Coronavirus Information and Update: Spring 2021 Plans

Public Trust

  • Typically offered every other year

Limit: 14 students

Description: This seminar explores public trust doctrine, an area of law that originated in common law and today has been enshrined in many statutes and constitutions in the United States and abroad. Although it arose at common law, public trust law is widely thought to be the doctrinal foundation of many modern environmental and natural resources statutes. The public trust doctrine has drawn widespread attention for its potential to authorize judicial oversight of legislative and executive disposition of natural resources. The major strands of public trust law are evident in cases dealing with streambeds, water, and wildlife, but more recently the doctrine has expanded to other resources, including historic resources, wetlands, beachfronts, and forests. Although genesis of the doctrine lies in Roman law, its principles are also evident in Native American law and in many other legal systems around the world. The unresolved questions of public trust law reach deep into constitutional theory, comparative international law, remedies, the judicial function, property rights, takings law, and preemption.

The objective of this course is to promote research and analysis that gathers together the field in a doctrinally coherent fashion and maps out directions for future development. The seminar will offer students the opportunity to explore emerging legal theory and produce a research paper that will satisfy the school’s capstone and writing intensive requirements. Papers may contribute to the development of a treatise on public trust law that Professor Blumm is undertaking (along with Professor Mary Wood at the University of Oregon; there may be some collaboration between the two seminars), and publishable papers will appear in law journals.

Can meet either the Capstone or WIE Writing Requirement, and can apply toward the Environmental Law Certificate.