The following questions were adapted from various Harvard Law School First-Year Contracts examinations of the past. The questions are reproduced almost exactly as they actually appeared, with only slight changes to the facts. The sample answers are not “official” and represent merely one approach to handling the questions.
David Dole, owner of 75,000 acres of forest land in Dover County, Maine, had attempted for several years without success to persuade state and local authorities to purchase the tract as a wildlife refuge. He was approached by Paul Pinsky, a prominent producer of motion pictures and creator of an entertainment park in California known as Pinsky Land. Pinsky said that he saw great possibilities in Dole’s tract of land as a ski area if properly developed with access roads, motels and a summer resort, and if several hundred cottages were built for rental. However, extensive surveys would be needed before he would want to buy. Dole explained that the taxes assessed against the property were delinquent, and that the 2010 tax would be payable Dec. 11, 2010. Dole added: “I simply have to bail out by then.” Dole then prepared and gave Pinsky the following document:
Oct. 9, 2010
I hereby give Paul Pinsky the privilege of entering my land in Dover County, Maine to survey and map it as a recreation area. I will sell him the whole tract of 75,000 acres for $7.5 million, provided he accepts this offer by giving me a certified check for $750,000 on or before Dec. 4, 2010.
/s/ Paul Dole
Pinsky sent a crew of surveyors and architects to the Dover County tract, where they worked for four weeks, at a cost to Pinsky of $100,000. Their activities became widely known and on Nov. 12, a group of five wealthy owners of land in Maine approached Dole, who informed them of his offer to Pinsky. They persuaded Dole that the land should be preserved unspoiled if possible. During the next two weeks the five secured pledges totaling $10 million from 500 persons, and on Nov. 30 the five gave Dole a check for $1 million and jointly signed a promissory note for the remaining $9 million. Dole then executed a conveyance of the 75,000 acre tract to the Wilderness Society, a non-profit corporation whose charter authorizes it “to receive and hold land that is still preserved in or can revert to its natural state and to dispose of such holdings only on such terms as will insure that its natural state is preserved so far as possible.”
On Dec. 1, 2010, Pinsky called from California to Dole’s home in Webster, Mass., gave his name, and said, “I have a $750,000 check for Mr. Dole. Where shall I mail it?” Acting on instruction from Dole, his wife replied, “He has moved. I don’t know where he is.” Pinsky arrived in Webster on Dec. 2 with a $750,000 check in his pocket. He inquired around the city and was told that Dole was last seen leaving town by bus with a lot of camping gear. Pinsky, in hot and continuous pursuit, proceeded to the Dover County tract and after searching through the forest finally found Dole in a secluded cabin on Dec. 6. Pinsky said: “Mr. Dole, I believe. Here is your check, well within your Dec. 11 tax deadline.” Pinsky tendered a $750,000 certified check but Dole refused to accept it. Pinsky now consults your law firm. The senior partner instructs you to “prepare a memorandum discussing the legal and equitable remedies Pinsky may have against Dole and the Wilderness Society, and stating your best judgment of the likelihood of success concerning each possible remedy.” Write the memorandum.