1. Is the Hunter opinion binding on the courts of another state deciding a case with similar facts? Would it matter whether the other court was a trial or an appellate court?
2. After Hunter v. Montour is decided, Owen Owner sues Mo Montour for the buck that the result in the Hunter opinion permitted him to keep. May Owen do so?
3. Suppose that Owner’s land abutted not a road, but Larry Lander’s land, and the buck escaped Owner and ran onto Larry’s land. Would the Hunter opinion prevent Owner from pursuing the buck there?
1. The Hunter opinion is not binding on the courts of any other jurisdiction. It does not matter whether the other court is a trial court or an appellate court. The Hunter opinion is binding as legal precedent on all state courts in the State of Grace. The opinion is useful in other states, however, as persuasive authority. A judge in another state may read the opinion for its logic and reasoning, and may decide to agree with the Hunter opinion and adopt its reasoning as the judge’s own.
2. Yes. Owen Owner’s rights, including the right to sue, are unaffected by a lawsuit to which he was not made a party. If the court never gained jurisdiction over Owner, its judgment does not bind him. As the facts are stated in the opinion, for example, it is unclear whether Owen’s lands were posted, and so it is also unclear whether Mo and Alex were trespassers at the time of the hunt and the kill. Whether Mo was a trespasser would affect his rights to the buck. Moreover, the effect of any trespass, if found, would make the case sufficiently different from the precedent established in the Hunter opinion, so even if found to be binding on the court in which Owner sues, it need not control the outcome of Owner’s suit.
3. Once Owen Owner joins the hunt, as the opinion suggested in dicta, his trespass on the land of another might well prevent him from obtaining legal possession of the buck. The discussion in Hunter as to Owner is dicta, and while persuasive authority to courts in the state of Grace, it is still merely persuasive and not binding authority. Moreover, the Hunter dicta may not apply to Owner’s situation perfectly. For example, Owen might be asserting not only his right to hunt, but also his right to take game from his own lands and, by extension of that right, to take game found on his land that, when pursued there, went elsewhere. If Larry’s land were posted, that might prevent Mo and Alex from starting their hunt there, but might not prevent Owen from continuing an ongoing hunt there, pursuing an already wounded animal. So Owen Owner’s position is distinguishable from Alex and Mo’s: Owner is participating in a hunt that started rightfully, while Alex and Mo’s hunt was tainted, with regard to Owner’s rights, from the moment they entered the boundaries of Owner’s land. Property rights are relative to the rights of other people, particularly people finding themselves in a context laden with facts. However, if Larry Lander’s land was posted—i.e., had signs saying “No trespassing or hunting: Keep out”—the posting would affect Owner’s rights.