Third-year School of Law student Brett Robinson was awarded third place in the 2011 ABA Student Writing Contest in the competition's Real Property, Trust, and Estate Law section.
"Students don't get published too often, especially if they're not on the law review," explains Robinson. "But, professor [Peter] Wendel, whose class I wrote the paper for, encouraged me to submit the paper for publication because it was unique and because I had done very well on it."
Robinson earned a $1,000 prize for his article, "Finding Just Compensation in Substitute Facilities," which examines the "just compensation" clause that places restrictions on the power of eminent domain as outlined in the Fifth Amendment. Robinson's article, which centers on an eminent domain proceeding in Northern California involving the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM), explores a doctrine known as "substitute facilities." This states that the government must provide a substitute facility rather than pay fair market value when taking property through eminent domain.
"Normally, 'just compensation' is the fair market value of a piece of property, so, if the government was condemning your house through eminent domain to build a freeway, they would pay you the fair market value," notes Robinson, arguing that just compensation provides property owners the same type of habitat being destroyed.
Robinson chose to research the topic after being inspired by a guest speaker, David Monroe of CNLM, in Wendel's advanced property class."Part of professor Wendel's goal was to have us write our papers on a topic of importance to a community group, that way it wouldn't be a purely academic exercise, but hopefully help out a group by providing insight into a legal matter that they're dealing with," he recalls.
"I worked very hard on the paper, but I wasn't expecting to hear back, so it was nice to get some outside recognition for all the hard work I had done on it," he says. "I am really proud of the paper, and hope that along with winning an award, it proves useful to Dave Monroe and the Center for Natural Lands Management."
The ABA Student Writing Contest is designed to encourage and reward law students writing on real property, trust, and estate law subjects of general and current interest. All law and LL.M students currently attending an ABA-accredited law school are eligible to apply.