The Inevitable Trend toward Universally Recognizable Signals of Property Claims: An Essay for Carol Rose

By Ellickson, Robert C. | The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, May 2011 | Go to article overview

The Inevitable Trend toward Universally Recognizable Signals of Property Claims: An Essay for Carol Rose


Ellickson, Robert C., The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal


It was love at first sight. The first time Carol Rose encountered the field of property she fell madly in love with it.1 By her own report, this happened when she was a first-year student at the University of Chicago Law School.2 What attracted her immediately was "property law's impact on the visible world,"3 in particular, on the complex cityscapes of Chicago itself.4 And, during her career she would come to love the variety and flexibility of property institutions and how they could be molded to promote a wide array of human values.

I too was immediately enamored when I took my first property course in law school. As Carol has written, she and I have remarkably similar backgrounds.5 We both spent our childhoods in or near Washington, D.C, where our fathers held federal jobs that entailed work with statistics on national social and economic conditions. Perhaps our fathers' fascination with knowing how life is lived on the ground rubbed off on us. Repelled by the social rigidities that then characterized most eastern colleges, Carol and I both chose to attend a co-educational college in a small town in Ohio. At the last available moment, Carol switched her choice from Oberlin, my eventual alma mater, to the even edgier Antioch.6 Perhaps our years in these close-knit college towns helped to create, or strengthen, the communitarian inclinations that would surface in our scholarship. Of course, Carol and I also differ in many ways. Although we both were active in team sports as youths and remain movie buffs, our adult recreational interests rarely overlap. I am as bewildered by her interest in dance and playing the recorder as she is by my interest in tournament Scrabble.

Carol's enthusiasm for both the subject of property, and the varied institutions of property, was evident during 1 989-2005, her long - for her, uncharacteristically long - stint on the faculty of the Yale Law School. Especially prior to Henry Smith's arrival in 2001, during that period Carol and I bore most of the load of property instruction at Yale. Yale is perhaps the only law school in the United States that does not require a student to take a Property course.7 During Carol's time at Yale, however, about ninety percent of Yale J.D. students did elect to enroll before graduating. This was the highest percentage for any non-required course, with Business Associations a close runner-up. Carol and I privately both took some pride in this fact.8 Needless to say, Carol's infectious love of the institutions and puzzles of property helped to draw in Yale students.

I. CAROL ROSE THE PERSON

A few years back, at a public event honoring Carol, I stated that at times she brought to mind a member of the comedy team Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and that I wasn't thinking of Dean Martin. Our mutual colleague Bill Eskridge immediately suggested that, among the comedie giants of the 1950s, an even better choice would be Lucille Ball. I now accept Bill's friendly amendment.

The smashing success of the television show "I Love Lucy" lay in the appeal of the title character. Lucy had a quick wit, a ready laugh, lacked pretension, and never fell into funks of self-absorption. Just like Carol. And these traits endear. According to Stephen Yandle, when Northwestern University's new law building was about to come on line in the 1980s, he separately asked each Northwestern faculty to name a few colleagues whose office they would prefer to be located nearby.9 Across this broad and diverse faculty, Carol's name was by far the name most often mentioned. She is as loved as Lucy was.

Carol is an irrepressible explorer, not only of new environs, but, as we shall later see, also of disparate scholarly perspectives. During her adulthood, she has lived for an extended period in an extraordinary variety of regions of the United States. A native of Falls Church, Virginia, she has had stays of at least a year in two or more cities in the South (Atlanta, Austin); in the Midwest (Chicago, Columbus); in the East (Ithaca, New Haven, New York City); and in California (Berkeley, Palo Alto). …

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