Personal Property

Courts continue to get property law wrong when trying to apply it to the Fourth Amendment

As happened in the Supreme Court cases of Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006) and United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400 (2012), the Sixth Circuit has used property law concepts to interpret the Fourth Amendment while misunderstanding what the property laws in force. US v. Jones held that the fourth amendment was violated when...

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While real property held as tenancy by the entirety cannot be conveyed absent consent of both spouses, funds held in a bank account can be withdrawn by either spouse and, upon withdrawal, cease to be entireties property

The Supreme Court of Tennessee overruled prior cases and adopted the Arkansas approach that allows spouses that own bank account as tenants by the entirety are free to withdraw funds unilaterally (without consent of their co-owner) and that moneys so withdraw become the individual property of the spouse that withdrew the funds. This contrasts with real property which neither spouse may convey without the consent of the other....

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First Circuit resolves dispute over religious real and personal property by reference to formal agreements

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has resolved a longstanding and complicated dispute between two congregations over control of the real and personal property of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. In an opinion by Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., the trial court had found that an implied or constructive trust existed by which a New York Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) held title to the property for the benefit of the Newport Rhode Island Congregation Jeshuat Israel (CJI)....

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Engagement rings must be returned if the marriage does not happen

The Supreme Court of Viriginia held that engagement rings are conditional gifts given in contemplation of marriage and that, when the marriage is called off, the ring donor has a right to have the ring returned. McGrath v. Dockendorf, 2016 Va. LEXIS 187 (Va. 2016). The technical holding of the case was that such claims are not barred by the "heart balm" statute,...

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Sixth Amendment right to counsel prohibits state from freezing legitimate assets of a criminal defendant needed to pay for counsel of choice

The Supreme Court held in Luis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1083 (U.S. 2016), that the government may not prevent a criminal defendant from using funds not derived from a crime to pay for counsel of choice. No constitutional issue arose from confiscating the proceeds of a crime but the law in question froze the defendant's assets to ensure that moneys would be available to pay any eventual fines or penalties...

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Court refuses to allow emotional damages for negligent killing of a pet

If someone negligently kills someone else’s pet, courts generally limit damages to the market value of the animal and do not allow damages to be assessed for loss of companionship even though this amount does not adequately account for the emotional loss. In Strickland v. Medlen, 397 S.2d 3d 184 (Tex. 2013), a dog escaped the family's backyard and was picked up by the...

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Eleventh Circuit rejects publicity rights claim for Rosa Parks

In a well-known case, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a publicity rights claim brought by the estate of Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King Jr. for Social Change v. American Heritage Products, 296 S.E.2d 697 (Ga. 1982). The court enabled the estate to prevent the sale of plastic busts of Dr. King by a seller who had not been authorized to do so by the estate. However, in Rosa and Raymond Parks Inst. for Self-Development v. Target Corp.,...

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Takings clause applies to physical seizure of personal property

The Supreme Court held in Horne v. Dep't of Agric., — U.S. — (2015), that the takings clause applies to physical takings of personal property (like cars) as well as to real property. Thus a government program designed to shore up the price of raisins by requiring farmers to hand over a certain percentage of the raisin crop to the government effected a categorical physical taking of personal property.

The limit on supply of raisins for sale was intended to increase the price farmers...

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First Circuit holds there is no federal remedy for discriminatory treatment by store personnel

Once again a federal court has held that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (as amended in 1991) provides no relief to a store customer who was subjected to racial insults while trying to buy merchandise. The First Circuit held, in Hammond v. Kmart Corp., 2013 WL 5763267 (1st Cir. 2013), that the "right to contract" protected by 42 U.S.C. §1981 only protects the ability to enter a contract; it provides no relief for racially disparate treatment when one is in a store. Because the customer was able to...

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State seizure of unused traveler's checks survives substantive due process challenge

Kentucky had a law declaring unused traveler's checks to be abandoned property if they are not used after a period of fifteen years; such property escheated to the state. When the legislature reduced the period from fifteen to seven, the change was challenged as a violation of due process of law. The Sixth Circuit held that the legislation was consistent with the due process clause on the ground that substantive due process requires only that the legislation be rationally related to a legitimate government interest. In this case, the legislation shortening the period from fifteen years to...

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