Boundary Stability, Riparian Surveys and the Boundary Consultant
Stability of property titles and boundaries is of paramount importance to courts nationwide. At least one judge has gone so far as to indicate that it is better to be consistent than right when dealing with vested property titles. This mandate for stability militates against both legislation that purports to alter existing boundaries and more recent court decisions that may divest owners of lands legitimately obtained under a prior legal system.
The New York court considers the complexity of riparian boundary issues in the light of a failed attempt by defendants to “simplify” riparian law in order to obtain the desired result: “Defendants, instead, urge a definitive landmark ruling from this Court, through the instrumentality of this case, that New York State has abandoned the common-law property distinction between rivers navigable-in-fact and those navigable-in-law. As a result, they claim a public right of fishery in all "navigable" waters. This is not so and is too simplistic an approach, which would precipitate serious destabilizing effects on property ownership principles and precedents… In sum, the desirable definiteness attendant upon discrete property rights and principles, along with reliable, predictable expectations built upon centuries of precedent, ought not be sacrificed to the vicissitudes of unsupportable legal theories.” Douglaston Manor v. Bahrakis: 89 N.Y.2d 472 (1997)
In another dispute over the bed of a watercourse, the Michigan court condemns later attempts to sell the bed of a nonnavigable lake when it had already been conveyed by the government to a private party: “Our general views with regard to the effect of patents granted for lands around the margin of a nonnavigable lake, and shown by the plat referred to therein to bind on the lake, were expressed in the preceding case of Hardin v. Jordan, 140 US 371 (11 S Ct 808, 35 L ed 428), and need not be repeated here. We think it a great hardship, and one not to be endured, for the government officers to make new surveys and grants of the beds of such lakes after selling and granting the lands bordering thereon, or represented so to be. It is nothing more or less than taking from the first grantee a most valuable, and often the most valuable part of his grant.” Poch v. Urlaub: 357 Mich. 261; 98 N.W.2d 509 (1959)
The Missouri court affirms the continued importance of stability and certainty of titles for upland boundary lines in Fuller v. Padley: 628 S.W.2d 719 (1982): “In the instant case, however, as with most boundary line disputes, the location of the line of the parties may in turn affect other persons who are not parties to the litigation. The stability of land titles demands that surveys to establish boundary proceed from a common acknowledged point and that all boundaries be dependent upon that single fixed and determinable point or points. To rule otherwise would create intolerable chaos in the location of boundary lines.”
In a dispute over beach rights attributed to the Open Beaches Act, the Texas court highlights the paramount need for judges to protect the stability of property rights, whether public and private: “…we must also recognize ages-old private property rights that are protected by law. “…Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.” Severance v. Patterson: 370 S.W.3d 705 (2012)