Richard A. Epstein, “Reasonable and Unreasonable Expectations in Property Law and Beyond”


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The notion of reasonable expectations filters in and out of many given areas of law. It is often derided as circular claim in which reasonable expectations are shaped by the law that they are supposed to shape. On the other hand, it is often treated, most notably under the Supreme Court’s now pivotal decision in Penn Central Transportation Co v. City of New York, as the linchpin of modern real property law, and has been used as well in other areas, including financial regulation and the law of searches and seizures. Both of these views are incorrect. Reasonable expectations can never be banned from the law, but they must be domesticated, where their primary role is to facilitate cooperation between people who otherwise are unable to coordinate their social behaviors. Richard A. Epstein is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Law and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Epstein started his legal career at the University of Southern California, where he taught from 1968 to 1972. He served as Interim Dean of the Law School from February to June 2001. He is also the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University, and the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Recorded April 22, 2015, as part of the Chicago’s Best Ideas lecture series.

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