My Property I Exam – Property Rights on Gravatar

December 16th, 2013

Here is the first question from my Property I exam. I managed to work in Avatar, Pierson v. Post, What Does the Fox Say, and

Instructions: You are a law clerk for the Chief Justice of the Gravatar Galactic Supreme Court. You have been assigned to write a bench memo of no more than 500 words addressing an important case involving a property dispute between humans and aliens on the planet Gravatar in the 22nd Century. Gravatar adheres to all common law property rules as articulated in the Restatement (First) of Property. Gravatar has adopted Texas Oil & Gas Law with respect to all natural resources extracted from the ground. Gravatar adheres to a common law property regime for purposes of marital property law. The Chief Justice has a strong interest in how the natural law writers from Earth’s Enlightenment Age viewed the acquisition of property. Humans and aliens are equally capable of using, disposing, and acquiring property. Good Luck.

In the 22nd century, with the Earth depleted of most natural resources, mankind is forced to travel to faraway planets to fuel its civilization. On the planet Gravatar, explorers have discovered the rare mineral unobtanium. A small sample of unobtanium can power an entire city for weeks.

An expedition with three members—Anakin, Blaster, and Cameron—is sent to Gravatar with the mission of bringing unobtanium back to Earth. Anakin learns that the largest deposits of the mineral unobtanium are located underneath Treeacre. But the natives of Gravatar—the alien species of the Javy—are not happy with these newcomers.

Upon landing on Gravatar, Anakin plants an American Flag (now with 57 stars) and screams, “I declare Treeacre in the name of the United States of America.” Deetoo, a native owner of Treeacre, replies, “Um, we’ve been here for a long time buddy!”

Anakin ignores Deetoo, and leads his compatriots off of the spaceship. Blaster exits, followed by Cameron who is in a wheelchair. (Due to a “glitch” in the healthcare website, Cameron’s doctor accidentally amputated his legs instead of removing a hangnail).

First the trio attempts to enter Treeacre, based on the proclamation that the land was now owned by the United States. However, Deetoo would not let them in.

Later attempts to purchase Treeacre from Deetoo are unsuccessful. Anakin decides to acquire an adjacent property, Blackacre. Anakin wants to share his land with his friends. He subdivides Blackacre into two parcels of land, Closeacre (closer to Treeacre) and Faracre (further from Treeacre), and makes the following conveyances with the following two deeds. The first deed says, “Closeacre to Anakin and Blaster as tenants in common.” The second deed says “Faracre to Anakin and Cameron as joint tenants.”

Anakin sets up a drill on Faracre and drills on a slant across the ground underneath Faracre and Closeacre into the unobtanium reserves deep underneath Treeacre. With an underground pipeline, Anakin begins transporting the unobtaninum back up to the surface on Faracre. Deetoo has no knowledge of the drilling. Soon, Anakin begins exploiting the resource, and takes nearly all of the unobtanium. The structural support for the ground on Treeacre becomes shaky.

Short on money, Blaster sells Cameron his share in Closeacre. In exchange, Cameron gives Blaster a lease for Faracre. Rent is to be paid on the first of the month. The lease agreement says that Cameron can “terminate this lease on the date of his choice for any reason.”

Cameron, who was artificially created in a laboratory and has no other family, soon falls in love with Electra, a Javy princess. Electra promises him that if he accepts the Javy faith, he will grow a pair of legs. The two are married.

Blaster, as his name suggests, likes blasting animals with his laser.  Blaster decides to go hunting for a special animal on Gravatar, the SuperFox. Blaster sees the SuperFox running around freely on Faracre. Upon confronting Blaster, the SuperFox squealed unintelligibly in a high pitch voice, “You can’t catch me!” Blaster replied, “What did you say?” The fox ran away, and Blaster proceeded to follow him. Blaster continued to chase the beast across Faracre and Closeacre and onto Treeacre. Once in Treeacre the SuperFox entered Deetoo’s private zoo, where many animal species were displayed.

Blaster, finally with a clear shot, fires at the SuperFox. Kaboom! With the loud blast, many of the small animals in Deetoo’s zoo were startled, and ran away. Just as the laser was about to hit the SuperFox (the heat emanating from the blast burned the animal’s fur) the ground underneath the “wily quadruped” collapsed. The SuperFox falls into the mineshaft below, and is transported, along with the mined unobtanium, to Faracre. Deetoo, shocked to see that there is a slant drill under his property, says he will sue.

Anakin finds the now-dead SuperFox buried in the ground on Faracre near the drill site. Anakin says “finders-keepers,” and leaves it on the ground without touching it. Cameron wanders onto Faracre, sees the SuperFox, and takes it back to Closeacre. Anakin finds out and tries to take the fox back, but Cameron kicks Anakin out of Faracre.

Blaster is furious that he lost his SuperFox. Blaster confronts Cameron, and accuses him of taking his SuperFox. Cameron denies it, and says that he is terminating Blaster’s lease effective immediately, even though Blaster had already prepaid for the rest of the month. Blaster, not too amused, screams at him “hostem humani generis,” and shoots Cameron dead. Cameron’s will left nothing to his wife, Electra.

As the bloodshed ends, the litigation begins. A number of lawsuits are properly filed in the original jurisdiction of the Gravatar Galactic Supreme Court.

Please advise the Chief Justice how the Gravatar Galactic Supreme Court should resolve each of the following six issues:

  1. First, Anakin seeks to quiet title on Treeacre, asserting that he obtained ownership after he landed on Gravatar.
  2. Second, Deetoo sues Anakin for a trespass and a nuisance for mining unobtanium underneath Treeacre.
  3. Third, Blaster sues Anakin and Cameron’s estate for depriving him of his interest in the SuperFox. Anakin, Cameron’s estate, and Deetoo counterclaim, each claiming they own the fox.
  4. Fourth, Blaster sues Cameron’s estate for the balance of the rent he had paid for the remainder of the month (On Gravatar, Blaster’s murder prosecution will proceed independently from this civil suit).
  5. Fifth, Anakin sues to quiet title on Closeacre.
  6. Sixth, Anakin sues to quiet title on Faracre.