Alumnus Berger Wins Prestigious Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize

Michael Berger, JD '67, Washington University School of Law

Alumnus Michael M. Berger, JD '67, will receive the 2014 Brigham-Kanner Prize at the 11th annual Property Rights conference in October. The event is sponsored by William & Mary Law School's Property Rights Project.

Each year, the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize is presented to “an individual whose work affirms that property rights are fundamental to protecting and preserving individual liberty.” A partner in Manatt, Phelps & Phillips' Los Angeles office, Berger will be the first practicing lawyer to receive the honor and is widely considered among the best lawyers in the nation specializing in the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Berger is one of California’s preeminent appellate lawyers and is co-chair of Manatt’s Appellate Practice Group. Recognized among the top land use and condemnation lawyers in the United States, Berger has argued four cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as cases before appellate courts throughout California, numerous federal courts of appeal, and other state supreme courts. Adding to his distinguished career, Berger is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Southern California Super Lawyers; he was named one of "California’s Lawyers of the Year" in 1998.

Joseph T. Waldo, co-chair of the conference coordinating committee, says Berger has had a tremendous impact on the field of property rights law during his distinguished career. "Practitioners shape the law by selecting and litigating cases that will advance causes and positions important to society," Waldo says. "Mike Berger's career demonstrates a successful practice in which he has shaped the law at the highest levels of both state and federal court. His practice, scholarship, publications, and teaching make his recognition as the 2014 Brigham-Kanner Prize recipient well deserved."

Alumnus Mark F. "Thor" Hearne II, JD '86, notes that Berger is one of the "great modern champions" of the takings clause. All those who cherish the Fifth Amendment owe Michael a great debt for his years of principled advocacy defending this essential concept," he says. Hearne notes that Berger's energetic defense of property owners has contributed major decisions to Fifth Amendment jurisprudence in cases such as Tahoe-Sierra (where Berger's opposing counsel was John Roberts (who later became chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States), Del Monte Dunes, Presault, and First English.

Attorney Robert H. Thomas says Berger represents the "best of the academic and practice worlds - the author of countless scholarly articles, and a compelling advocate in landmark cases." Thomas recalls that at the end of a seminar he attended, an audience member asked: "What should my client do after we've lost a regulatory takings trial?" One panelist, a government lawyer, responded, "You mean after you call Mike Berger?"

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), Professor James E. Krier of the University of Michigan Law School (2012), and Professor Thomas W. Merrill of Columbia Law School (2013).

Spring 2014