Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cy Pres Reform -- good or bad?

Goodwin_Iris Iris J. Goodwin (Associate Professor, University of Tennessee College of Law) has recently published his article entitled Ask Not What Your Charity Can Do For You: Robertson v. Princeton Provides Liberal-Democratic Insights Into the Dilemma of Cy Pres Reform, 51 Ariz. L. Rev. 75 (2009).

Here is an excerpt from the article:

This Article centers on a long-standing problem in the law of public charity: how to ameliorate the force of restrictions imposed by donors on large gifts in the face of societal change. Donors of these gifts often seek to advance personal beliefs or social agenda by limiting funds to particular programs. Under current law, such restrictions obtain in perpetuity, potentially functioning as a “dead hand” upon the charity with the passage of time. This Article explores the challenge of defining a substantive standard that acknowledges changes in social efficacy and draws upon John Rawls's distinction between the “right” and the “good” to provide a framework to locate charitable mission, what the Author claims are private views of the public good, within liberal democracy. By way of illustration, this Article also examines the legal dispute between the Robertson family and Princeton University regarding a restricted gift given by the Robertsons in 1961. After the moment of national idealism that inspired the gift had passed, Princeton struggled to spend the gift in ways consistent with what the Robertsons claimed the language of the grant required.


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