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Of Natural Threads and Legal Hoops: Bob Ellickson’s Property Scholarship, 18 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 199 (2009)

Abstract

Bob Ellickson and I have been working the same regions of property scholarship for so long that he once described us as joined at the hip. Those who know us would probably say he kept his right hip and I kept my left one, but still, it is not a bad metaphor. Not only have we edited a property reader together, and not only did we teach together for many years at Yale Law School, but without knowing it, we grew up within a few miles of each other in the Washington area, and we almost went to the same college at the same time (Oberlin—Bob went there, and I almost did, but then I changed my mind and went to the somewhat wilder Antioch). Nevertheless, even for one joined at the hip, there is always more to learn about Bob's work, and so, in preparation for this conference, I did a review of his work.

Now, anyone who knows Bob knows he has a stubborn streak, so I thought that the germs of all his future work would be there in his very first publication: his student note in the Yale Law Journal. Wrong. Or at least, partially wrong. The note reviewed four subsidized housing programs from the 1960s. To be sure, it was about land and housing, and low-income housing in particular, all constant topics in Bob's later work. But with its larding of housing law jargon and statutory sections—"PHA" and "Sec. 221(d) (3)" and so on—it was not at all the Bob Ellickson we now know. Quite the contrary, it was clearly an exercise in what Bob now calls "legal centralism," and he does not mean that as a compliment.

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2009

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