Stevens: Loser in property case 'disgruntled'
Plaintiff in 'adverse posession' claim speaks out for first time
By Heath Urie Saturday, November 17, 2007
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A Boulder couple forced to give up a third of their land because they weren't "attached" enough to it are making a public issue of their case simply because they're unhappy with their loss in court, according to one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
"They lost the case, and they are disgruntled litigants," Edith Stevens said Friday.
The comment was the first time Stevens has spoken publicly about the case, in which she and her husband, Richard McLean — a former district court judge and former Boulder mayor — used the legal concept of "adverse possession" to take control of 34 percent of Don and Susie Kirlin's property by essentially arguing they used the land uncontested for almost 25 years. Stevens and McLean said they needed the vacant lot to access their backyard.
A judge decided last month the Kirlins were less attached to the land and awarded it to Stevens and McLean.
Stevens declined to be interviewed further than her brief statement.
Susie Kirlin said she was "surprised" that she agreed with Stevens' assessment.
"If she's saying we're not happy we lost the case, she's absolutely right," Kirlin said. "If she's saying they deserve this land, we strongly disagree."
The Camera learned Friday that Stevens has resigned from her role on the Friends of Boulder Open Space board of directors because of the vitriolic response she and her husband have received from the public over their adverse-possession lawsuit.
Stevens helped found the organization in 2006, board member Raymond Bridge said, and resigned about two weeks ago. According to the group's Web site, its mission is to "promote smart, sensible, conservation-first management of our public lands."
Bridge said Stevens told him she felt she no longer would be able to help further the group's goals after Camera columnist Bob Greenlee first wrote about the lawsuit.
"The hoopla about the Greenlee column has just made her feel that she can't be effective in a lot of other areas, and that it's a distraction — which is clear in this case," Bridge said.
Bridge said Stevens was "certainly not being pressured" to resign by any members of the open space group.
Other friends of Stevens and McLean say the couple has been vilified for bringing the lawsuit.
State Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, hired Stevens — former chairwoman of the Boulder Democratic Party — to work as her campaign treasurer during the 2006 election.
Levy said she has received e-mails from "a handful" of constituents asking her to "disassociate" herself with Stevens after details of the lawsuit became public.
"They've asked me to sever my association with (Stevens) because they're concluding she must have bad character for exercising her legal rights," Levy said. "I think the response is very emotional — that's clear."
She said it is unfair for outsiders to judge McLean and Stevens for their actions without knowing them.
"I don't really think it's fair for perfect strangers to draw conclusions about another person's character based on reports in the media about a lawsuit," Levy said. "There are all kinds of assumptions about their motivations and about improper influence, and all of that is just pure speculation by complete strangers."
Susie Kirlin said she's heard that some people critical of the outcome of the lawsuit plan to meet at the open space property near the disputed land — in the 2000 block of Hardscrabble Drive — at noon Sunday for a "picnic and protest."
The Kirlins are finding themselves inundated with requests for news interviews, attorneys wanting to take on their case, public-relations firms wanting to represent the family and Boulder residents offering to help or donate money to a legal-defense fund.
"The phone just never stops ringing," Susie Kirlin said. "I just can't believe how wonderful people have been."
The Kirlins have spent this week interviewing attorneys to represent their appeal, which they expect to file sometime next week.