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Tapping the Scales of Justice - A Dose of Connecticut Legal History


A Case of Tories, Treasure, and Trespass
When does "finders keepers, losers weepers" not apply?

Patriots tearing down the statue of King George IIIIn 1978, a case concerning a pre-Revolutionary statue of King George III found its way to the Connecticut Supreme Court. Back in 1776, patriots celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence demolished the King's statue where it stood in lower Manhattan. The patriots' plan was to deliver the statue pieces to Oliver Wolcott's foundry in Litchfield. There the gilded lead pieces would be made into bullets. Enroute, the patriot group stopped in Wilton, and while they were busy drinking, loyalists managed to steal back pieces of the statue and scattered them throughout an area known as Davis Swamp.

There the pieces remained until 1972 when Louis Miller, armedRevolutionary War Drums with information from the Wilton Historical Society, entered onto land owned by Fred S. Favorite. Using a metal detector, Miller found a piece of the statue buried ten inches below the ground. When Favorite sued Miller for return of the statue fragment, the trial court focused on the issue of whether the statue piece was property that had been lost, abandoned, or mislaid. The trial court found the piece to be mislaid property and ruled that, under the law, it should be returned to the landowner Favorite. 

On appeal, the defendant Miller characterized himself as a "selfless seeker after knowledge" and argued that as a "finder" he was entitled to keep the statue piece. The Connecticut Supreme Court was not persuaded by Miller's arguments. The Court noted that Miller was not claiming the statue to be "treasure trove" and ruled that Miller's trespass defeated any claim to the property that he might have had as a finder.

See: Favorite v. Miller, 176 Conn. 310 (1978)

Dose of Connecticut Legal History