I should probably be more wary of singling out ordinary citizens for condemnation, but in this case, the couple in question deserve every bit of the negative attention. Edith Stevens, a lawyer, and her husband, Richard McLean, a former judge and Boulder, CO mayor, are in hot water for using legal maneuver most people have never heard of to essentially steal a large portion of the land owned by their neighbors and ruin them financially in the process.
The legal maneuver the couple used is known as adverse possession. It has always been a controversial and decidedly sketchy principle of common law, because it essentially allows those schooled in using this obscure legal provision (like lawyers) to conspire to quietly steal from the unaware (like the Kirlins, in this case). While there are some reasonable justifications for why it’s a necessary part of property law, none of those justifications apply here: even if this was done in the letter of the statute, it grossly violated the spirit. Worse, the McLeans seem to have benefited from some serious cronyism, receiving especially snappy and favorable treatment from people in local government that were political allies, current friends, and former colleagues. Especially as a Democrat (Stevens is a former local party chair), I’m ashamed and disgusted. I take comfort only in the fact that Stevens appears to have had to resign from the campaign of a local Democratic representative.
The really despicable thing about all this is that the McLeans may well be legally in the clear: through a series of loopholes and passed bucks, no one is likely to hold them accountable (the case is being appealed, but appeals only have a very limited basis). The Kirlins will never be able to build a house on their land, and they will be out not only hundreds of thousands of dollars in invested property value (property they paid taxes on to the very same city that then handed it over to a good buddy) but also more than a 100,000 dollars in legal fees.
All we can do is call upon the power the internet to expose the McCleans’ shameful antics and make sure their behavior cannot survive the light of day. I predict that not long from now, anyone googling Edith Stevens or Richard McLean will see, as the top result, their new appellation of “Crooks.” They’ll may chuckle all the way to the bank anyway, but hopefully a lot fewer people will show up to their cocktail parties, thrown on stolen land.