Newly Minted JSD Graduate Receives Award for Comparative Scholarship

Chen Zhao, LLM ’09, JSD ’13, received a prestigious prize at the recent Second Annual Conference of the Younger Comparativists Committee of the American Society of Comparative Law.

Zhao—whose research interests include law and economics, law and society, and theory of property rights—received one of three honorable mentions for her paper, “The Interpretation of ‘Public Use’ in the United States and China and Its Relation to Economic Development.” The paper was judged to be one of the four best out of more than 70 submitted at the national conference.

“The paper was part of my dissertation,” Zhao explains. “It first presents a detailed survey of the history of ‘public use’ and points out that though the initial interpretations of public use were different, the subsequent changes have converged the meaning of the term in the United States and China.”

 Zhao says she then examined economic performance in both countries and analyzed the relation between economic development and the changes of the interpretation of public use.

“My primary concern in the dissertation is to put public use doctrine into a broader context of social change to better understand how the interpretation influences social life and why. I use comparative law as the main research methodology and incorporate historical, philosophical, and economic analysis into the dissertation," she notes. “Because the interpretation of ‘public use’ directly influences the application of eminent domain, my dissertation is also a perspective on a country’s desire for the use of its eminent domain power.”

This spring, Zhao successfully defended her dissertation before her committee, made up of John Drobak, the George Alexander Madill Professor of Real Property & Equity Jurisprudence, and Brian Tamanaha, the William Gardiner Hammond Professor of Law. Professor Gerrit De Geest, director of the Center for Law, Innovation & Economic Growth, was her thesis adviser.

Zhao plans to pursue a law teaching career in the fall.

By Timothy J. Fox