A Tribute to Thanassi: The Influence of Justinian on
American Common Law Property
Sally Brown Richardson*
“The civil law is beautiful” was a favorite saying of my colleague,
mentor, and friend A.N. “Thanassi” Yiannopoulos.1 When any perceived
“ugliness” of the common law reared its head in Louisiana, Thanassi was
quick to point it out.2 He tirelessly worked with the Louisiana State Law
Institute to update Louisiana laws while maintaining a strong devotion to
the state’s civilian heritage.3
When Louisiana law students today hear “the civil law is beautiful,” it
is usually in the context of the civil law being used as a shield from the
encroaching common law. It is worth remembering, though, that Thanassi’s
favorite phrase is also a sword. The civil law has long influenced the
common law, providing much of the foundation for common law doctrines.
One area in which this influence is particularly evident is the subject to
which Thanassi devoted much of his academic life: property law.
The civil law’s impact on American property law may not at first be
apparent. Civil law property and common law property are structured very
differently.4 How things are classified—be they, for example, movable or
Copyright 2018, by SALLY BROWN RICHARDSON.
* Charles E. Lugenbuhl Associate Professor of Law, Tulane University
Law School. The author thanks James Gordley and Ronald J. Scalise, Jr. for
providing helpful critiques of this essay. All views and any errors herein are solely
attributable to the author.
1. See A.N. Yiannopoulos, On the Bicentenary of the Louisiana Supreme
Court: Chronicle of the Crea tion of a Unique a nd Beautiful Legal Tradition, 74
LA. L. REV. 649, 651 (2014).
2. E.g., A.N. YIANNOPOULOS, PROPERTY § 13:16, in 2 LOUISIANA CIVIL
LAW TREATISE (5th ed. 2015) [hereinafter Y IANNOPOULOS, PROPERTY]; A.N.
YIANNOPOULOS, PREDIAL SERVITUDES §§ 3:14, 3:33, in 3 LOUISIANA CIVIL LAW
TREATISE (4th ed. 2013).
3. See Tyler G. Storms, Inter view with Professor A.N. Yiannopoulos:
Louisiana’s Most Influential Jurist in Our Time, 64 LA. B.J. 24, 25–26 (2016);
Jeanne Louise Carriere, From Status to Person in Book I, Title 1 of the Civil Code,
73 TUL. L. REV. 1263, 1264–66 (1999).
4. YIANNOPOULOS, PROPERTY, supra note 2, § 11:6; Yun-chien Chang &
Henry E. Smith, An Economic Analysis of Civil Versus Common Law Property, 88
NOTRE DAME L. REV. 1, 1 (2012).