Program Panels

2016 Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference
Opening Roundtable Honoring de Soto

One of the most accomplished economists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Hernando de Soto has researched, written, and lectured extensively on the importance of property rights in the informal economy.  As the global economy looks to cultivate untapped resources, de Soto argues that no nation can offer a strong market economy without adequate protection of private property—both real and intangible. Countries cannot promote innovation and entrepreneurial growth without legal ownership of innovative ideas, products, and tangible assets.  De Soto promotes the protection of private property as a fundamental right and as the solution to stimulating economic growth and development. The Opening Roundtable discusses these provocative ideas.

Panel 1: Land Titling, Inclusion, and the Role of Property Rights in Secure Societies

Ever since Hernando de Soto brought the world’s attention to the plight of developing countries transitioning to a capitalist economy, he has been championing the importance of inclusion through the institution of property. In addition to making the intellectual case for extending property rights, he has led efforts to develop land titling programs that enable the poor to acquire formal title to the lands they occupy. Using de Soto’s work as a springboard, Panel 1 explores the role of property rights in addressing poverty, combatting social unrest, and promoting the development of functioning market economies.


  • Benito Arruñada, Professor of Business Organization, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain
  • Thomas W. Merrill, Charles Evans Hughes Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
  • Mark F. (Thor) Hearne II, Partner, Arent Fox LLP Law Firm, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Joseph T. Waldo, Partner & President, Waldo & Lyle, P.C., Norfolk, Virginia

Moderdator: Lynda L. Butler, Chancellor Professor & Director, Property Rights Project, William & Mary Law School

Panel 2: Recognizing and Protecting Cultural Property

Throughout human history, armed conflicts have caused extensive damage to and destruction of priceless cultural property. Defined broadly as resources that provide important and non-renewable information about the history, beliefs, accumulated knowledge, customs, and achievements of a people, cultural property can also be damaged or destroyed by environmental harms or basic land development projects. Panel 2 addresses issues and problems affecting efforts to recognize and protect cultural property.


  • Robert Denlow, Principal Partner, Denlow & Henry Eminent Domain Law Firm, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Warren C. Herlong Jr., Shareholder, Helmsing Leach Herlong Newman & Rouse, PC, Mobile, Alabama
  • Roger O’Keefe, Professor of Public International Law, University College London
  • Joseph C. Powderly, Assistant Professor of Public International Law, Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University, Netherlands
  • Carsten Stahn, Professor & Programme Director, Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, University of Leiden, Netherlands

Moderator: Larissa van den Herik, Vice Dean Leiden Law School; Professor of Public International Law at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Netherlands

Panel 3: Property’s Role in the Fundamental Political Structure of Nations

For centuries, the debate over the role of property in the fundamental political structure of nations has centered on property’s relationship to individual liberty and core societal values. In nations that trace their roots to English law, the debate extends back to the Magna Carta, which delineated the boundaries between fundamental individual freedoms and government power. Hernando de Soto’s work has renewed the debate on the world stage, emphasizing the centrality of strong property rights to democratic capitalism and connecting the increase in global terrorism to the weak property rights of the poor majority found in many countries. Panel 3 examines these positions, focusing in particular on the transferability of property concepts to the political structure of nations with diverse cultures, norms, and traditions.


  • Janet Bush Handy, Deputy Counsel to State Highway Administration, Assistant Attorney General, Maryland Office of the Attorney General, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Heinz Klug, Evjue-Bascom Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School; Honorary Senior Researcher, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Carol M. Rose, Emerita Professor, Yale Law School and University of Arizona Law School
  • Robert Thomas, Director, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert, Honolulu, Hawaii

Moderator: Stephen J. Clarke, Partner, Waldo & Lyle, P.C., Norfolk, Virginia

Panel 4: Property, Equality, and Freedom

Mature and developing nations face a fundamental question about the relationship between equality and property: is it possible to have both strong private property rights and relative equality in resource distribution? Are both necessary for social and political cohesion or for the effective functioning of market economies? Can the protection of private property rights reduce barriers to equality and freedom? What role do cultural differences play? Panel 4 will discuss these and other questions, exploring the relations and dynamics between property, equality, and freedom.


  • Andrew Prince Brigham, Brigham Property Rights Law Firm, PLLC, Jacksonville, Florida
  • Robert Hockett, Edward Cornell Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  • Eric Kades, Thomas Jefferson Professor of Law, College of William & Mary Law School
  • Joseph P. Suntum, Miller, Miller & Canby, Rockville, Maryland

Moderator: James E. Krier, Earl Warren DeLano Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School

Panel 5: Eminent Domain and Expropriation as Wealth Redistribution Tools

From transportation projects and gas pipelines to urban renewal, economic development, land titling programs, and sports stadiums, government’s power to take property against the will of its owner has played a critical role in promoting public and private welfare. The controversial decision by the United States Supreme Court to allow broad use of eminent domain for economic development ignited a public debate. Efforts to condemn underwater mortgages and pipeline easements for transporting oil and gas overseas have further fueled the debate. Panel 5 extends the debate to the international arena by bringing in comparative perspectives and sharing lessons learned.


  • James S. Burling, Director of Litigation, Pacific Legal Foundation National Litigation Center, Sacramento, California
  • James W. Ely Jr., Milton R. Underwood Professor of Law, Emeritus, and Professor of History, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University
  • Alexandra Klass, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, George Mason University

Moderator: Stephen J. Clarke, Partner, Waldo & Lyle, P.C., Norfolk, Virginia

Panel 6: Defining and Protecting Property Rights in Intangible Assets

Intangible assets are important to both mature and developing economies. Whether those assets involve innovative ideas, intellectual property, technological or medical advances, security interests, finance capital, or other new assets, intangible assets raise unique issues for property systems. How well do laws governing real or tangible property transfer to intangible assets? What special problems do intangible assets pose for the development and management of property rights? This panel addresses these and other questions relating to property rights in intangible resources from national and international perspectives.


  • Sjef van Erp, Professor of Civil Law & European Private Law, Maastricht University, Netherlands; Executive Committee Member, European Law Institute, Austria
  • Ruth Okediji, William L. Prosser Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School
  • James Y. Stern, Associate Professor, College of William & Mary Law School
  • Robert Thomas, Director, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert, Honolulu, Hawaii

Moderator: Alan T. Ackerman, Partner, Ackerman, Ackerman & Dynkowski, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Panel 7:  Rising Seas and Private Property:  Advocates and Academics in Debate Format

As international efforts to address climate change gain momentum, development in flood zones continues.  Coastal property commands a premium price in global real estate markets and continues to be the subject of many development projects despite the warnings about sea level rise. This development has raised serious concerns about whether public entities should ban much coastal development or instead construct ambitious barrier projects to protect shorelines from rising seas.  Some advocates argue that these compelling public safety measures, which come at an enormous cost themselves, should trump the need to pay for the private property necessary to build such protections. Do the public safety benefits resulting from shoreline protection projects eliminate the need to compensate waterfront landowners whose property is taken for such projects? Do public entities have an obligation to protect shoreline development from rising seas? Must government pay for the property rights needed to protect against rising seas, whether by construction of shoreline barriers or restrictions on shoreline development? Academics and practitioners debate the merits of these and other questions of fundamental importance to coastal communities.


  • J. Peter Byrne, John Hampton Baumgartner, Jr., Professor of Real Property Law, & Faculty Director, Georgetown Climate Center, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Mark F. (Thor) Hearne II, Partner, Arent Fox LLP Law Firm, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Mark D. Savin, Fredrikson & Byron, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Christopher Serkin, Associate Dean for Research & Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School

Moderator: Lynda L. Butler, Chancellor Professor & Director, Property Rights Project, William & Mary Law School

Panel 8:  Property Rights as Defined and Protected by International Courts

Property rights, as the guardian of all other civil liberties, play an important role in respectable societies.  Because this conference is being held in the International Legal Capital of the World – The Hague – this panel focuses on international courts and the way in which their property jurisprudence helps to strengthen democracy, reduce conflict and enhance human dignity.  Suggested topics include the International Court of Justice’s boundary disputes jurisprudence and its role in conflict avoidance; the International Criminal Court’s reparations and criminal forfeiture provisions; and the European Court of Human Rights property rights jurisprudence.


  • Nancy Combs, Ernest W. Goodrich Professor of Law, College of William & Mary Law School
  • Jill S. Gelineau, Williamson & Wyatt, Portland, Oregon
  • Dr. Frankie McCarthy, Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow School of Law, Scotland
  • Michael Rikon, CRE, Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Houghton P.C., New York, New York

Moderator: Joseph T. Waldo, Partner & President, Waldo & Lyle, P.C., Norfolk, Virginia