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My name is Pete, Pete-the-Intern. Last summer, I was able to intern at Content Pilot, where I learned about the legal marketing field and honed my coffee-run skills. Almost a year later, I have graduated from college and committed to attend law school at the University of Texas! Before I head off to official law school and put my intern days behind me, I am excited to announce that I will be taking both my talents and copious amounts of spare time to attend the Yada Yada Law School.
Yada Yada Law School is a 10-week lecture series from law professors across the country and it aims to use Seinfeld, the 90’s sitcom, to somehow teach students about the law. Seinfeld stopped airing before I was even born and has also not yet been available on Netflix, so honestly, I knew Seinfeld as the lame TV show that fought for the 3:00 a.m. air time against Full House and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Further, like most college graduates with a pre-law degree, I know just about nothing when it comes to the law in any practical sense. These things in mind, when I first saw a law.com article on the series, I was intrigued. I would be able to learn about two things that I knew nothing about, plus it’s a chance to do something productive for the first time in two months… It was a no brainer!
In its opening week, students of Yada Yada Law School were incredibly fortunate to hear from Professor Sara C. Bronin, a Yale Law School graduate and now Professor at UConn law on the topic of Property Law. In this blog, I will highlight a few of Professor Bronin’s main points on Property Law and what it has to do with Jerry Seinfeld.
#1 Property law is fundamental
In its opening week, students of Yada Yada Law School were incredibly fortunate to hear from Professor Sara C. Bronin, a Yale Law School graduate and now Professor at UConn law on the topic of Property Law. In this blog, I will highlight a few of Professor Bronin’s main points on Property Law and what it has to do with Jerry Seinfeld. This portion of the lecture really opened my eyes to how vast the topic of property law truly is. Initially, I thought that disputes in property law are for the most part limited to issues regarding the use and ownership of land. However, as Professor Bronin explained, the range of topics is much wider, dealing with issues such as possessing ownership of a quarter you find on the street, getting a divorce, donating organs, using your cell phone at work, or even fighting over the remote — all somehow deal with establishing ownership of property.
#2 Ideas can be owned
In this section, Professor Bronin went over the different forms of ownership, giving special attention to the current definition of legal Possession.
Fun Fact: Of the five major verifications of ownership, “Discovery” is a theory of ownership that came about when European colonists landed in North America and “discovered” land, allowing them legal ownership. Today, the Discovery theory is used in providing patents for new inventions.
In determining possession, Bronin advocates for a definition of possession that reads…
“Effective control over a thing and a manifested intent to maintain such control to the exclusion of others.”
#3 Possession is usually black and white
In this chapter, Professor Bronin uses the definition of possession given previously to solve a famously heated parking dispute. In Season 3, Episode 22, George encounters a small-scale property dispute when a parking spot he is backing into is stolen from behind.
While this dispute brings in many third parties and lasts long into the night, who would legally be able to claim possession of the spot? Using the elements of our definition, Professor Bronin helps to break this issue down.
Effective control over a thing and a manifested intent to maintain such control to the exclusion of others.
- Effective Control – Who earned control of the spot?
- Difficult to tell.
- George waited too long.
- Mike snuck in behind George.
- Manifested Intent – Who showed the intent to take the spot?
- Exclusion – Does the presence of one exclude the other?
- Yes. One car per spot.
Because our definition of possession does not offer a clear-cut solution for who possesses the parking spot, we look to court precedent for an answer. Bronin explains two cases, Pierson v. Post (1805) and Ghen v. Rich (1881) to illustrate the deciding factor in George and Mike’s big dispute. Each case is similar to the Seinfeld scenario in that the dispute revolves around 2 parties that each seeks the same resource, whether that be a fox, a whale, or a parking spot. In Pierson and Ghen, the court solved the dispute based on what is “custom” for the activity of each case. In obtaining a parking spot, would the court consider the custom to be allowing the car in front of you to reverse into the spot, or is it custom to operate on a first come first serve basis? According to Bronin, the court would most likely decide that Mike’s actions did not align with the custom of NYC parking and therefore did not possess the spot. So there you have it, next time you find yourself silently wording a barrage of insults through the rearview mirror to the Honda Odyssey that stole your hard-earned spot at Whole Foods, make sure to mention the court’s rationale in Pierson v. Post.
Overall, I would say that week 1 of Yada Yada Law School was an enormous success. I was able to learn some cool things about Property Law and realize my wrongful assessment of what has so far been a pretty funny TV show.
I also think there is a really important message that can be seen through what the YYLS is doing here. While tuition to YYLS is free, the professors and organizers strongly encourage each student to make a small donation to the Legal Services of NYC COVID-19 relief efforts. With the world on delay, these professors have found a way to combine their passions in a creative way for a great cause.
Join me in class or check out my recap blog next week when Yada Yada Law School takes on Constitutional Law!