Published: Feb. 22, 2010

At Colorado Law’s 53rd Annual John R. Coen Lecture on Thursday evening, University of Arizona College of Law Professor Carol M. Rose spoke about the historical practice of racially restrictive covenants and its continued impact today.About 85 law students, professors, and legal professionals attended Professor Rose’s speech, titled “Racing Property Racially: Restrictive Covenants from the City Beautiful to Shelley v. Kraemer—and Beyond.”Professor Rose explained that the housing covenant, a form of contract that enforces neighborhood rules on homeowners and homebuyers, was a product of the new urbanism of the 20th Century. As segregation became socially acceptable, some covenants included clauses that the homes could not be sold to non-whites.Shelley v. Kraemer, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948, made the distinction between private action and state action, saying that the private action—making private, voluntary racial covenants—was not unconstitutional, but that the state action—a court enforcing the covenant—was unconstitutional.While racially restrictive covenants are no longer used, voluntary social segregation is still common, she argued. The courts have been wary of expanding Shelley beyond its narrow application to housing covenants.“This has been a very slow process. It definitely is not over, but I think there has been some progress,” concluded Professor Rose. Carol M. Rose is one of the nation's preeminent scholars of environmental law, property, and natural resources law. She joined the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in 2006 as the Ashby Lohse Professor of Water and Natural Resources Law. In addition, she is the Gordon Bradford Tweedy Professor Emerita of Law and Organization, and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, having joined the faculty in 1989. Her publications include Perspectives on Property Law (3rd edition), with Robert Ellickson and Bruce Ackerman (2002); and Property and Persuasion: Essays on the History, Theory and Rhetoric of Ownership (1994). The Coen Lecture was established in 1955 to bring a prominent and distinguished lawyer, jurist, or scholar of law to lecture Colorado Law’s students and faculty on a legal subject of interest, preferably with some public or political aspect.