Top 25 Most Cited Real Property Law Articles Published in the Last 25 Years — Ted Sichelman

Post by Ted Sichelman

A description of the methodology used to construct this list follows the table.

No Count Author(s) Title (HeinOnline version) Citation Free Version
1 427 Harris, Cheryl I. Whiteness As Property [article] 106 Harv. L. Rev. 1707 (1993) 1
2 406 Heller, Michael A. Tragedy of the Anticommons: Property in the Transition from Marx to Markets, The [article] 111 Harv. L. Rev. 621 (1998) 2
3 335 Ellickson, Robert C. Property in Land [article] 102 Yale L.J. 1315 (1993) 3
4 278 Merrill, Thomas W.; Smith, Henry E. Optimal Standardization in the Law of Property: The Numerus Clausus Principle [article] 110 Yale L.J. 1 (2000) 4
5 257 Sax, Joseph L. Property Rights and the Economy of Nature: Understanding Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council [article] 45 Stan. L. Rev. 1433 (1993) 5
6 221 Merrill, Thomas W. Property and the Right to Exclude [comments] 77 Neb. L. Rev. 730 (1998) 6
7 206 Rubenfeld, Jed Usings [article] 102 Yale L.J. 1077 (1993) 7
8 199 Rose, Carol M. Several Futures of Property: Of Cyberspace and Folk Tales, Emission Trades and Ecosystems, The [comments] 83 Minn. L. Rev. 129 (1998) 8
9 173 Heller, Michael A. Boundaries of Private Property, The [article] 108 Yale L.J. 1163 (1999) 9
10 171 Merrill, Thomas W.; Smith, Henry E. Property/Contract Interface, The [article] 101 Colum. L. Rev. 773 (2001) 10
11 169 Merrill, Thomas W. Landscape of Constitutional Property, The [article] 86 Va. L. Rev. 885 (2000)
12 167 Hart, John F. Colonial Land Use Law and its Significance for Modern Takings Doctrine [article] 109 Harv. L. Rev. 1252 (1996)
13 166 Penner, J.E. Bundle of Rights Picture of Property, The [article] 43 UCLA L. Rev. 711 (1996)
14 159 Epstein, Richard A. Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council: A Tangled Web of Expectations [article] 45 Stan. L. Rev. 1369 (1993) 14
14 159 Been, Vicki Locally Undesirable Land Uses in Minority Neighborhoods: Disproportionate Siting or Market Dynamics [article] 103 Yale L.J. 1383 (1994)
16 155 Singer, Joseph William No Right to Exclude: Public Accommodations and Private Property [article] 90 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1283 (1996) 16
17 143 Singer, Joseph William Sovereignty and Property [article] 86 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1 (1991)
18 141 Thompson, Barton H. Jr. Judicial Takings [article] 76 Va. L. Rev. 1449 (1990)
19 133 Merrill, Thomas W.; Smith, Henry E. What Happened to Property in Law and Economics [comments] 111 Yale L.J. 357 (2001) 19
20 122 Rose, Carol M. Canons of Property Talk, or, Blackstone’s Anxiety [comments] 108 Yale L.J. 601 (1998) 20
21 114 Rose, Carol M. Property as the Keystone Right [article] 71 Notre Dame L. Rev. 329 (1996) 21
22 112 Smith, Henry E. Exclusion and Property Rules in the Law of Nuisance [article] 90 Va. L. Rev. 965 (2004) 22
23 111 Sax, Joseph L. Constitution, Property Rights and the Future of Water Law, The [article] 61 U. Colo. L. Rev. 257 (1990) 23
24 106 Alexander, Gregory S. Social-Obligation Norm in American Property Law, The [article] 94 Cornell L. Rev. 745 (2009) 24
25 105 Mossoff, Adam What Is Property – Putting the Pieces Back Together [article] 45 Ariz. L. Rev. 371 (2003) 25

[Editor’s note: freely available versions added where possible]

I first performed a search in HeinOnline to retrieve all law journal articles published since 1990, ordered by citation count. Then, I reviewed the title of the top 2000 most-cited articles and the content of those articles that could plausibly be classified in the area of “real property,” including theory. I excluded articles primarily in wills & trusts, intellectual property, and remedies (including the related property-liability rule literature), as I plan to construct separate most-cited lists for these fields. However, I included constitutional law and land use articles with a heavy emphasis on real property issues (even though these areas are ones that technically sound in “public law”). Of course, some of these determinations required judgment, but no more than a few of the articles were close calls in my view.

Note that the citation counts only reflect citations to published law review articles, and not books, cases, practitioner materials, unpublished articles, non-law articles, and other sources. As a check for my earlier post, Most Cited Private Law Articles Published in the Last 25 Years, I ran about ten articles through Lexis and generally found the citation counts on HeinOnline were within 15% of those tabulated in Lexis’s “Law Review and Journals” category, so it does not appear that the rankings would change much using Lexis. (Indeed, using Lexis for this sort of study would be nearly impossible to do from scratch, as there is no simple way to re-order the result list by citation count on Lexis, or Google Scholar for that matter. WestlawNext does allow re-ordering of results by citation count but does not display the actual citation count in the initial result list, making it too time-consuming to use.)

Last, I only report total citations, which biases the rankings towards older articles. However, I plan to update this list annually, so more recent articles that are highly cited will appear in later iterations.

I apologize in advance for any errors or omissions—if you believe an article should be included, please let me know (, and I’ll do my best to promptly make any deserving corrections.


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