Land grab case in Boulder incites anger and protests

An interesting property rights trial was held in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, and the entire city is buzzing about it.

Here's the short version: Twenty-three years ago, Don and Susie Kirlin bought an undeveloped lot down the street from their home on the outskirts of Boulder. The property was adjacent to Edith Stevens and Richard McLean's home.

Stevens and McClean landscaped their own property in such a way that it became convenient to trespass on the Kirlin's lot to access their own backyard. Stevens and McClean created paths on the Kirlin's property, threw summer parties on the Kirlin's property and kept a wood pile on the Kirlin's property. Stevens and McClean admitted in court they knew they were trespassing and never asked the Kirlins permission to use the lot.

When the Kirlins, who had been paying taxes and homeowner fees on the property all along, begen to erect a fence on their property as the first step in building a house, Stevens and McClean (a former former district court judge, Boulder mayor, and city councilman) hired a lawyer to sue the Kirlins for ownership of the property under the doctrine of "adverse possession" [Wikipedia entry]. This doctrine states that if a person uses another person's land for a long time without being challenged by the owner, the land belongs to the person "most attached to its use."

On October 17, 2007, Boulder District Court Judge James C. Klein ordered the Kirlins to give 1/3 of their lot to McLean and Stevens. Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court's Attorney Regulation Counsel rejected the Kirlins' request to conduct an ethical misconduct probe into the matter. In addition, Stevens and McClean have asked the judge to force the Kirlin's to pay their legal fees.

Last Sunday, hundreds of people went to Stevens and McClean's house to show their displeasure:

More than 200 people holding signs that read, "Thou shall not covet, thou shall not steal" and, "You'll never enjoy a stolen view" gathered Sunday on Hardscrabble Drive in south Boulder to condemn Richard McLean, a former district court judge and former Boulder mayor, and his wife, Edith Stevens, for taking possession of a portion of two vacant lots that have belonged to Don and Susie Kirlin for nearly a quarter of a century.

Several protesters yelled "shame"and "thief" at McLean and Stevens as they drove away from their home shortly before the rally began at noon.

One woman stepped up to the car's passenger side window and yelled, "How can you live with yourself?"