Former judge Richard McLean and attorney Edith Stevens appear to have had an eye on some land of neighbors Don and Susie Kirlin for some time. They got their wish when another judge, District Judge James C. Klein ruled that a mysterious path that appeared on the property gave them possession of 34 percent of the Kirlins’ lot on Hardscrabble Drive.
Judge Klein relied heavily on the appearance of a small dirt path on the property to show their open and uncontested use of the property for two decades. While he admitted that this does not make him popular, Judge McLean insisted that “The court’s duty is to ignore the public perception of the case and apply the facts as he finds them to be.”
The Kirlins, however, submitted documents, eye witness testimony, and photographs that they said showed that the path was faked and only recently was placed on the property for legal purposes.
Klein, however, believed Judge McLean’s evidence, including his own photographs and eyewitness testimony. Klein further accused the Kirlins of trying to “purposefully mislead” the court and being “disingenuous in their assertions.”
Yet, Klein did not endorse the actions of Judge McLean either. “This court wants to make it very clear that it has never condoned morally the actions of plaintiffs in pursuing this matter. The court is bound by its oath to office to apply the law to the facts presented to it despite the face that its rulings, and the law that it is required to follow, may be controversial and/or unpopular in the community.”
This is not the worst such property fight involving a lawyer or a judge, click here.
Adverse possession cases tend to be particularly unpopular with the public. It tends to reward squatters, but it is meant to allow land to be fully utilized. Yet, for some owners, it means that they have to regularly monitor and act on any incursions into their property. The result is that businesses and owners will often bar entry or use of land to avoid claims of constructive easements or adverse possession.
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