Sunday, March 25, 2007


A Random Legal Question(s)

Suppose X has two adjacent plots of land. X sells one of the plots of land to Y (at a price way below market value: and shortly after the sale, the attorney representing X in these negotiations goes on to accept a lucrative position working for Y), but is concerned that the activities for which Y plans to use that plot might damage X's remaining plot of land. Thus, X extracts a written promise from Y that Y will take any feasible step to avoid damaging X's remaining plot of land. 4 years, post sale, after much negotiation, more exact precautionary measures are hammered out to which Y (reluctantly) agrees and X re-affirms that it will not challenge the, um, suspicious price for which their then attorney negotiated the original sale.

Fast forward to 20 years post sale. Y, who had since established a partnership with Z, had long been neglecting to follow the specific precautionary measures agreed to 4 years post sale. Because of this, during work being done by Z, $D damage accrues to the plot remaining in the hands of X. Lawsuits ensure, Z ends up having to pay 98% of $D (which, beyond the amount directly required to pay for the immediate clean-up of the obvious damage, they delay paying for over ten years) while Y settles up and pays 2% of $D (which their insurance covers).

My question is whether Y's negligence in insuring that both Y and Z followed the terms of the 4 year post-sale agreement constitutes a breach of contract regarding the original sale (Y had already been caught threatening people who made complaints about a possible breach of contract by Y). If so, is the original sale null and void? If so, then does Y (and Z) owe X rent for use of the plot of land? If so, how much?

Does the possible conflict of interest of the original attorney for X enter into the picture? If so, does it matter on the other hand that a retired Supreme Court justice was willing to take over the negotiations on a pro bono basis on behalf of X and certainly could have found someone to represent X in other matters as needed, yet X did not take any action to fire their then attorney (who was also a prominent legislator in the state where this all happened)? Moreover, some other work, done shortly after the sale before X's employ for Y, X's erstwhile attorney did for X helped X to make a lot of money selling their other plot of land (in spite of the damage, or perhaps because of the notoriety of the case), which the damage had rendered useless to X per se, about 30 years after the sale of the first plot of land.

Bonus points if you can identify who X, Y and Z are and what the damaging incident was. I'll give you a hint: Y and Z both tried to blame an employee of Z for the damage, because the employee was drunk at the time, although the employee, even though he was the supervisor responsible for the operation at hand, was off-duty at the time as well. Super-duper extra credit if you know who the Supreme Court justice was.

oh man, this wasn't on the bar exam! it sounds a bit like the whitewater scandal, doesn't it? anyway, i DO know that the late chief justice rehnquist once had a reciprocal restrictive covenant on his own property that forbade his next-door neighbors to sell their home to jews. how's that for a disgustingly discriminatory devise? shevua tov, and a good pesach......
Maybe I could have described two or three possible scandals? I wasn't thinking about Whitewater.

Anyway (this would be a big hint, but if you knew this factoid, you'd know of which scandal I was thinking), it would be very odd for the retired Supreme Court justice involved (who incidently died a year after the damage to the property -- which also tells you who the Justice is based on how long he lived after retiring from SCOTUS, if the other clue I'm about to give does not) to forbid his next-door neighbors to sell their home to Jews.

But yep. That is a disgusting devise. Although, I know from family stories the degree to which such covenants actually kept Jews out depended on the Jews in question and the neighborhood in question. My immigrant great-great grandparents couldn't move into the fancy neighborhood in Kansas City 'cause of their religion. OTOH, I had a great-great uncle (from the branch of my family easily mistaken for WASPs, though they don't deny their religion, nobody guesses it) who lived most of his adult life in a city, Newport Beach CA, that in the day was infamous for banning Jews: supposedly the reason UC Irvine (my alma mater) has such good and extensive faculty housing is that, at the time UCI was built, the only upper-middle class housing nearby was in Newport Beach, in which restrictive covenants would have prevented the Jewish faculty from living. I told this to my grandfather (the WASPy branch is that of his father-in-law ... the immigrants mentioned above were his grandparents) who said "that's bullshit, why you're uncle Charlie lived in Newport Beach for much of his life, and nobody refused to sell a home to him". I didn't somehow tell him "that's 'cause nobody asked if ol' Charles Robinson was Jewish and he didn't tell".

So, I guess "don't ask, don't tell" applies to more than just our military's policy toward gays ...

Anyway -- congratulations on being the first to guess!
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