Judge who took neighbor’s land ‘beleaguered’

By WND Staff

Judge James Klein

A Boulder judge and his wife, who utilized a little-known “adverse possession” state law to take part of their neighbor’s $1 million parcel of land, have complained that they feel “beleaguered” by the public reaction to their move.

The comments were made by Edith Stevens in an interview with National Public Radio, and reported this week by the Boulder Daily Camera. Stevens told NPR she and her husband, retired Judge Richard McLean are feeling “pretty beleaguered” by the fierce public opposition to the couple’s case that was decided by McLean’s former co-worker, Judge James Klein.

WND reported earlier how Stevens and McLean brought a lawsuit against the owners of a parcel of land adjacent to their ritzy Boulder home, testifying they used the land for decades for a path, and to store firewood.

Judge Klein then granted them ownership of 34 percent of the parcel, which had been estimated by the owners, Don and Susie Kirlin, to be worth about $1 million before the ruling.

The decision came despite Kirlin’s testimony he paid taxes of about $16,000 a year, plus $65 per month homeowner association dues, on the land, where he’s sprayed for weeds and repaired fences.

Stevens said she and her husband still have some supporters.

“We think that our friends still like us and the people who have supported us in the past are willing to give us a benefit of the doubt,” Stevens, who with her husband has declined interviews with a number of other news organizations, told NPR.

The Boulder Camera also reported Kim Hult, a lawyer representing the judge and his wife, compared her client’s situation to that of a lost puppy, “saying that if someone cares for the animal for a long time, the owner can’t show up years later and demand the dog.”

“That use, over a long period of time … means the people – the neighbors using the land, caring for the land – have acquired legal rights,” Hult said.

But feeling “beleaguered” or not, the couple clearly was getting little in the way of public support from participants in a forum at the Rocky Mountain News, which also published the Camera story.

“Terrible analogy,” wrote Michael. “A lost puppy is a living creature … Land is land. It does not need love, food, water, shelter, medical attention, etc.”

“These people should be totally ashamed of themselves …” wrote “RememberThis.” “Stealing someones land … yes stealing. … If it was me … they would have most likely been shot as trespassers.”

“Hay folks, wanna feel better about yourselves? Then give the land back to the rightful owners!” contributed “PMSXpress.”

“Adverse possession typically applies to unwitting, unknowing or inadvertent use of neighboring land – for instance, a fence put up years ago in the wrong location due to a mistake,” wrote “AC.” “This however was a hostile takeover by people who knew they were trespassing…”

“What are these people on?!?!?!?!,” added “CDee.” “They couldn’t have really expected people to be OK with this??”

Said “LazyR,” “They trespassed and got away with it. They didn’t pay the taxes. They do not own this land. It belongs to the neighbor and they need to vacate this absurd claim.”

The judge and his wife actually had at least one or two supporters. “stuckiniowa” wrote that a person’s right to own property and not maintain it “cannot encroach on my right to live next to property that is properly maintained.”

But the vast majority sided with the Kirlins, including Darwin:

“People of their ilk should feel ‘beleaguered’ because of what they are doing. As another poster mentioned, ‘what goes around comes around’ and I will not be surprised if something is taken from them. If I were them, I could not sleep at night for fear of what may be taken from me. I hope they sleep with one eye open. Many judges, lawyers, and politicians earn their negative reputation and these two exemplify the worst.”

And yet another, “KZ,” objected to the logic from “stuckiniowa.”

“It’s an empty lot!!! The Mcleans did not pay the HOA dues, they did not pay the taxes. What are you trying to say. They left their firewood wood pile on the land that was about it. Maintained it?? No they never maintained it. … Where do you park your car? I think I might possess it and drive it during the winter to save wear and tear on mine. Do you think the law would back me up? Maybe if I was a judge and my wife a former mayor and an atty.”

“gdiamond” had a different perspective, suggesting those who have criticisms review the facts in the court record.

“Finally, the allegation that the judge presiding over the case ruled the way he did because the plaintiff is a former judge is defamatory – it effectively accuses the judge of a committing a crime. To contend, without more, that any judge would engage in such gross misconduct and jeopardize his job, his law license and his liberty is a completely reckless charge,” he wrote.

But “RickyLee,” said, “Let the beleaguering continue…”

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Retired judge: This land is my land