Property Exam Question: The Jersey Shore Cast Time-Travels to the Jurassic Age, 1215, 1787, and the Da Jersey Code

May 20th, 2014

This was one of the more fun Property questions I’ve had a chance to answer. In short, the case of the Jersey Shore takes off on Air Micronesia, and they get sucked into a wormhole. They are jettisoned through time, where they have a hunting dispute with dinosaurs, Snooki gets impregnated by King John after he signs Magna Carta (give her an 800 year life estate), and Situation steals and republishes James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention, and that Da Jersey Code is discovered on the back of Magna Carta. Enjoy. You can see the A+ answer here.

Instructions: You are a law clerk for Judge Doug Dougie, a rotund jurist with a Jersey wit, in the Circuit Court of Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Judge Dougie has been assigned the unenviable task of sorting out several lingering property disputes stemming from the disappearance of Air Micronesia Flight 666, and four of its passengers who resided in the Garden State—A-Woww, Bookie, Erony, and Fitchuation.

You have been asked to write a bench memo of no more than 500 words addressing a sensational case involving some of the Garden State’s most famous residents. New Jersey adheres to all common law property rules, as articulated in the Restatement (First) of Property. However, many of the issues presented in this case, which took place in a different place and time, may not be governed by any of our laws. Judge Dougie, a student of the natural law and the common law, who has an interest in how property rights are allocated in the absence of positive law, expects you to address all grounds on which this case can be decided. For purposes of this case, assume that the court has jurisdiction over all claims, none of the claims are barred by any statute of limitations, and the Rule Against Perpetuities, or any other principle that destroys future interests, do not apply.

Four friends live on the Jersey Shore in Seaside Heights, New Jersey: A-Woww, Bookie, Erony, and Fitchuation. On January 1, 2014, the four friends departed from Newark International Airport in Newark, New Jersey on Air Micronesia Flight 666, bound for a vacation in Bali. Halfway through the trip, suddenly the plane took a sharp turn to the left. When the friends peered out the window they saw that a wormhole had suddenly appeared, and it created a tear in the space-time continuum. The plane was sucked into the celestial vortex.

After a bright flash of orange-tinted light, the four friends were no longer on the plane, but in hot and humid jungle. They looked up, and to their surprise they saw a herd of dinosaurs grazing. Bookie screamed out, “Like, OMG. We travelled back in time 65 million years!” Even more to their astonishment, the dinosaurs were not dumb animals, but were intelligent beings. The King of the Dinosaurs, Rex, approached the four friends, and told them that they were enemies in the land, and “were not welcome in the Kingdom of Jurassic.” Fitchuation, exuding his usual bravado, declared the Kingdom in the name of the Jersey-four. Rex ignored him.

Soon a conflict arose between the friends and the Dinosaurs. Rex and his pack had an elaborate, and organized method of hunting the smaller dinosaurs in the Kingdom of Jurassic. Each pack-leader would mark off a specific area of the jungle that they would hunt. The other packs would respect the marking, and stay out of the place. This efficient approach prevented over-hunting. However, this wisdom was lost on the brutes from New Jersey. Fitchuation stumbled onto Rex’s portion of the jungle. Rex was tracking down a Velociraptor, and had cornered him into a cave. Fitchuation thought about the raptor for a moment, stroked his chin, and then realized what he would do. He ran into the cave, strangled the raptor, and smuggled it out before Rex had even realized it. Rex was furious. Though respecting his society’s legal system, Rex filed a lawsuit against Fitchuation in the Jurassic Supreme Court, seeking a return of the raptor.

Fitchuation refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the Jurassic Supreme Court (“JSC”) over him. Instead, he asserted that the dinosaurs were a bunch of savages, and he was now the conqueror of the Kingdom of Jurassic. With that sovereignty, he aimed to civilize their society. He established the GTL Supreme Court (“GSC”), headed by Chief Justice Erony.

The Jurassic Supreme Court issued a judgment in favor of Rex. The Jurassic Supreme Court stressed that the law should encourage and create incentives for hunters. The GTL Supreme Court issued judgment in favor of Fitchuation, finding that the law should promote certainty.

Just as Rex and Fitchuation were about to start arguing over which court order to follow, there was a bolt of lighting. Suddenly, the wormhole re-opened, and the four friends got sucked in.

The next thing they know, they are transported to a meadow alongside a river. A-Woww looks across the river, where a bunch of knights are forcing someone wearing a crown to sign a large charter on parchment. A-Woww, who paid attention during a fieldtrip to the museum, immediately realizes what is going on. A-Woww proclaims, “We’re in Runnymede, England! The year is 1215 and King John is being forced by the Barons to sign Magna Carta!”

King John looks across the river, and takes a liking to Bookie—in particular her painted face, leopard-print tights, and signature hair bump. Lonely, as his wife had recently died, King John asks Bookie to marry him, and be his queen. She enthusiastically agrees, and takes the title of Queen Bookie of Orange.

After the wedding, King John executes the following grant:

Runnymede, from King John to Bookie for life, then to Fitchuation and his heirs, but if Fitchuation does not survive Bookie, then Runnymede to King John and his heirs.

Two months after the wedding night, Bookie realizes she is pregnant with King John’s child, which was conceived on their wedding night.

Suddenly, the sky turn dark, and the wormhole opens once again. The friends are sucked into the vortex.

They suddenly appear inside a three-story white building, with all of the windows sealed shut, and a guard watching the door.  They see a group of men discussing how to form a new government for the United States of America. This time, it’s the Fitchuation who figures out where, and when they are. “Dude. It’s 1787 and we are in Philadelphia! They’re writing the Constitution!”

Fitchuation sees a young James Madison taking detailed notes about the proceedings in a journal. When Madison isn’t looking, Fitchuation swipes Madison’s journal, and makes a copy of the entire book. Fitchuation then sold the copied notes of the proceedings to the Pennsylvania Packet newspaper. The Packet was the competitor to Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette.

James Madison learned that Fitchuation stole his journal and republished it. Madison told him that the proceedings in Philadelphia were secret, and that they were not supposed to be released. Madison had told his wife Dolley to sell his notes on the Convention to the United States Congress (if it was still in existence) the year after his death. Madison crossed the Delaware River, and filed suit against Fitchuation in the Circuit Court of New Jersey. His claim was based on Fitchuation selling and republishing the notes, based on the common law claim of misappropriation of property rights.

Fitchuation, already creating trouble in the Jurassic era, and at the time of Magna Carta, ignores Madison’s suit.

Then, the sky turned dark again, and the wormhole re-opened. This time-travelling trip had one final stop. The wormhole sucks in the friends, and brings them home—back to Seaside Heights, New Jersey in the year 2014.

On their return, Bookie becomes a huge celebrity, with her distinctive image appearing all over the media.

Bookie learns that the Seaside Heights T-shirt Shop had begun selling T-Shirts, with the image of attractive female dinosaur, wearing lots of makeup, leopard print tights, and with a hair bump. Below the image was a headline, “#GTL: Gym, Time Travel, Laundry.” After leaving the gym, and on her way to the Laundromat, as was her daily custom, Bookie screams out, “They ripped off my image. That dinosaur is totally me!” Bookie files suit against the T-Shirt Shop for an unlawful appropriation of her image.

In anticipation of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, Bookie takes a trip to Runnymede, England, which she claims she still owns. Fitchuation comes with her. Bookie has the bright idea of visiting Buckingham Palace to drop in on her distant cousin, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II. After all, in her mind, Bookie is still Queen Bookie of Orange, and her unborn child is next in line to the throne.

But Fitchuation has other plans, and takes the pair to a soccer (football if you will) match. After the game, there is a horrible riot, and both Bookie and Fitchuation are simultaneously killed in a stampede. Fortunately, the British National Health System (after some delay) is able to deliver the baby from Bookie’s corpse. With no parents, the doctor calls the infant John II.

A-Woww is appointed as the guardian of John II. A-Woww is also designated as the executor of Bookie’s estate, and all of Bookie’s outstanding legal claims. Erony is appointed as executor of Fitchuation’s estate, and all his outstanding legal claims.

Due to the bizarre nature of this situation, a number of legal issues have been submitted in a consolidated case to the Honorable Doug Dougie. The New Jersey legislature has passed a special statute that grants jurisdiction over all related matters, and the parties concede that Judge Dougie has jurisdiction. Further, all statute of limitations have been waived.

To further his research, Judge Dougie visits the Magna Carta exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (you should go if you haven’t already!!). The Magna Carta on display at the museum is not the original charter signed at Runymede in 1215, but a copy made later in 1217. During those two years, there were a number of changes made, including the deletion of several provisions unfavorable to the King. Dougie stares at the eight-century old charter closely, and then he sees it! On the first eight lines, the letters B, O, O, K, I, and E are bolded. “Bookie,” he proclaimed. It’s a message from the past!

He called this breakthrough the Da Jersey Code. Late at night, Dougie snuck into the museum, opened the glass case, and looked at the back of the charter. What he saw astonished him: a never-before-seen 38th article of Magna Carta from 1217. Translating from the Latin, the faded text reads:

All land that has been granted by King John will never escheat, but will revert to the heirs of King John.

Judge Dougie checks with the Chief Justice of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, who confirms that this never-before-discovered 38th article of Magna Carta, which was never formally repealed by Parliament, is still in effect.

Now, Judge Dougie has some difficult decisions to make. You are his law clerk, and have been assigned to write a memorandum of no more than five hundred words addressing the following five issues.


1. Though the issue has been moot for 65 million years, Erony asks Judge Dougie to adjudicate the dispute between Fitchuation and Rex. Specifically, did the Jurassic Supreme Court have jurisdiction over Fitchuation? Was the jurisdiction of the GTL Supreme Court valid? Finally, Erony asks Judge Dougie which ruling is better—the Jurassic Supreme Court or the GTL Supreme Court. Explain the positives and negatives of each approach, in terms of efficiency, fairness, and certainty, and decide which ruling should be adopted.

2. Identify the present and future interests of Runnymede in the year 1215, after King John’s grant, for: (a) Bookie, (b) Fitchuation, (c) King John, and (d) King John’s heirs. (Note: Because the grant was issued in 1215, prior to the creation of the Rule Against Perpetuities, the Rule Against Perpetuities, or any other rule that destroys future interests, do not apply.)

3. The Montpelier Foundation, the Virginia organization charged with protecting James Madison’s estate, re-opens the suit Madison filed against Fitchuation in 1787 (the statute of limitation had been tolled under New Jersey Law for 227 years). Because this claim was brought prior to the creation of any statutory copyright laws, please address this issue under the common-law doctrine of misappropriation of property.

4. A-Woww brings suit on behalf of Bookie’s estate against the T-shirt shop for unlawful appropriation of Bookie’s image by creating the T-Shirt. Please address the strengths and weaknesses of this claim, and decide if A-Woww is likely to succeed.

5. Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of the United Kingdom, and a very distant heir of King John, files suit to quiet title on Runnymede. Erony intervenes, and files suit claiming that Fitchuation’s heirs own Runnymede. A-Woww also intervenes, and claims John II owns Runnymede. Please address what interests, if any, Queen Elizabeth II, the heirs of Fitchuation, and John II have in Runnymede.