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November 1st, 2011 — By — In News & Events

Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference Makes Its International Debut in Beijing

i-random5The Eighth Annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference completed its international debut on October 15, 2011 in China. Legal scholars, jurists, and practitioners from the United States and China converged at Tsinghua University in Beijing to discuss and debate the evolution of property rights on a global scale. The Owners’ Counsel of America is pleased that our Member-attorneys were invited to participate in this prestigious event.

Owners’ Counsel Member, Joseph T. Waldo of Waldo & Lyle, P.C. in Norfolk, Virginia, was on the Conference Planning Committee and moderated three Conference panels. It was his vision to bring the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference, usually held at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia, to an international stage: “The Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference is our nation’s only conference that focuses on the interplay of our civil rights to our property rights. This topic is becoming increasingly important worldwide. Because China is in the process of developing new property rights protections, it was the ideal venue for this year’s conference.” One of the major successes of the Conference, he contends, was that it “placed global emphasis on the important role property rights play in our societies and in each person’s individual liberty.”

During the two-day conference, as Chinese scholars discussed the impacts of China’s new, formal recognition of private property rights, Robert Thomas, Owners’ Counsel Hawaii Member, blogged live from Beijing. Thomas, a Director at Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert in Honolulu, commented, “…this is a propitious time to have this conference, and have it here.” Following the first panels, he wrote of his surprise that the Chinese panelists were so frank: “My impression was that it was not acceptable to make express criticism of the government, and even that there might be repercussions for doing so. But apparently, the ability of academics, at least, to say what they think, some of them quite critical of existing policies or actions, would be recognizable to western faculty schooled in the tradition of academic independence.”

Panelist and Owners’ Counsel Florida Member, Andrew Brigham of Brigham Moore, LLP in Jacksonville, remarked, “While there continues to exist significant contrasts in the structure of government between the U.S. and China, private property ownership appears to be a cornerstone in China’s recent reforms.” Brigham continued, “China, however, will have to build for itself a paradigm for property rights that is truly Chinese given this time and place in the country’s emergence as a global leader.”

Other Owners’ Counsel eminent domain attorneys who participate in the Beijing Conference included Alan Ackerman (Michigan), James Thompson (Maryland), Leslie Fields (Colorado), and James Burling of the Pacific Legal Foundation. Mr. Ackerman shared the stage with China’s most revered panelist, Ping Jiang, the former president of China’s University of Political Science and Law in a panel that focused upon Justice O’Connor’s property rights decisions. Mr. Thompson and Ms. Fields brought the eminent domain lawyer’s point of view to light in a roundtable discussion entitled “How Practitioners Shape the Law;” while, Mr. Burling discussed the relationship between property rights and the environment.

The 2011 Brigham-Kanner Prize was awarded to retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. In light of China’s new and increasing protections of property rights, Justice O’Connor was a fitting choice for this year’s Prize. As China begins to acknowledge and emphasize the importance of property rights, Justice O’Connor may be seen as an exemplar: it is possible for views and opinions on property rights to improve with time. Although Justice O’Connor was unable to be present in China, she graciously accepted the award in absentia with videotaped remarks. (Watch Justice O’Connor’s speech on YouTube here.)

Justice O’connor discussed the United States’ history of property rights protections, China’s emerging laws, and her own property rights decisions. Justice O’Connor concluded her remarks with the hope “that we will all continue to develop mechanisms for preserving rights in property for the benefit of all.”

Conference proceedings and related articles will be included in the inaugural Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference Journal, the first volume of which will be published in 2012 by The Property Rights Project of William & Mary Law School. The 2011 Beijing Conference was an exciting and informative conference, heralded by all as a success. The Owners’ Counsel of America enjoyed the pleasure of participating in it and we look forward to attending the 2012 Conference.

View a post-conference video prepared by William & Mary Law School here.