WE GET A LOT OF REFERENCE QUESTIONS AT THE KING COUNTY LAW LIBRARY.
THE REFRAIN GOES THAT BECAUSE WE AREN’T PRACTICING ATTORNEYS, WE CAN’T OFFER LEGAL ADVICE—AS LIBRARIANS, WE CAN ONLY OFFER RESOURCES.
THAT SAID, SOME QUESTIONS ARE VERY INTERESTING & INSPIRE ME TO DO SOME RESEARCH OF MY OWN, COLLECTED HERE IN THIS COLUMN. DON’T CONSTRUE THIS AS LEGAL ADVICE!
I like when the seams start to show. This is something I’ve long noticed in myself – as an example, in high school, I became very into finding demo tapes of my favorite songs. I loved how raw and revealing demo recordings can be. What might eventually be throbbing bubblegum euphoria begins as a kind of plinky trancey gumbo – and I think that the latter gives a deeper appreciation to the former. Sometimes it’s the case where the stripped-down nature of a demo provides an intimacy and immediacy that a studio version simply can’t surpass, but I also often subscribe to the “first thought best thought” school. Many a demo tape have eclipsed my love for the studio version.
I just reopened my browser – where was I going with that? Is this an indie rock blog now? I think that paragraph was going to be a simpler and less hyperlinked statement about how I like when the seams show, artistically, that it gives you a deeper understanding of the source, and that would somehow sensically set up how I feel like the seams are starting to show in REALITY and that, in this way, I DON’T like the seams showing. Let’s pretend I made that leap, and it was done well – thanks.
Yes, it was some weeks ago that the seams started to show in this ghastly plane.
It was Wednesday the 12th of July. I overhead a coworker talking to a customer about adverse possession. In my 41 months at the law library, I had yet to encounter this concept before, but I caught the gist of the situation and later debriefed with my coworker.
The following day, I was working in the Kent library. Kent is typically staffed by one KCLL employee at a time – sometimes Kent is a ghost town, but that day, I felt like a bartender barely keeping up. A line had formed, and routine family law and civil procedure wisdom was being dispensed. Sealing – GR 15! Free forms – Family Law Facilitators! Probate packet – sold! But then…
Adverse possession reared its head again. The customer said that she had long ago built a fence beyond her lot line, onto the HOA subdivision’s park. A new neighbor discovered this fact and was causing a fuss. The customer said they knew the law, she had statutes written down somewhere, and was generally set on her course of action – she merely came into the library to get the form that would get the title to the parkland. I whipped out the WSBA Deskbook on Real Property and began explaining that it wasn’t so easy, that there’s not one form that accomplishes this. She again said that she knew this was simple and she just needed the form, that someone upstairs (Kent’s library is located in the basement of the RJC – thus, it is not uncommon to receive inscrutable commands from above, there) had said she could get the form from us. I encouraged her to go back up and have them (Who? Unclear.) write down exactly what she needed, because I wasn’t certain such a form existed. She left and did not return.
[Have I talked about forms on this blog yet? What an intriguing courthouse concept. The state/county provides some required legal forms, mostly in the arena of family law. Probate? No. General civil lawsuits? No. These you must draft yourself (or buy from a trusted form packet purveyor
). But even in family law cases, certain forms are provided but others are not. Motion for Default? Yes
. Motion for Reconsideration? No, you have to use the general motion
templates and adapt as necessary. Even for sealing, as mentioned two paragraphs ago, the county provides an Order for Sealing
but not a (required) matching Motion. Why!!!
People get it in their heads, though, that there are forms for any type of desired action (“a form to get my neighbor to trim his trees”), and I have to admit it’s a view that I don’t view as totally deluded. On one hand, what a delightfully absurd image! Row after row of filing cabinets, thousands of them, in sum containing forms that compel every action under the sun. On the other hand, if you’ve spent time understanding how absurd the court system is, maybe the idea isn’t so outlandish after all.]
Anyway, there isn’t a simple form I can hand someone that lets them claim parkland they’ve put a fence across. That’s a whole legal action, probably years of legal turmoil (even with an attorney).
Sometimes people come in asking for just a form, and the complicated answer might be about the concept of adverse possession, how there are elements that must be met (actual possession, open and notorious possession, hostility, continuous possession, and exclusive possession) and then, if these elements are met, there would be a quiet title lawsuit so the courts can declare who owns what, and eject the disseised, which is the legal term for the person who… but the simple and most apt answer is: we don’t have a form for that. That’s how I left it that busy day in Kent. But it was so odd, having just learned about adverse possession for the first time, then having another question about it the following day, so I resolved to read further into the topic.
I started pouring through the Washington Practice and WSBA Real Property Deskbook sections on adverse possession, as well as on quiet title actions. Pretty interesting stuff! Pretty complicated stuff! If I had to hazard a guess (which, thankfully, as a librarian, I never have to do), I’d say this is beyond the capacity of 99% of pro se litigants. I would never dissuade someone, though, I might simply preface their research by outlining the difficulties and urging legal counsel.
Such was my own research as it bled into the next week. Then, Tuesday, 7/18, again, the seams of this accursed prison of reality drew further into focus.
I answered a phone call. The caller had cared for and inhabited an adjacent lot for some time and was wondering how they could go about claiming it. “I believe what you’re describing is ‘adverse possession.'” My vision split into halftone reverberations, I looked down and saw the light bouncing off the WSBA chapter on adverse possession still open on my desk. That subsection said something about planting trees and how that plays into the criteria of actual possession. The caller offered that she had planted trees, shouldn’t that play into it? My synapses sent a signal, enzymes were excreted, I blinked. She asked if we had forms to accomplish this, I said no, that it was quite complicated, and that she should talk with a lawyer.
Baader–Meinhof. Words on a screen, words in a legal treatise.
I got home and described this all to my wife, who mentioned that someone in a local Facebook group was pursuing something similar – none of the circumstances overlapped, these were all unique operators.
Adverse possession has consumed my life. I now scroll through tacking apps, I sleep hostilely each night, and I grill and enjoy my backyard openly and notoriously. It’s all I know.
And as I kept digging, I found that AmJur Pleadings and Practice Forms has great templates for complaints and whatnot! Not a simple form that I can just hand over, but if someone wanted to go at it pro se, that is probably the best option, coupled with the Real Property Deskbook. 100 emoji.