Property Exam Question: Star Wars Episodes I-III

June 22nd, 2016

For my second Property exam question, I traced the events of Star Wars Episodes I-III. (The second question followed Episode IV-VI,). Here is the A+ answer if you want to play along at home.


Even longer ago–thirty-two years earlier to be precise–in a galaxy far, far away, there was a series of contentious property disputes that gave rise to the conflicts in Part 1. This case involves Obi (yes, the same person from the previous Part), Padme, Binks, and Anakin. You are still a law clerk for Chief Justice Yoda of the Jedi Council. He has asked you to write another memorandum of no more than 1,000 words addressing five issues implicated in Part 2. The Jedi Council applies all common law property rules, as articulated in the Restatement (First) of Property. The Council does not adhere to the Rule Against Perpetuities, or any other principle that destroys future interests. There is no statute of limitations or other jurisdictional bar that prohibits the Jedi Council from hearing these disputes.

*Complete the questions in order: complete Part 1 first, and Part 2 second.*

Thirty-two years before the events in Question 1, turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. A much-younger Obi journeys to rescue Padme who is in danger. Padme is the key to galactic peace. But before she can leave, Padme must take care of her property.

Five years earlier, she had entered into a lease for Redacre with Binks. The conveyance stated: “Starting on January 1, Redacre from Binks to Padme for a lease, with a payment of 1,000 credits due the first of each month, which Binks has the power to terminate at a date of his choice.” On May 30, Padme announces that pursuant to the lease, she was terminating the lease, effective immediately. Binks ignores her, and says “You can’t do that.” Instead, Binks executes a new conveyance: “Binks hereby consents to the subletting of Redacre to Obi, but on the condition that Padme remains responsible for any damage to Redacre.” Binks, Padme, and Obi then sign the conveyance.

Immediately after the lease is signed, Redacre is bombed from above, and the premises are destroyed. Obi and Padme narrowly escape, and run to their spaceship. As they take off, Binks yells “Pay me’sa for damages!”

Padme and Obi travel to the planet Tatooine, where they meet Anakin. Soon Padme and Anakin fall in love, and get married. Tatooine has a community-property system for marital property. The trio execute the following conveyance: “Whiteacre from Obi to Padme and Anakin as joint tenants.” The couple moves onto Whiteacre, and Padme soon becomes pregnant with fraternal twins–a boy and a girl.

Anakin has a dream that his wife will die during childbirth. He knows that the only way to save her will be through the powers of the force. The force is a mystical power that exists inside the cells of all people that allows them to do amazing things–including regenerate life. Anakin knows that the force is strong in Obi. While Obi is asleep, using a painless process, Anakin extracts the force from Obi’s body. Anakin then injects it into his own body.

The next morning, Obi awakens, and realizes Anakin stole his force. Obi goes to confront Anakin. Soon, the two engage in a lightsaber battle. As the two fight each other, Padme suddenly goes into labor and delivers two healthy twins. She names them Luke and Princess.

Moments after the twins are born, Obi strikes his lightsaber through Anakin’s heart. With his last breath, Anakin handed Obi his lightsaber, and said, “On my death, give this lightsaber to my son.” Without saying anything, Obi took the lightsaber, and leaves him for dead.

Anakin took his last breath, and his heart stopped beating. Then, the force took over, regenerating his body. He rose back to life as a new person: “My name is now Darth,” he said. Anakin was no longer. Now there was only Darth. Rather than saving his wife’s life with the force, he saved his own. At that moment, Padme–greatly weakened by the childbirth–dies.

Obi separates the infants, leaving Luke on the planet Tatooine with friends, and sends Princess to another planet. Luke and Princess would grow up not knowing who their parents were. They did not even know that they had a sibling (hence the awkward embrace three decades later). Obi would live on Tatooine, so he could keep an eye on Luke, waiting for him to be old enough to lead the resistance against Darth.

Furious, Darth sets out to seek revenge against Obi. Empowered by the force, Darth constructs the ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armored space station the size of a moon. The Death Star has a laser powerful enough to destroy an entire planet. Darth then executes the following conveyance: “Death Star, from Darth to Darth for life, then to Luke, but if Luke does not have legal title to my light saber at my death, then to Princess and her heirs.” Darth hides the conveyance in a secret room on the Death Star, and does not tell anyone about it about it.

After the the issues in the Part I are resolved, Princess discovers Darth’s conveyance. This triggers a second round of litigation.

Chief Justice Yoda has asked you to write another memorandum, of no more than 1,000 words, addressing the following five issues that affect Binks, Obi, Luke, Princess, the executor of Padme’s estate, and the executor of Darth’s estate.

1. Binks files suit, seeking to recover the cost of damages to Redacare. (Binks is not seeking lost rent). First, Binks sues Obi. Obi defends that he is not liable, and files a countersuit against the executor of Padme’s estate. The executor claims that the estate is no longer liable. What is the strongest arguments that Obi can make, and strongest argument that Padme’s executor can make? How should the court resolve this dispute?

2. The executor of Darth’s estate files suit to quiet title on Whiteacre, claiming that the property belongs to Darth’s estate. The executor of Padme’s estate counterclaims, and asserts that Whiteacre belongs to Padme’s estate. Luke and Princess intervene, both claiming an interest in Whiteacre. How should the court resolve this dispute?

3. Obi files suit against Darth’s estate, seeking 10% of the profits generated by the Death Star (in addition to destroying planets, the Death Star had a successful manufacturing plant). Obi asserts that Darth was only able to construct the Death Star with the power of the force he stole from him. (Obi did not file suit for conversion of the force from his body). What is the estate of Darth’s strongest defense? How should the court resolve this dispute?

4. In light of the discovery of Darth’s conveyance concerning Death Star, Chief Justice Yoda has asked you to supplement your answer to the third question in Part 1.  Specifically, identify the present and future interests, if any, that existed at the time the conveyance was drafted for Darth, Luke, and Princess. In light of the newly-discovered conveyance, who now has the strongest claim to Death Star?

5. Chief Justice Yoda asks you to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of marital property laws based on a community-property model, rather than a common law model. Please pay special attention to the situation that confronts married couples that migrate from a state with one type of laws, to the other.