Consider these legal quandaries: Can the U.S. government seize property in a time of national emergency? Does a copyright owner have the right to constrain the resale of a digital book? Should public authorities in Louisiana use the power of eminent domain in the suburbs of New Orleans to build housing for low-income families in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

Professor Nestor Davidson at the Property Works in Progress conference

These dilemmas, and more, provided grist for discussion and analysis among 45 legal scholars at Property Works in Progress 2012, a Fordham Law conference held from May 31 to June 2 in the Lowenstein building. The event was spearheaded by Fordham Law Professor Nestor M. Davidson and Law School alumnus D. Benjamin Barros ’96, who serves as Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development and Associate Professor at Widener University School of Law.

“The conference allows scholars within the broad range of property law to talk across their disciplines—and lets people who usually talk past each other have the opportunity to communicate their ideas with each other,” said Davidson.

The conference drew a mix of up-and-coming young academics and leading names in the field of property law. Attendees traveled from as far away as Israel and Australia to confer with their peers and receive feedback on a variety of works-in-progress: essays and articles for legal journals, as well as books and book chapters in progress.

“The Property Works in Progress conference is a crucial forum for interaction among property law scholars,” said Joseph Singer, Bussey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “The conference promotes and enables us to improve our scholarship. It allows us to exchange ideas, test theories, and to give and receive suggestions and useful criticism of our work,” he added.

Of the 45 attendees, 33 put forward original scholarly works, including Davidson.
He presented his essay “No Steel Seizures: Nationalization and the Nature of Property,” a legal and historical analysis of property rights in times of national emergency—from the landmark Korean War–era case Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co v. Sawyer to the U.S. government’s takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2008.

Barros served as moderator for Thursday afternoon’s panel discussion, and Sheila Foster, Fordham Law’s Vice Dean and Albert A. Walsh Professor of Law, moderated the Friday afternoon session.

“Fordham has long had strength in law subjects such as torts, property, and contracts, and it continues to attract some of the best minds writing on these subjects,” Foster said.  “It’s fitting and an honor for Fordham to serve as the host of this conference.”