now. The land in question is on Shannahan Ridge – overlooking the city. A very desirable valuable view.

    That’s what was actually at stake. The new house would have interfered with the view. They could have sued for an easement instead they sued for possession.

    Allegedly there are satellite photos from 18 months ago showing no path, no woodpile.

    It should also be noted that McLean is a retired judge.

  32. shiseiji says:

    Please help me understand better. These people consistently paid their taxes. Doesn’t that show interest in their property to the State? If not, what would the State recognize as showing interest?

    I would think that the principle would have as a major point non-payment of taxes demonstrating abandonment.

    Second, I find it hard to understand how being “nice” to neighbors gives them a legal right to take advantage of that (with all due respect to NY and the thirty day law for “guests”) by claiming non-interest by the owners. Does common law allow people to change their mind (by putting up a fence to minimize personal liability for injury on the non 24/7 monitored property as a theoretical example) when there is no contract?

    TIA to the real lawyers in our “Nation of laws”. I am truly trying to understand how “The People” granted the Sate the authority to do this.

    Ron

  33. wynneth says:

    I realize this is a very late point to comment, but I must point this out. In the state of Texas you can legally shoot trespassers. All it would take is waiting until Stevens and Mclean head to the wood pile and you could shoot them both and the case would be over. Not that I advocate violence, I am actually against it. However, the point is that Colorado must have some messed up laws to let something like this happen. I happen to own a lot that is not adjacent to my current home and I check it regularly. It is fenced and there are private property/no trespass signs. Luckily I also live in a neighborhood where our neighbors are neighborly, and being Texan, we all own guns. Haha.

  34. Clifton says:

    Another case I recall here in Hawaii: maybe about 20 years back, the Mormon Church in Laie attempted to use adverse possession to claim a number of properties of land surrounding the temple there. What made it particularly egregious was that the land in question belonged to a number of families which had been long-standing members of the church. What a nice way to reward your parishioners’ devotion, by trying to seize their property!

  35. Tom Neff says:

    Regardless of the merits of the Kirlin case, the lesson for BB readers is this: If your neighbor regularly drives his truck across your field to reach his back pasture, and you’re absolutely fine with the idea, you should still write him a letter saying “I give you non-transferable permission to drive across the SW corner of the field to reach your pasture,” sign it, and give your lawyer a copy. Otherwise that neighbor’s son ten years later could claim a right of way by adverse possession, and you’d have to duke it out in court and you might lose. Adverse possession generally can’t happen if you explicitly gave permission.

  36. rollerskater says:

    another law that needs to be removed.

  37. Marie says:

    So does that mean that McLean and Stevens should pay taxes on the 1/3 of the land during their abundant use of the land? They would then have to prove how long they had been using the land.

    I don’t think that this is a law only in Colorado. I believe when I was growing up in NY there was a similar issue with a neighbor of ours illegally trespassing and building on our land, if we didn’t do anything withing 5 years then the property would be theirs.

    So how can illegal trespassing be legal after all? Does that mean that all of the unfortunate homeless people that stay in one piece of land actually own that land?

  38. Anonymous says:

    > Does that mean that all of the unfortunate homeless people that stay in one piece of land actually own that land?

    Depends how long they’ve occupied it for, but the answer is yes, according to this recent case in London: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6687931.stm

  39. dave says:

    Does this mean it is impossible to own open land, which you choose to leave fallow and allow wilderness to develop on? Is the implication that doing so is a ‘wasteful’ use of land, and should be punished as such (whoever grabs it first and uses it for development benefitting)?

  40. z7q2 says:

    Squatting has been a form of urban renewal in Amsterdam for many years:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squatting#Netherlands

    It’s a tricky subject. Adverse Possession is supposed to prevent land barons from being greedy. I’d opine this particular instance is abuse of the common law, and Kleins’ decision was bought and paid for.

  41. Anaxaforminges says:

    I wish I had known this as a kid.

    I used to go to several vacant fields and make forts and have rock fights and later, drink and smoke weed. I made a lot more use of the land than the owners did–that is until they built on it. And that area is now Silicon Valley! I could have been a billionaire.

  42. RugerRedhawk says:

    Who builds their dream home on a .11 acre lot anyway?

  43. sasquatch says:

    I’m no law expert, but yes, I think the homeless do under “squatters rights”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_possession

  44. Anonymous says:

    IANAL but I work for a real estate attorney as a paralegal. The linked wiki page on the matter is a good summary of the doctrine of adverse possession, and it is essentially a means to penalize absent owners for extended lack of interest in their property. The duration of the adverse possession varies by state but it is often over a decade. One of the stipulations of adverse possession is that the use of the land must be open and notorious, in other words, for anybody to see.

    While it seems somewhat unfair, the conditions for this law are almost never met by anybody who shows even the most trivial interest in their property over however many years that state law dictates. I make no moral judgment in regards to this doctrine, but it is perfectly legal.

  45. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    “Who builds their dream home on a .11 acre lot anyway?”

    What’s wrong with people who want to build a house on a small lot?

  46. Tom Neff says:

    >> Does this mean it is impossible to own open land, which you choose to leave fallow and allow wilderness to develop on? Is the implication that doing so is a ‘wasteful’ use of land, and should be punished as such (whoever grabs it first and uses it for development benefitting)? <<

    No, it does not.

    I mean, it *certainly* doesn’t imply it in the case being reported on, which involves a few acres of land down a street that had houses on it already. Nothing remotely resembling wilderness is involved there.

    But let’s say you owned a vast tract of Montana or Alaska, and you wanted it to be ‘wilderness’ in the sense implied above. If you did nothing whatsoever, if you just sat there and owned it and ignored it and let whoever abuse it, you might indeed be hit with adverse possession down the line.

    So don’t do that, as the doctor told the man who said it hurt when he banged his head. If you want your land to be wilderness or open space, no matter where you live, contact the state or the Nature Conservancy and find out who does Conservation Easements in your area. Sometimes it’s the town, sometimes the county, sometimes the state. Once a Conservation Easement has been placed on your property you are essentially immune from adverse possession, or so I’ve been told. At the very least, the legal tangle becomes the responsibility of the entity holding the easement, not you as landowner. But in practice easement holders tend to keep an eye on “their” properties and blow the whistle early when third parties seem to be using the land without permission.

  47. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure what the hubbub is about here; this is well-settled law, and 23 years is a hell of a lot longer than necessary in most places for adverse possession. This sounds like a classic, text-book case of adverse possession. It may sound morally wrong, and if so, then they should change the law, but these people did nothing illegal based on the evidence in the story. They openly used the property as if it was theirs for more than twice the necessary length of time.

    And no, they don’t need to pay taxes on the property during the time they used it, because they didn’t legally own it then. The previous owners could sue them in equity for the value of the taxes, but it’s unclear how successful they would be, since I don’t know anything about CO law and if they even still allow cases to be brought in equity.

  48. jwb says:

    The only weird thing about this story is that you think adverse possession is obscure or wrong. There are many good reasons why adverse possession, or squatting, exists. Among other things it prevents a greedy landowner from allowing a valuable activity to develop, then suddenly charging a toll for access, in the real estate equivalent of a submarine patent. It also protects valuable land from disuse, and protects the public’s interest in access to public lands.

  49. Cnoocy says:

    Has the Boulder legal community shown any reaction to this? Or do the lawyers and judges of Boulder think this is a fine way for people to behave?

  50. Mavis says:

    Holy crap… After sitting through what seemed like hours of Property in L-school, I was convinced that adverse possession, like fee-tail male had become a real property anachronism. Now I’ll have an actual reason to remember OCEAN (Open, Continuous, Exclusive, Adverse and Notorious).

  51. liquado says:

    IANAL, but ignorance of the law is no excuse. Adverse possession has been on the law books for a long, long time, and while they may think it sucks, they should have done something about the trespassing a long time ago.

    I don’t condone the action, and do think it’s kinda sleazy, but….

  52. mrmts says:

    So I guess the only thing left for them now is to build a home on the (even smaller) lot… and perhaps paint it pink? Maybe even florescent green.

  53. OM says:

    …A “dream home” can be built on a small lot. The key is to build *up*, then about two stories up, build -out-. Remember the UFO house in “Body Double”?

  54. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see how the McLains got past the exclusionary test. They didn’t build a fence, they don’t appear to have done anything to keep people off the land. One key to the principle is that other people (esp. the owners) were excluded from the land. There is no way they passed this test. CO statute may not codify this test though.

    Dilapidus

  55. jimh says:

    It puzzles me, is the extra land worth so much to Mclean that it justifies stealing from his neighbors and becoming a local pariah? I guess it is. If he admits that he knew he was in the wrong when he started using the land, then it is still a wrong regardless of the legal loophole.

    Mclean and Stevens will have a difficult time leaving on vacation from now on- I’ve lived in Boulder, and matches are sold just about everywhere.

  56. IvyMike says:

    It also protects valuable land from disuse,

    I honestly don’t understand what this means. How, exactly, does one define disuse? How does one establish that the land was not being used exactly as intended?

    If you want your land to be wilderness or open space, no matter where you live, contact the state or the Nature Conservancy and find out who does Conservation Easements in your area.

    If filing paperwork to use your land as you wish sounds reasonable to you, I believe you are under the thumb of the man.

    Think of other situations.

    I don’t know… maybe there’s some situations in which it makes sense. But let’s think of *this* situation.

    What these people did may not have been neighborly, but to portray it as a legal oddity is wrong.

    This type of case, with similar circumstances, happens often? It sure feels surprising to me, and based on the reactions of most people here, I’m not alone. And even if it’s the correct interpretation of existing law, that doesn’t mean it’s not a little bonkers.

  57. boingboingboy says:

    We have the same issue here- we own several thousand acres and we have to thoroughly check for encroaching fences, etc. Most states have a seven or ten year rule, that if you dont complain about encroachment onto your property, then you may well lose it. The Kirlins were wrong to allow use of their property, and liability issues should have been reason enough.

  58. Bonnie says:

    I lived there for about 5 years for college (hey that’s where I met BoingBoing’s Mark!). The thing is unless you’re a starving student or hippie, most of the folks living in Boulder have some serious dough. It just seems weird to me that affluent folks would fight over land like this when usually it’s actual poor folk and squatters. I hope the Kirlins are asked to pay all those back taxes at least.

  59. jwb says:

    I guess you guys attended all the libertarian property rights extremism seminars but skipped ethics class. A person obtains an easement on land through adverse possession — a completely legal process — and your reaction is arson. Brilliant.

  60. ill lich says:

    There is essentially a version of squatter’s rights in Colorado, in fact just outside Boulder (I think it’s up off Sunshine Canyon Dr.?) there was a commune of sorts that just built living quarters on the unused land, and lived there for a long enough time to make it theirs by right. The technicality of the law in that case was not just the act of squatting but also development of the land. (Correct me if I’m wrong on this, it is my best recollection).

    In the case of the Mcleans however (although I don’t live there), it certainly seems from the article that their plan all along was to make a claim on the land, hence landscaping their property in such a way to make it convenient to trespass (in other words they landscaped with the intent of trespassing), thus they could be making use of the land nearly every day. It seems they are taking advantage of their neighbors generosity in allowing them to use the land.

  61. obeyken says:

    I’m letting a friend sleep on my couch… Should I be worried?

  62. RugerRedhawk says:

    I don’t know, if I was going to make that kind of an investment (building a home) it would be on at least 50 acres. I guess if you need to live in a city that badly, then .1 acres is all you’re going to get.

  63. dculberson says:

    @JWB, so you’re saying that if this happened to you, you would be perfectly okay with it? You would gladly give up 1/3 of property that you own because neighbors had been trespassing on it for years?

    Well, I wouldn’t be okay with it. Stuff like this makes my blood boil. I also can’t believe that Stevens and McClean are comfortable *living* there, after doing a neighbor so wrong. You don’t shit where you sleep. Seemingly balanced people have killed over lesser infractions, so those two had better sleep with one eye open for the rest of their lives. And they’d better not have pets, cars, or other possessions they care about. Disclaimer: I wouldn’t advocate vigilantism. [cue Simpson's reference: "Unless it gets results. Which it will."] But that sort of thing does happen.

  64. RugerRedhawk says:

    Oh and in addition, I still don’t think the judge should be able to take the land, regardless of how big or small the property is.

  65. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Simple trespass — crossing the property instead of going around — constitutes use?

  66. jwb says:

    @DCulberson, I’m not saying anything about myself. What I am saying is that contrary to popular belief, title is not absolute. Title comes up against custom in the form of adverse possession. If it has become customary for people to cross your land, or graze their livestock on your land, or raise a garden or even live on your land, and if that goes on for a long time, and if it’s generally known that you are doing that, then the court will weight your interest against the interest of the title holder. I think it’s a pretty reasonable balance.

    Think of other situations. Suppose you have access to a road across someone else’s land, and you customarily cross that other person’s land to reach the road, and you do that for years. Suppose then that the land is sold. Can the new property owner cut off your access to the road? Probably not. A court can rule that you are entitled to an easement, or maybe even entitled to take possession of the property in question.

    What these people did may not have been neighborly, but to portray it as a legal oddity is wrong.

  67. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    According to these two articles, the Kirlins regularly maintained the lots, spraying them for weeds and repairing rail fences. They also walked by the property regularly. I don’t know why they didn’t notice the paths or wood pile, though:

    http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_7501264

    http://www.myfoxcolorado.com/myfox/pages/News/Detail?contentId=4844943&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=3.2.1

  68. Mavis says:

    To all those getting up in arms…

    No, simple trespass does not give someone right to the land, and your friend won’t gain possession of your couch merely by using it as crash space for a few weeks.

    Seriously guys. You need to actually, y’know, be on the land, openly and exclusively using it, intentionally and well, being obvious about it. So, the Stevens/McLeans were being rather open and obvious dicks for a period of 18 years (Colorado’s adverse possession statute is on the long side).

    Yes, this sucks for the Kirlins, but they had 18 years to correct this. Had they made a stink at some earlier point (say, by actually checking on their property once in awhile), Stevens/Mclean would probably have been SOL.

    As someone far smarter than I mentioned, the point of the law was to keep inefficent owners of land from hoarding it and leaving it unused, especially when someone could make practical use of that same parcel. Its not an inducement to steal, more an inducement to use your land. That’s why state statutes usually carry long(ish) use requirements.

  69. Benny099 says:

    Ummm…. You people saying it’s legal are missing part of the point. Adverse possession requires that they used the land for X number of years. The problem is that I have seen not a single citation of any proof that they used the land beyond their word. Sure, they say they threw parties, and that there’s a well worn path. Find me people who went to those parties 15 years ago, or pictures of those parties. And the people who are protesting there say the “well-worn path” looks very recent and not well-worn, and aerial photographs from recent years show no evidence of a path. Legally, adverse possession requires proof, not the friendship of a judge and a lot of money.

    And morally, it’s about as unsound as possible. Whatever the law may be, people should have some ethics. Heck, did they ever approach their neighbors and ask if they could buy that parcel of land?

  70. simplehuman says:

    The land-grabbers are claiming that they used it for picnics and parties on a regular basis. Something the owners dispute. They also claim in the video at the bottom of this story

    http://www.dailycamera.com/news/2007/nov/17/stevens-loser-disgruntled/

    that the land-grabbers created the “paths” just last year.

    I say land-grabbers because no matter the legality of adverse possession, this is simply an unethical and sleazy way to go about getting land. Add to the fact that they’re demanding the people they grabbed the land from foot the court costs and it’s simply dastardly.

    What really boggles my mind is how they expect to live in that neighborhood now? Making enemies out of your neighbors like this is just a sad way to live.

  71. dculberson says:

    @JWB: I see, and you’re right. Thanks for clearing that up!

    Interestingly, the Wikipedia page says that a landowner giving you permission to use the land negates an Adverse Possession claim! So, in this instance, as I understand it, if the Kirlins had simply given notice to the jerks that they were aware of the trespass and that it was okay for now, they would have retained their property rights. That’s good to know.

    (The key being that it would no longer be adverse possession.)

  72. fermion says:

    While the legal principle may be sound, a couple of paths of disputed age and some “summer garden parties” don’t seem sufficient to fulfill the terms for adverse possession. How open and notorious can the use be if the landowners don’t notice it during years of walking past and actively maintaining the land? Perhaps there are elements not being reported, but it seems like a shaky case.

  73. jimh says:

    I never said that my reaction would be arson, and my ethics are intact. It seems Mclean may have missed a few classes- ethics and legality are not the same thing. I was pointing out, just like DCULBERTSON #22, that actions have consequences, plain and simple. Legal or not, a move like this can be a declaration of war.

  74. mizerock says:

    “Shame” is an inconvenient emotion to have in a capitalist society. If you can manage to wean yourself of it, your potential for profits increase dramatically. Maybe someday someone will come up with a way to counter all the economic incentives that lawyers have to ruin everything for the rest of society.

    But that begs the question, was this family just being accommodating, or were they lazy / sloppy caretakers? If the former, then this is an example of the unintended consequences of being nice to a neighbor. You might be setting a legal precedent. If the latter, well then, it sounds to me like we are seeing a rarely-used but sensical legal tool in action. And the activist neighbors would then be misguided in their passion.

    .11 acres not enough for you? Then buy a bigger lot elsewhere. Why criticise the dreams of others?

  75. tsol says:

    obeyken said: “I’m letting a friend sleep on my couch… Should I be worried?”

    If you live in New York City you should be worried. According to the city housing court clerk’s office, any person who sleeps on your couch for 30 days or more has a right to shelter in your apartment.

    Regardless of rent, etc.

    If you try to kick them out or even lock them out of the bathroom, your guest has the right to have the city break your door down and re-install them in your home. You have to get a judge to issue an eviction notice, which could take months.

    All of this is true for roommates who fail to pay rent or utilities, even if their names are not on the lease.

  76. Craig says:

    It sickens me to see how low some people will sink in order to rob their fellow man. And it makes my blood boil to think that the law can allow this to happen. Presumably, if the Kirins, when they bought the property twenty-three years ago, had thought to put up a sign that reads ‘Private property, keep out’ then the law would be on their side.

    Richard McLean himself is a former judge. I can only speculate as what influence that may have had on Judge Klein’s ruling. I just hope that this ruling will be reversed on appeal allowing justice to prevail. If it can happen to the Kirlins, it can happen to other property owners and I don’t wish to see myself become the next mugging victim.

  77. shutup says:

    My point is this: if you were not in the court room, how can you accuse the judge of being corrupt? You don’t know why he made the decision he made. Have you stopped to consider that he was doing his duty to enforce the law, and that it is not a moral matter, but a matter of duty? He took an oath of office to always justly enforce the law. If he were corrupt, wouldn’t his objective be to not enforce this law? I still don’t argue that what Mclean and Stevens did was wrong, and that it was an unbefitting thing to do to a neighbor who had been nothing but kind to them, but they are the ones at fault here, not the judge. As far as the lawyer goes, if every lawyer refused to take cases that were a little shady, their field would cease to exist, because it is mostly scumbags who appear in court to begin with.

  78. Neon Tooth says:

    I built a treehouse on some undeveloped property next ours when I was a kid. The treehouse was undisturbed for many years. Had I only known!

  79. Benjamin says:

    There’s no need for fire-setting. There’s no need for legal blablabla. It sounds like the Kirlins just need to punch the other people in the face. AMERICA!!!

    Speaking of America… I guess this is how we justify stealing the land from the Native Americans. OOOOH SNAP NEW CAN OF WORMS!!!!

    And what’s with all this ‘IANAL’ stuff. I anal… inial… ?

  80. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    IANAL = I am not a lawyer

  81. Nick D says:

    I’m getting into this a day late and a dollar short, but….

    Remember the Supreme Court ruling on Eminent Domain a few years back? Prepare to see much, much more of this kind of quasi-legal, morally reprehensible land grab in the future.

    “How, exactly, does one define disuse?”

    I’m not a lawyer, but I’m guessing the intent of the law is not to allow people to grab their neighbors’ lots in order to party on them, or to build a house with an expensive view and make a lot of quick scratch.

    I think it’s to prevent hoarding in places where there is a housing shortage, or a shortage of pasturage, or where commercial real estate is very scarce and expensive, etc, etc. But again: not a lawyer.

    “If filing paperwork to use your land as you wish sounds reasonable to you, I believe you are under the thumb of the man.”

    The libertarian in me cheers this sentiment. The socialist in me thinks it’s overly simplistic. Both sides of me thinks this case and this law sucks.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  82. dculberson says:

    Benjamin, all I could think of after reading your comment is: “I will punch you in the mouth! I’m Neil Diamond!!!

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