Document Type



Public Property Rights: A Government's Rights and Duties When Its Landowners Come Into Conflict with Outsiders, 52 Southern California Law Review 1627-69 (1979)


Private citizen actions may lead to disputes between neighboring governments. Paris' abduction of Helen triggered the Greeks' siege of Troy. As a less momentous example, the private erection of skyscrapers in a central city might impair television reception in one of its suburbs and precipitate angry exchanges between the mayors of the two cities.

This Article examines the possible utility of creating public (i.e., intergovernmental) rights and duties to internalize intergovernmental spillovers of this sort. The Article focuses particularly on cases similar to the examples just given where a government's rights and duties would be vicarious in that they would stem from the private behavior, or private suffering, of its citizens. Lawyers and scholars are relatively familiar with the proprietary rights and obligations that may arise from a government's own affirmative activities—for instance, its ownership of public lands, its employment of police, or its operation of a municipal waterworks. Much less familiar is the notion that the government-citizen relationship should give rise to the legal consequence that a government stands (vicariously) in the shoes of its citizens—e.g., that Troy is liable to Greece, assuming both are recognized political units, for Paris' abduction of Helen.

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