The Volokh Conspiracy

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Michael Gruen Played An Important Role in Three Prominent Property Cases

Penn Central, Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corporation, and Gruen v. Gruen


Several leading property casebooks include Gruen v. Gruen, a New York Court of Appeals decision from 1986. In this case, Victor Gruen owned a valuable Gustav Klimt painting, "Schloss Kammer am Attersee II." Victor conveyed an interest in the painting to his son, though Victor would keep the painting during his life. After Victor's death, his wife, Kemija Gruen, refused to give the painting to her stepson, Michael. Kemija argued that the conveyance was invalid testamentary gift. Michael, who was an attorney, litigated the case pro se, and he prevailed. The New York Court of Appeals held that the father's conveyance was a valid inter vivos gift of a future interest in the painting.

Schloss Kammer am Attersee II

And thus, Michael Gruen secured his place in the property law canon. But he did much, much more.

Gruen helped to draft the landmark preservation laws that the Supreme Court were upheld in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978). And he argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the petitioner in Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corporation, opposite Erwin Griswold.

One person was at the center of three prominent property cases. And his side won all three cases!