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Merrill to receive 2013 Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize

Columbia Law School Professor Thomas W. Merrill will receive the 2013 Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize at the 10th annual conference on October 17-18 sponsored by the William & Mary Property Rights Project, the Law School announced April 2. The project presents the award each year to an individual whose scholarly work and accomplishments affirm that property rights are fundamental to protecting individual and civil rights.

Chancellor Professor of Law Lynda Butler, director of the project, said Merrill's scholarship has had an enormous impact on the field and spurs readers, "whether they are first-year law students or scholars, to think about property's relationship to the human condition, and its importance to our social, economic and political systems."

Thomas W. MerrillMerrill is among the nation's leading scholars of property, administrative, and environmental law, and is the Charles Evans Hughes Professor at Columbia Law School. His books include Property: Takings (with David A. Dana) (Foundation Press, 2002), Property: Principles and Policies (2d ed., with Henry E. Smith) (Foundation Press, 2012), and The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law (with Henry E. Smith) (Oxford University Press, 2010). His many articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Law Review, New York University Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Yale Law Journal.

James E. Krier, the Earl Warren Delano Professor at the University of Michigan, received last year's prize, and said that no one is more deserving of the honor than Merrill. "Ever since the appearance of his early work, published in the mid-1980s, Tom Merrill has been recognized as one of the country's foremost property scholars," he said. "His 1986 article on the economics of public use remains the most incisive contribution on the subject. His book on takings is a masterpiece of concision and clarity; his property casebook is remarkably innovative. Tom's contributions have ranged across the whole of property and are widely cited as standard works."

Merrill holds a B.A., with honors in history, from Grinnell College, and a B.A., with first-class honors in philosophy, politics, and economics, from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. After earning his J.D. at the University of Chicago, he clerked for Judge David L. Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. After clerking, Merrill practiced at Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood in Chicago and then served as deputy solicitor general in the Department of Justice, a role in which he supervised Supreme Court litigation. Merrill was the John Paul Stevens Professor of Law at Northwestern University before joining the Columbia University faculty in 2003.

Richard A. Epstein, who was honored with the prize in 2005, said that he was thrilled that Merrill, his former student, was being recognized for his contributions. Epstein is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at The Hoover Institution, and The James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law Emeritus and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago.

"Tom brings a vast knowledge of constitutional and administrative law to bear on the complex systems of property regulation that are often at issue today," Epstein said. "He also has a historian's touch with the evolution of property rights doctrine from its earliest days and an economist's awareness of the role that transaction costs play in complex governance structures that are needed to regulate divided ownership of major assets. He brings the entire package to the study of property rights and is a worthy and notable addition to the list of Brigham-Kanner prize recipients."

Henry E. Smith, who has collaborated with Merrill on several books, is the Fessenden Professor of Law at Harvard. He described Merrill as "a phenomenon in the world of property."  Merrill, he noted, "has written in an unusually broad array of fields, including, property, administrative law, environmental law, natural resources, legislation, and constitutional law, and this breadth is reflected within his work on property, especially in takings and the public trust. More than any other scholar I can think of, Merrill's work bridges public and private law, and the worlds of theory and practice. He is one of the most creative and lucid thinkers about property in modern times and has been an ideal co-author for me."

The Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize has been awarded annually since 2004. It is named in recognition of the lifetime contributions to property rights of Toby Prince Brigham, founding partner of Brigham Moore, LLP, in Florida, and Gideon Kanner, professor of law emeritus at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Previous recipients include Professor Frank I. Michelman of Harvard Law School (2004), Professor Richard A. Epstein of New York University Law School (2005), Professor James W. Ely, Jr., of Vanderbilt University (2006), Professor Margaret Jane Radin of the University of Michigan Law School (2007), Professor Robert C. Ellickson of Yale University (2008), Professor Richard E. Pipes of Harvard University (2009), Professor Carol Rose of the University of Arizona (2010), Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (2011), and Professor James E. Krier of the University of Michigan Law School (2012).

Conference Co-Chair Joseph T. Waldo, a 1978 graduate of the Law School, and partner and president of Waldo & Lyle, P.C. in Norfolk, Va., said the annual conference provides a vital and unique forum in which members of the practicing bar and members of the academy can meet and exchange viewpoints in a constructive environment. "The conference's upcoming tenth year anniversary gives us cause to celebrate past advancements while continuing to focus on how the security of property rights is changing our world," he said. "I look forward to the conference's continued success."

For details about the conference schedule and participants, please contact the William & Mary Property Rights Project at or call (757)221-3796.