Professor Grimmelmann

Georgetown University Law Center

Spring 2013

About the Course

First Assignment

For our first class on Tuesday, January 15, please pages 1-16, 369-74, and 433-39 in the casebook. Please also read Madden v. Queens County Jockey Club, Inc. and the excerpt from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the course supplement.


Here is the official description of this course from the curriculum guide:

Examines classical and modern concepts of property, personal property issues, the nature of interests held in real property, the transfer of such interests, the law of landlord and tenant, and private and public restrictions upon the use of real property.

That’s accurate, but a little dry. Here is how Felix Cohen described the subject over half a century ago:

Suppose we say, that is property to which the following label can be attached:

To the world:

Keep off X unless you have my permission, which I may grant or withhold.

Signed: Private citizen
Endorsed: The state

We here in law school care about capital-P Property because this way of arranging legal relations turns out to be of remarkable importance in the American legal system. “Property” is one of a small handful of basic substantive legal building blocks, like “Tort,” “Contract,” and “Crime,” and like them it has its own course early in the curriculum. Property has earned that place for a variety of linked reasons.

Class Meetings

We meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM in room 202. We will take a five-minute break each class session, somewhere towards the middle.


Here’s what I expect from you:

“We don’t check the statements of the ‘young gentlemen’ around here. We simply cashier them if it ever turns out that they have not told the truth.”

–Robert Heinlein

We are members of an academic community built on respect, trust, and honesty. I will take you at your word; in return, I expect you to be truthful and candid in your dealings with me and your classmates.

Your conduct in this course is subject to the Student Disciplinary Code. I encourage to collaborate in preparing for class and in studying, but in the classroom and on the exam your work must be exclusively your own.


You will need:

The following books are not required and I have not asked the bookstore to stock them. They are, however, potentially useful sources if you seek an outside perspective on the material covered in the course.


The final exam will be held on Tuesday, April 30. It will be take-home with a time limit of eight hours. It will be available for download starting at 9:00 AM and your typed answers must be returned electronically no later than 6:30 PM. (Thus, you are strongly advised to download it and start the eight-hour clock by 10:30 AM at the very latest.)

The exam will be subject to a strict page or word limit and formatting rules such that it will not be even remotely possible to type the entire time. Instead, think of it as a four-hour exam with plenty of extra tme to check your work.

I highly recommend John Langbein’s advice on Writing Law Examinations.

Under no circumstances may you discuss the contents of the exam with any other person until after the end of the examination period. You may not ask any other person for help during the exam; your work must be entirely your own. The exam is subject to the Student Disciplinary Code and Georgetown’s policies on plagiarism.


Office: Hotung 6011
Phone: 202-661-6619
Office Hours: Mondays 10:00 - 11:30 and by appointment

This syllabus is at As the semester progresses, I’ll post updates to it here.

Email is the best way to reach me and will generally lead to the fastest response.

My office hours are the times I reserve for student meetings, not the only times I am available. Appointments are recommended but not required. If my office hours are inconvenient for you, email me to set up another time or just drop by. If the door to my office is open, please feel free to come in.


The schedule below is divided into twenty-six assignments. Unless I tell you otherwise, you’re responsible for reading one assignment per class session. I promise to stick closely to one assignment per session. Our pace will be relentless: roughly 25-30 pages of reading per class, sometimes more. Do not let yourself fall behind.

The Rights of Owners (3 classes)

January 15: Trespass

January 17: Remedies

January 22: Nuisance

The Origin of Property Rights (4 classes)

January 24: First Possession

January 29: Creation and Accession

January 31: Adverse Possession

February 5: Finders

What Can Be Property (3 classes)

February 7: People

February 12: Public Rights

February 14: Internet

Estates in Land (4 classes)

February 26: Present Estates and Future Interests

February 28: Limits

March 12: The Rule Against Perpetuities

March 14: Co-Ownership

Landlords and Tenants (4 classes)##

March 19: History

March 21: Modern Leases


Property-Owning Entities

Transactions (4 classes)

Powers of the Owner


Security Interests

Title Assurance

Land Use Controls (4 classes)





Final Exam