October 28th, 2016 — By — In News & Events

Owners’ Counsel Participates in International Property Rights Conference

During a ceremony at The Peace Palace in The Hague on October 21, the 2016 the 2016 Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize was awarded to Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, President of the Institute of Liberty and Democracy. An advocate for the formal recognition of private property ownership as a solution to global poverty, de Soto has been recognized internationally for his work. The Prize was awarded following the conclusion of the 13th Annual Brigham-Kanner International Property Rights Conference in which a number of OCA attorneys participated.

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto

International Property Rights Conference at the World Court and Seat of International Law

The 13th Annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference took place October 19-21, 2016 in The Hague, The Netherlands. The Conference is sponsored by the William & Mary Law School Property Rights Project and was presented in cooperation with the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden Law School. This is the second time the Conference was hosted outside of the United States. In 2011, the Conference took place in Beijing, China. (Read more about the 2011 Conference here.)

Annually, William & Mary’s Property Rights Project recognizes the outstanding contributions of a single individual to the field of property rights scholarship by awarding the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize during the Conference. Both the Conference and Prize are named in recognition of retired eminent domain and property rights attorneys Toby Prince Brigham and Gideon Kanner for their lifetime contributions to preserving the important role that property ownership plays in protecting individual liberties and civil rights.


Scholarly Discussions on Intellectual Property Rights

During the international three-day symposium, nine Owners’ Counsel lawyers spoke on a number of panels and a variety of topics, including rising seas and property rights, international property rights jurisprudence, protection of cultural and heritage property and intellectual and non-tangible property rights.

Property rights attorney and OCA Hawaii Member, Robert Thomas, and fellow panelists examines the relationship of property to individual liberty and to the political structure of nations. Thomas also participate in a second panel that explored international perspectives relating to property rights and intellectual property and non-material resources.

“Intellectual property and intangible assets are the new frontier of property rights,” explained Thomas. “Property law has traditionally recognized rights in the fruits of one’s physical labor, and we’re seeing seeing this extended to the fruits of creative efforts. The legal recognition of this type of property ownership and the protection of those rights on the international stage is a growing concern in today’s global marketplace.”


An International Debate on Sea Level Rise, Equality and Private Property Rights

Minneapolis-based OCA attorney, Mark Savin, joined a panel that debated issues pertaining to climate change, sea level rise, storm protection and private property rights. “With catastrophic weather events impacting coastal communities in recent years, the discussion of who should bear the cost of public safety measures such as dune restoration, levees and seawall repair is of fundamental importance,” said Savin.

OCA members and eminent domain attorneys, Andrew Brigham of Florida, and Joseph Suntum of Maryland, joined a panel that was tasked with exploring the relation between private property rights, equality and freedom. At the center of their discussion was the question of whether the protection of private property rights becomes a barrier for equality and freedom or whether property rights encourages economic, political and social stability and liberty.

International Property Rights Jurisprudence, Eminent Domain for Private Gain and the Promotion of Global Peace

Mike Rikon, OCA New York representative, and Jill Gelineau, OCA Oregon representative spoke on a panel focused on international property rights jurisprudence. The panelists discussed how the property rights opinions of international courts have strengthened democracy and reduced global conflicts. Panelists also reviewed the role of the International Court of Justice in settling national boundary disputes, the reparations and criminal forfeiture provisions of the International Criminal Court, and the property rights opinions of the European Court of Human Rights.

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Missouri OCA member and eminent domain lawyer, Robert Denlow, spoke on a panel tasked with addressing the challenges society faces in recognizing and protecting cultural and historical property during times of peace and unrest. Pacific Legal Foundation attorney and OCA Honorary member James Burling addressed the proper uses of eminent domain and the controversy over the use of eminent domain power for private-sector economic development and other purposes. Joseph Waldo, Virginia condemnation attorney and OCA Honorary member, spoke on a panel discussion centered on the role of property rights in alleviating poverty, combating unrest and promoting the development of market-based economies.


In the years since the Conference awarded the first Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize in 2004, it has become an important national event attended by scholars and practitioners interested in property law and theory. The Conference has honored some of the nation’s foremost property law thinkers including Frank I. Michelman, Richard A. Epstein, James W. Ely, Robert C. Ellickson, Richard E. Pipes and Retired Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor. This year’s recipient, Hernando de Soto, is the first international honoree to review the Brigham-Kanner Prize.

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