This Director’s Letter was originally published in the Winter 2019 Edition of The ALI Reporter.
The Restatements of the Law have played a vital role in the rationalization of American jurisprudence for nearly a century. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy recently remarked at the ALI annual Meeting, the Restatements and the ALI “did for the American, Anglo-American judicial process and for the law in the 1920s what Blackstone had done 150 years earlier.”
The ALI Style Manual, a somewhat obscure publication that nonetheless plays an important role in our work, provides relatively clear drafting guidance for Restatements and model codes. Drafting guidelines for Principles projects, however, are not as well specified. This gap has led to some confusion and disagreement among project participants and inconsistencies in our drafts. My hope is that this letter’s focus on the issue will lead us to more consistency in our Principles projects.
The American Law Institute was founded in 1923. Since then, the ALI has promulgated Restatements of the Law in several subjects and other influential works such as the Model Penal Code and the Uniform Commercial Code, a joint venture with the Uniform Law Commission.
In the past few years, we frequently have seen the charge that the ALI’s mission is to state what the law “is,” rather than what the Institute thinks the law “ought to be,” and that we recently have strayed from this mission and should right the ship. This charge most often is made when the ALI chooses to restate a minority rule. As one commentator wrote in criticizing the Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance (which, despite the criticism, followed majority rules in nearly all of its Sections): The adoption of a minority rule in a Restatement “is fundamentally inconsistent with the purpose of a Restatement of Law project.” Such comments rest on the notion that the ALI’s mission is simple, uncontested, and has always been so. That, however, is not the case.
The American Law Institute was selected to be profiled by Visionaries in its 23rd season. Visionaries is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to producing and distributing media that inspires individuals and communities to take action for positive social change.
This article provides a selective perspective on The American Law Institute, a private law reform organization established in 1923, and particular processes by which it performs its work in developing restatements of the law.
Two U.S. Courts of Appeals recently cited the Restatement of the Law Third, Torts. The First Circuit cited the Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Products Liability § 4 and the Seventh Circuit cited Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm §§ 27 and 34. Summaries of those opinions are provided below.
At its January meeting, the Council approved the launch of the final three components of the Restatement Third of Torts. The projects tentatively are titled: Remedies; Defamation and Privacy; and Concluding Provisions. With these projects, the ALI aims to complete an effort that began nearly three decades ago, when we started work on the Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Products Liability. And when these projects are completed, the ALI will have produced a body of work that entirely supersedes the Restatement Second of Torts.
ALI is proud to announce the launch of Reasonably Speaking, our new podcast featuring conversations with experts on some of the most important legal topics of our time. The first two episodes are available now.