August 31, 2015

An Example of IRAC

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I have a friend who just started at her law school, and she was posting on Facebook about being confused about briefs. Apparently her school didn't spend a full week drilling this into her brain. So just for clarity, here's a made up example that we went over in my property class:

Mitzul v. Mitzul

Supreme Court of the State of Denizen
Opinion delivered on February 1, 1979

This case comes to us on appeal from the Court of Appeals of the State of Denizen and concerns the following facts, as set forth in the record established in the court below.

Alyosha Mitzul and Ivan Mitzul are brothers who have lived next to each other, in adjacent single family homes located in Tooele County, Denizen, since 1950.  For most of this time, the brothers seemed to enjoy a good relationship, and much of their mutual goodwill appeared to revolve around their shared interest in gardening.

In particular, the brothers both participated in the caring for a large sycamore tree, which straddled the boundary line between their separate properties and which is now hundreds of years old.  The Mitzul brothers developed proprietary plant foods and treatments and nourished the tree into a towering example of excellent gardening.  This tree won many prizes and gained quite a reputation within the relatively small Denizen gardening community.  Indeed, many times over the years, third parties offered the Mitzul brothers large sums of money for an ownership interest in the tree, the buying and selling of interests in prize-winning plants apparently being a common occurrence in that same community.  For years, the brothers resisted these offers.  In December 1977, however, they received an offer they could not resist, and therein lies the genesis of the dispute at the heart of this case.

The offer, $100,000 for a 50% ownership interest in the tree, would have been easy to split in half, with each brother taking $50,000 and retaining a 25% interest, but Alyosha (hereinafter referred to as the defendant) was not amenable to this scenario.  After considering the offer, Alyosha carefully measured the tree and established that 60% of its circumference was on his property.  As such, he demanded a proportionate share of the proceeds of any sale.  Ivan (hereinafter referred to as the plaintiff) resisted.  Plaintiff contended that the precise measurements were irrelevant and that what mattered was the fact that the tree was, to any extent, partially on both brothers’ properties.  

Not being able to come to an agreement, plaintiff sued, requesting in the trial court a declaration that each brother owned half the tree and so was entitled to half the proceeds.  The trial court below found for defendant, ruling that Alyosha was entitled to full ownership of the Sycamore tree.  The Court of Appeals affirmed.  We now reverse.

There is no question that, under normal circumstances, and under well known property law principles, plaintiff would prevail.  Generally speaking, adjoining landowners equally own any vegetation that falls upon the adjoining land, regardless of the dimensions or measurements of such overlap.  See, e.g., Jesse Dukeminier et al., Property 190 (4th ed. 1969); Locke’s Two Treatises on Property Theory (Legal Classics Library, Division of Grypon Editions 1952).  

There is, however, an exception to the equal ownership rule, which exception is equally well established under the law.  This exception, colloquially known as the “Blond Giant” exception, holds that, if a controversy surrounding the ownership of vegetation on adjoining parcels arises, as in the instant case, any party that has blond hair and that stands over six feet tall will succeed to full ownership of such vegetation.  Seee.g.U.S. v. Peters, 5 Cranch 115, 136 (1809).  The reasoning for this rule runneth to a time where memory reacheth not and is so well-established that we need not repeat it here.  See id.

The trial court applied this exception to hold in favor of defendant because Alyosha is blond and stands in excess of six feet tall.  Normally, we would agree and affirm.  Here, however, the undisputed testimony below establishes that Alyosha is not a natural blond.  Uncontroverted evidence below shows that Alyosha has naturally brown hair but that he regularly dyes his hair.  The trial court, and the court of appeals in its affirming opinion, held that this distinction makes no difference and that defendant wins under the Blond Giant exception.  We disagree.

The ancient authorities are admittedly less than clear, but, to the extent they discuss the issue, they indicate that a Blond Giant exists, if at all, at birth.  Seee.g., Sir Frederick Pollock, English Law Before the Norman Conquest, Essays I, p. 104.  Indeed, no less an authority than Barbyrac states as follows, in explicating the rule: “That whensoever a blond child is born, then shall such child have preference to shared flora when he doth grow to a great stature.”  Laurence Fontaine, L’Économie Morale: Pauvréte, Créddit et Confiance Dans L’Europe Preindustrielle (1975) (citing 3 Barbyrac on Property Naturalis, § 771.45 (1583)); see also P.R.O, C.39/24, Muschamp v. Stoakes (1598) (holding the same).  Similarly, the ancient case of Muschamp, cited immediately above, indicates that “the blond emblem of birth confers the [relevant] privilege [and so invokes the exception].”  Muschamp v. Stoakes.

These authorities cumulatively indicate, then, that any claimant to the Blond Giant exception must be blond at birth.  Here, defendant was both over six feet tall and blond at the time of trial.  He was not, however, blond at birth.  As such, he was not entitled to the benefit of the Blond Giant exception.  Accordingly, we reverse the holdings below and direct the trial court below to enter an order declaring that plaintiff and defendant equally own the Sycamore tree in question.

And here is a proper IRAC

Mitzul v. Mitzul

made up citation

Deciding Court: Supreme Court of the State of Denizen

Parties: I. Mitzul (plaintiff, appellee), A. Mitzul (defendant, appellant)

Procedural History: Plaintiff sued, requesting each brother is entitled to half of the proceeds of the tree equally. Trial and appeal courts found full ownership of the tree to defendant. Trial court applied BG rule and ruled in favor of defendant even though he dyes his hair, saying it doesn’t matter.  

Facts: Someone offered to buy a tree that sits on the property line of the plaintiff and defendant's two houses. Defendant estimates 60% of the tree is on his side and suggests splitting the proceeds proportionately. Plaintiff suggests splitting it evenly because the tree is on both sides. 

Issue:  Who owns vegetation when it straddles property line? 

Rule: Blond Giant exception. If a controversy over ownership of shared vegetation, party with blond hair and over 6’ wins ownership. 

Analysis: Because defendant dyes his hair, he is unable to win under the BG rule because it states that you must be a natural blond. Since neither brother follow under the exception, judge refers back to the original rule that if there is a dispute between shared vegetation, it is shared equally. 

Holding: Judge agrees with original rule of equal sharing and not the exception for the rule because it does not apply here. Judge reverses, declaring that the plaintiff and defendant equally own the tree. 

Related: How to find the parts of an IRAC in your casebook


  1. I love your blog!!!! I'm interested in law and it's really nice to get a candid view at what law school is really like.

    1. Thanks Kyra! I started this blog after finding a void of law school blogs when I was trying to get ready the summer before I came here, so I thought I'd write about what it's like and what it takes. My goal is to be as helpful and informative as possible, so if there's any questions you'd like answered over either pre-law or law school, or any topic you'd like me to talk about in more detail, always feel free to let me know! Also, thanks for checking out my blog and being so nice :)

  2. I would love to have your email address so I could shoot you an email with any questions I might have. I don't have any specific questions right now but I'm sure I'll have some in the near future. So glad I found your blog! You're right there really is a lack of law school blogs out there.

    1. Kyra you can email me at! I made an email for this so I don't have to give out my school email :)