Harvard Law Review Harvard Law Review Harvard Law Review


Turning Neighbors Into Nuisances

The full text of this Article may be found by clicking on the PDF link to the left.

A reckoning for single-family zoning is underway. From Minnesota to California, cities and states are looking for ways to compel the densification of neighborhoods long devoted to large lots and detached homes. The bitter debates occasioned by these efforts expose a common source of homeowner opposition: worries about multifamily housing and, specifically, the apartment building. In that regard, little about land use law seems to have changed. The apartment was cited as an evil in the case that upheld zoning as a legitimate use of the state’s regulatory power nearly a century ago. Beginning the story there, however, misses an important chapter. For decades prior, judges routinely declined to consider apartments undesirable neighboring uses that existing owners could prevent through private law. The legal history of the apartment demonstrates the important interplay between private forms of land use law — nuisance and deed restrictions or covenants — and the ways that these private land use controls influence the evolution of public regulation.

This Article uses a forgotten period in urban development to illustrate the critical interactions among forms of private and public law in identifying the proper subjects of land use control. In the early nineteenth century, a tool blending contract and tort proliferated: the nuisance covenant, a promise transmitted through deeds not to engage in specific noxious uses — an expanding list ranging from slaughterhouses to circuses to tenements — or any use deemed noxious in the future. This innovation offered benefits over covenant and nuisance law independently, as drafters were able to tailor the definition of nuisance while preserving flexibility to prevent unanticipated activities. And yet, the arrival of the apartment exposed the strong pull of traditional nuisance law: judges were hesitant to interpret restrictions to ban this new form of housing associated with the middle and upper classes. Lawyers and developers worked to identify apartments as problematic through newly drafted covenants and the concept of near-nuisance, paralleling arguments that would reemerge decades later as the proponents of zoning contended that it was within the state’s police power to limit apartment construction. Nuisance and covenant law influenced how judges and other parties came to see uses as harmful and anticipated debates about the appropriate scope of regulation. This dialogue between private and public law is echoing in the twenty-first century, and private law continues to form an important, lurking limitation on land use reform.


For the past several years, single-family zoning — local land use rules preventing anything but detached single-family homes from being built in certain geographic districts — has come under sustained attack.1×1. See, e.g., Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen & Michael Lens, It’s Time to End Single-Family Zoning, 86 J. Am. Plan. Assn 106 (2020); Emily Badger & Quoctrung Bui, Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House with a Yard on Every Lot, N.Y. Times (June 18, 2019), https://nyti.ms/37QtS8Z [https://perma.cc/XE6V-QU88]; Tanza Loudenback, America’s Future Depends on the Death of the Single-Family Home, Bus. Insider (Dec. 4, 2017, 1:50 PM), https://www.businessinsider.com/us-housing-crisis-homeownership-single-family-home-2017-12 [https://perma.cc/57B3-H3XH]; Gillian B. White, How Zoning Laws Exacerbate Inequality, The Atlantic (Nov. 23, 2015), https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/11/zoning-laws-and-the-rise-of-economic-inequality/417360 [https://perma.cc/VPH2-PPQC]. This form of zoning is now widely perceived as a contributor to affordable housing crises, racial and economic segregation, environmental damage attending suburban sprawl, and even overall losses to the United States economy.2×2. In addition to the sources cited in the preceding footnote, see John Infranca, The New State Zoning: Land Use Preemption amid a Housing Crisis, 60 B.C. L. Rev. 823, 825–27, 830–32 (2019); David Schleicher, Stuck! The Law and Economics of Residential Stagnation, 127 Yale L.J. 78, 114–15 (2017); Richard C. Schragger, The Attack on American Cities, 96 Tex. L. Rev. 1163, 1201–02 (2018); Gregory H. Shill, Should Law Subsidize Driving?, 95 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 498, 542–43 (2020); Robert C. Ellickson, The Zoning Strait-Jacket: The Freezing of American Neighborhoods of Single-Family Houses 5–6 (Jan. 7, 2020) (unpublished manuscript), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3507803 [https://perma.cc/3NRE-W2NG]. And yet, while state and local legislators from Oregon to Minnesota to California have begun trying to densify housing in America’s cities and suburbs,3×3. See Badger & Bui, supra note 1 (summarizing recent legislative efforts). there remains significant opposition. On August 16, 2020, President Donald Trump and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson published a piece in the Wall Street Journal warning that left-leaning politicians want to “remake the suburbs” by compelling “high-density ‘stack and pack’ apartment buildings in residential neighborhoods.”4×4. Donald J. Trump & Ben Carson, Opinion, We’ll Protect America’s Suburbs, Wall St. J. (Aug. 16, 2020, 4:02 PM), https://www.wsj.com/articles/well-protect-americas-suburbs-11597608133 [https://perma.cc/7GX3-LYL2]. Indeed, apartment buildings and other forms of multifamily housing are ground zero for the debate over zoning.5×5. At the outset, it is worth noting that the definition of “apartment” — as contrasted with other forms of multifamily housing such as duplexes, townhouses, or condominiums — proves somewhat slippery. While a precise definition is not material to this Article (except insofar as it echoes the centuries-old definitional problems described in Part II), the term is typically associated with rooms inside “a building containing several individual apartments” and often with leases rather than another form of ownership interest. Apartment, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apartment [https://perma.cc/T2GD-LQCJ]. Inevitably, when residents or representatives of a single-family neighborhood oppose a change in zoning rules, the apartment is invoked as an inherently harmful neighboring use responsible for traffic, decreased school quality, noise, or a parade of other horribles.6×6. One could probably find a quote from public meetings in many urban and suburban municipalities. See, e.g., Anthony Flint, How to Block Multi-family Housing, Boston-Style, Bloomberg: CityLab (June 19, 2019, 2:59 PM), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-19/how-to-block-multi-family-housing-boston-style [https://perma.cc/9GEX-CB4U] (discussing how ad hoc decisionmaking at city council and town meetings has enabled “NIMBY-minded residents” in the Boston area to delay multifamily housing); Megan McArdle, Why Do People Oppose Development?, The Atlantic (Feb. 15, 2012), https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/why-do-people-oppose-development/253123 [https://perma.cc/HFG6-QYQD] (discussing New York and Washington, D.C.).

One could be forgiven for thinking it has always been this way. In Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co.,7×7. 272 U.S. 365 (1926). the 1926 Supreme Court case upholding zoning as a legitimate use of the state’s regulatory power, the apartment already loomed large.8×8. Id. at 387–88. Although zoning was a substantial incursion on property rights, the majority opinion portrayed regulation as sensible harm prevention: in limiting the apartment to certain areas, for instance, it restricted “a mere parasite, constructed in order to take advantage of the open spaces and attractive surroundings created by the residential character of the district.”9×9. Id. at 394; see also id. at 397. In one of the most famous quotes from the case, the majority suggested that an apartment in a single-family neighborhood “may be merely a right thing in the wrong place, — like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.”10×10. Id. at 388. For further discussion of this phrase’s origins and legacy, see Michael Allan Wolf, The Prescience and Centrality of Euclid v. Ambler, in Zoning and the American Dream: Promises Still to Keep 252, 257–59 (Charles M. Haar & Jerold S. Kayden eds., 1989).

Euclid has spawned hundreds of retrospectives,11×11. For representative examples, see Zoning and the American Dream: Promises Still to Keep, supra note 10; David Callies, Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., in Property Stories 401 (Gerald Korngold & Andrew P. Morriss eds., 2d ed. 2009); Richard H. Chused, Euclid’s Historical Imagery, 51 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 597 (2001); Eric R. Claeys, Essay, Euclid Lives? The Uneasy Legacy of Progressivism in Zoning, 73 Fordham L. Rev. 731 (2004); Charles M. Haar & Michael Allan Wolf, Commentary, Euclid Lives: The Survival of Progressive Jurisprudence, 115 Harv. L. Rev. 2158 (2002); and Gerald Korngold, The Emergence of Private Land Use Controls in Large-Scale Subdivisions: The Companion Story to Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 51 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 617 (2001). and there is wide consensus that the key move in the case was to unmoor the government’s police power from the common law of nuisance.12×12. E.g., Seymour I. Toll, Zoned American 236–38 (1969); Chused, supra note 11, at 610–14; A. Dan Tarlock, Commentary, Euclid Revisited, Land Use L. & Zoning Dig., Jan. 1982, at 4, 7–8; see also Commentary, Village of Euclid v. Ambler: The Bettman Amicus Brief, Plan. & Env’t L., Mar. 2006, at 3, 6–7 (reprinting the arguments in the amicus brief that inspired this move). Nuisance is the property tort involved when “one owner’s use and enjoyment of property [unreasonably] interferes with the use or enjoyment of property by another”;13×13. Maureen E. Brady, Property and Projection, 133 Harv. L. Rev. 1143, 1151 (2020). it conjures images of a polluting factory next to a residential neighborhood.14×14. This is even cited as the canonical example in R.H. Coase, The Problem of Social Cost, 3 J.L. & Econ. 1, 1 (1960). Apartments and other uses targeted by early zoning laws were not generally considered legal nuisances,15×15. See infra notes 220–22 and accompanying text. although the lawyers in Euclid managed to portray them as close enough. The Euclid decision thus scuttled the idea that land use regulation was limited to suppression of legal nuisances, enabling communities through zoning to structure an affirmative concept of the public good. Of course, that public good was often defined by elites hostile to racial minorities,16×16. Richard R.W. Brooks & Carol M. Rose, Saving the Neighborhood: Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms 36 (2013); Sonia A. Hirt, Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation 131 (2014). the poor,17×17. This fact was appreciated even by judges at the time. E.g., Ambler Realty Co. v. Village of Euclid, 297 F. 307, 316 (N.D. Ohio 1924) (“In the last analysis, the result to be accomplished is to classify the population and segregate them according to their income or situation in life.”), rev’d, 272 U.S. 365 (1926); R.B. Constr. Co. v. Jackson, 137 A. 278, 286 (Md. 1927) (Offutt, J., dissenting); Altschuler v. Scott, 137 A. 883, 884 (N.J. 1927) (per curiam); Spann v. City of Dallas, 235 S.W. 513, 516 (Tex. 1921). and even certain women and families,18×18. See State ex rel. Morris v. City of East Cleveland, 31 Ohio Dec. 98, 109–10 (Ct. Com. Pl. 1919) (suggesting zoning would promote childbearing), adhered to on reh’g, 31 Ohio Dec. 197 (Ct. Com. Pl. 1920); see also Sara C. Bronin, Zoning for Families, 95 Ind. L.J. 1, 4–13 (2020) (describing effects of cohabitation limitations in zoning); Kate Redburn, Note, Zoned Out: How Zoning Law Undermines Family Law’s Functional Turn, 128 Yale L.J. 2412, 2430–31 (2019) (same). and it carried the widespread economic and social consequences we now know.19×19. See, e.g., Schleicher, supra note 2, at 103 & n.101.

In this Article, I argue that an important preceding development foreshadowed the outcome in Euclid, one that conventional land use histories have ignored. And this important development occurred in an unexpected spot: not within constitutional jurisprudence, nor within natural law or political theory, but rather deep within private law, at the intersection of property, contract, and tort. Using perennially underappreciated source material — specifically, deeds and scattered state cases20×20. Cf. Maureen E. Brady, The Forgotten History of Metes and Bounds, 128 Yale L.J. 872, 878–79 (2019) (noting that “records of private land are ‘widely scattered and difficult of access’” (quoting Robert P. McIntosh, The Forest Cover of the Catskill Mountain Region, New York, as Indicated by Land Survey Records, 68 Am. Midland Naturalist 409, 410 (1962))). — this Article demonstrates that cracks in the dominance of nuisance law were forming and widening for nearly a century by the time Euclid was argued. The idea that communities could redefine tort law baselines to prevent harm accelerated in the 1820s through a curious feature straddling contract and property law: the “nuisance covenant.”21×21. Some nuisance covenants have been noted in passing in legal and other scholarship, albeit without recognition of the category. See, e.g., Brooks & Rose, supra note 16, at 48; Mike Wallace, Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, at 259 (2017) (mentioning a development in 1900 that “barred saloons, factories, and tenements”); Clayton P. Gillette, Courts, Covenants, and Communities, 61 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1375, 1401–02 (1994); Patricia Burgess Stach, Deed Restrictions and Subdivision Development in Columbus, Ohio, 1900–1970, 15 J. Urb. Hist. 42, 47 (1988). This Article tells the story of the rise and fall of the nuisance covenant toward three different ends: (1) to illustrate how developers and owners used this hybrid legal device to prevent unwanted uses that tort and contract law could not independently exclude from neighborhoods; (2) to indicate how these covenants came to communicate strong messages about the nature of unwanted uses across time and place; and (3) to show how and why the nuisance covenant proved ill-equipped to confront a new land use challenge — the apartment building — and how both its failures and its legacies ultimately shaped the push for formal zoning regulation.

The term “nuisance covenant” requires an initial definition. Al-though the word “covenant” brings to mind both biblical allusions and nightmares from first-year property courses,22×22. See, e.g., Jeremiah 31:30–33; Law School Memes for Edgy T14s, Facebook (Apr. 17, 2019), https://www.facebook.com/groups/lsm4et14s/?post_id=820876398269822 [https://perma.cc/LU2U-GCM4]. covenants are at base voluntary agreements (thus like contracts) that run with the land, rather than attaching to a specific person or owner (thus bearing the in rem quality of property).23×23. See Covenant, Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). Covenants are also called deed restrictions,24×24. See Paige Glotzer, How the Suburbs Were Segregated: Developers and the Business of Exclusionary Housing, 1890–1960, at 8 (2020) (“The first was deed restrictions, which also became known as restrictive covenants.”). and they are subject to a number of highly technical and bewildering rules largely irrelevant to the purposes of this Article.25×25. For discussion of these rules (and an indication of the frustration they have caused for commentators), see generally Susan F. French, Toward a Modern Law of Servitudes: Reweaving the Ancient Strands, 55 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1261 (1982). Instead, this Article’s focus is on the emergence of the legal device its nineteenth-century contemporaries called the “covenant against nuisances.”26×26. A few recent cases adopt the term “nuisance covenant” for these provisions, e.g., Bedows v. Hoffman, No. 4-16-0146, 2016 WL 6906744, at *2 (Ill. App. Ct. Nov. 22, 2016); Buck Hill Falls Co. v. Press, 791 A.2d 392, 395 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2002), though in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the term “covenant against nuisances” appears to have been more common, e.g., Van Vliet & Place, Inc. v. Gaines, 162 N.E. 600, 601 (N.Y. 1928); Isaacs v. Schmuck, 156 N.E. 621, 624 (N.Y. 1927); Dieterlen v. Miller, 99 N.Y.S. 699, 700 (App. Div. 1906); Burk v. Kahn, 22 Pa. D. 331, 337 (Ct. Com. Pl. 1913). The nuisance covenant usually combined two features: a list of specific objectionable uses (such as “slaughterhouses” or “iron factories”) and a clause banning all “nuisance” or “noxious” uses (or some similar term).27×27. See infra section I.B, pp. 1623–29. It came to pervade nineteenth- and twentieth-century deeds,28×28. A full empirical study of the frequency of nuisance covenants would require poring over disaggregated land records, with no means of locating which deeds have restrictions using the dominant form of search (by name index). Accordingly, the information in this Article comes from a more qualitative review of covenants discussed in two different types of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century cases in all jurisdictions: (1) cases involving the breach or attempted breach of a covenant, and (2) cases in which buyers tried to get out of real estate sales contracts on the grounds that title was “unmarketable” because of an undisclosed encumbrance (such as a covenant discovered after the proposed sale). It additionally draws upon contemporary writings and meetings of real estate lawyers, developers, and planners about covenant and land use practice. In support of the claim that nuisance covenants were quite ubiquitous, it is notable that this form of promise earned its own term of art (“the covenant against nuisances”), but moreover, some contemporary commenters made note of its frequency. E.g., Salter S. Clark, A Text-Book on Commercial Law 224 (New York, Maynard, Merrill & Co. 1882) (“Deeds not infrequently contain other covenants with various objects. One, sometimes found in deeds of city lands and called a covenant against nuisances . . . .”); Adolph Sieker, Restrictive Covenants and Building Agreements, 6 Bench & Bar New Series, pt. 2, at 96, 98 (1913) (referring to “the usual covenant against nuisances”); Wm. Huntsman Williams, Restrictive Covenants, 21 Law. & Banker & Cent. L.J. 174, 174 (1928) (describing “the covenant against nuisances” as the “most ordinary covenant we meet” in lists of frequently occurring provisions). was cataloged in multiple books of legal forms,29×29. See Benjamin Vaughan Abbott & Austin Abbott, Clerks’ and Conveyancers’ Assistant: A Collection of Forms of Conveyancing, Contracts, and Legal Proceedings 300–01 (New York, Baker, Voorhis & Co. 1875); Gerry W. Beyer, 19 West’s Legal Forms: Real Estate Transactions § 25:30 (2020), Westlaw WEST-LF. Claims that nuisance covenants had been breached also appeared in published forms of pleadings. See, e.g., 1 Austin Abbott & Carlos C. Alden, Forms of Pleading in Actions for Legal or Equitable Relief 633–34 (New York, Baker, Voorhis & Co. 2d ed. 1925); 1 Morris M. Estee, Practice, Pleading and Forms in Actions Both Legal and Equitable 658 (San Francisco, H.H. Bancroft & Co. 1870). and persisted well into the World War II era in lists of recommended deed provisions promulgated by the Federal Housing Administration and the consortium of suburban developers forming the Urban Land Institute.30×30. See Fed. Hous. Admin., Planning Profitable Neighborhoods 34 (1938); Cmty. Builders’ Council, Urb. Land Inst., The Community Builders Handbook app. A, at 176 (1st rev. prtg. 1948). And as this Article will explore, the decades of litigation over these covenants had effects on both ordinary nuisance law and the debates over property regulation.

This Article proceeds in four parts. Part I identifies and traces the history of the nuisance covenant. To set the stage, it discusses the early uses of deed restrictions in land planning. Most work on covenants has focused on two features: the role of covenants in establishing suburbs and homeowners’ associations,31×31. For examples of both recent and foundational scholarship on the suburb and homeowners’ association, see Robert M. Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares: Suburbia, 1870–1930 (2005); Glotzer, supra note 24; Marc A. Weiss, The Rise of the Community Builders: The American Real Estate Industry and Urban Land Planning (1987); Robert C. Ellickson, Cities and Homeowners Associations, 130 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1519 (1982); Lee Anne Fennell, Contracting Communities, 2004 U. Ill. L. Rev. 829; Gillette, supra note 21; Robert C. Ellickson, Stale Real Estate Covenants (Aug. 21, 2020) (unpublished manuscript), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3678927 [https://perma.cc/DX5L-Y7FY]. Suburbanization was of course facilitated by public law, too. See, e.g., Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States 190–218 (1985) (describing how federal policy helped subsidize suburban sprawl). or the (quite related) use of racial covenants in deeds meant to exclude Black residents from owning or leasing property.32×32. See Brooks & Rose, supra note 16; Kevin McGruder, Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem, 1890–1920, at 62–96 (2015); Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America 77–91 (2017). While both these innovations are deserving of the attention and criticism they have received, the earlier history of the covenant reveals a forgotten battleground: the use of covenants to evade technical hurdles in bringing nuisance cases, a tactical choice with unexpected consequences. By inscribing nuisance into deed restrictions, it turns out, owners achieved myriad new capacities to control neighboring land uses that helped them escape limitations imposed by both tort law and covenant law taken independently. The open-ended terms “noxious” and “nuisance” could encompass uses not yet known by the covenant drafter despite the rule that covenants were to be strictly interpreted as restraints on free use. Far more importantly, breach of the nuisance covenant proved injury without need for the affected owners to reach a certain threshold of damage, an imposing barrier to nuisance plaintiffs. This legal device expanded owner capacity to control neighboring use types at a time when residents were seeking more separation between work and home — and also new forms of separation along class lines.

Part II moves to a period in which nuisance covenants came under greater stress and scrutiny: perhaps predictably, with the rise of the apartment building. While nuisance covenants had operated with relative consistency up until that point, the apartment disrupted them almost immediately, as judges refused to find that these new uses fit within the nuisance prohibitions that had helped to control and protect residential areas. Over several decades, landowners tried and failed to prevent apartments with covenant law, a strategy simultaneously pursued with mixed effect to stop new uses associated with the car and new forms of work and business taking place inside the residence.

Part III turns to parallel developments in public law, both caused and influenced by this private law history. In waging the fight against apartments under covenant law, owners and attorneys developed a set of arguments about nuisance’s mutability: combining a freedom-of-contract sensibility with underlying tort law principles, they argued that harms could be affirmatively declared ahead of time, not merely recognized once underway. Of course, the failure of these arguments paved the way for zoning regulation; the inability of covenants to prevent apartments acted as a rallying cry for Progressive-era advocates of zoning ordinances. Moreover, though, these arguments made to expand the reach of covenants paralleled those that would be made to support the constitutionality of zoning in Euclid. Indeed, by the time of that case, members of the real estate bar had been trying to use contracts to tweak the definition of nuisance for a hundred years.33×33. In this sense, this Article adheres to a longer tradition of examining how new legal rules and ideas crystallize through the practice of ordinary lawyers, even if those lawyers did not see themselves as agents of significant change. See, e.g., S.F.C. Milsom, A Natural History of the Common Law 1–23 (2003). One hears echoes of the earlier debates involving nuisance covenants in the arguments made by proponents of zoning, as concepts like “near-nuisance” and “noxious non-nuisance” would become constitutional canon when Euclid recognized these uses as within the state’s regulatory reach. Without intending to minimize the significance of the leap from private covenants to prospective regulation, examining the debates over the apartment reflects existing tensions about the role nuisance law should play in evaluating how private parties and government representatives attempted to regulate land use. In covenant law, these arguments met a different fate than they would in the public law context.

Part IV examines the conceptual and practical significance of this account. First, it examines how covenants and deed restrictions transmitted prevailing conceptions of harmful land uses among developers, owners, lawyers, and judges, helping to shape norms surrounding reasonable uses in residential neighborhoods. Second, it considers what this dialogue between private and public law reveals about the relationship between these arenas. The stories of the apartment and the nuisance covenant indicate how private law developments may affect perceptions of what is reasonable and harmful in property law and what counts as a legitimate exercise of government power. Private law exists behind and in tandem with public regulation in ways to which those focused on zoning reform should be attentive.

* Assistant Professor of Law, Harvard Law School. This paper has benefited from workshop par-ticipants in the Harvard Law School Faculty Workshop, Duke University School of Law Faculty Workshop, Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Workshop, Southern Methodist University Law School Faculty Workshop, Harvard Private Law Workshop, Yale Law School Property Seminar, and the Boston Area Juniors’ Roundtable. I am grateful for comments from Jack Brady, Danielle D’Onfro, Bob Ellickson, John Goldberg, Debbie Hellman, John Infranca, Liz Papp Kamali, Noah Kazis, Cynthia Nicoletti, Claire Priest, Carol Rose, Rich Schragger, Joe Singer, Henry Smith, Kristen Stilt, and Rory Van Loo and helpful discussions with Niko Bowie, Ben Eidelson, Chris Essert, Dan Farbman, Nolan Gray, Hiba Hafiz, Claudia Haupt, Louis Kaplow, Larissa Katz, Anna Lvovsky, Kevin Lyons, Phillip Morgan, Portia Pedro, Ezra Rosser, Blaine Saito, Stephen Smith, Lyle Solla-Yates, James Stern, Rebecca Tushnet, and David Waddilove. Chris Hall, Juan Palacio Moreno, Sasha Peters, Ross Slaughter, Natassia Velez, and the librarians at Harvard Law School provided outstanding research assistance, particularly in the midst of a pandemic that substantially increased the difficulty of acquiring materials. Lastly, I am indebted to the editors of the Harvard Law Review for their editorial suggestions. In memory of Anne Fleming, a role model for kindness and enthusiasm both in her love for those corners of private law that others might find dry and in her treatment of the everyday characters that form its history.