The American Law Institute’s membership voted today to approve Principles of the Law, Government Ethics. The Principles project began in 2009, and is the Institute’s first project on this important topic.

Led by Reporter Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School and Associate Reporter Richard W. Painter of the University of Minnesota Law School, the Principles offer guidance to government agencies and individuals on the proper standards of conduct that should apply to current and former public employees and officials. The Principles do not address judicial ethics because of the distinct concerns and institutional structure of the judiciary.

“The ethical standards that ought to govern the behavior of government officials have long been a matter of great public interest,” said Reporter Briffault. “The development of the standards and procedures needed to assure that public officials act in the public interest and use public resources for public, not private purposes, has been the focus of criminal codes, ethics laws, executive orders, and legislative rules at all levels of government, federal, state, and local.”

Associate Reporter Painter added, “The goal of the Principles of Government Ethics project is to distill a basic set of principles that articulate the values that ought to shape the field and, where possible, to present operational rules that will vindicate those goals in order to provide some guidance to the many governments, particularly at the state and local level, that may be developing ethical standards for the first time or revising, refining, and strengthening rules previously adopted.”

The Principles of the Law, Government Ethics consists of the following Chapters:

Chapter 1. Purpose, Scope, and Definitions
Chapter 2. Gifts from and Financial Relationships with Prohibited Sources
Chapter 3. Conflicts of Interest and the Outside Activities of Public Servants
Chapter 4. Election-Related Activities of Public Servants
Chapter 5. Restrictions on Leaving or Entering Public Service
Chapter 6. Disclosure
Chapter 7. Administration and Enforcement of Government Ethics

Reporter Briffault explained, “The initial Chapter lays out the purpose and scope of the project and defines key terms that are used throughout the project. The next five Chapters address the substantive principles of government ethics: Chapter 2 considers the provision of benefits by outsiders to public servants; Chapter 3 addresses financial conflicts of interests and issues arising from the outside activities of public servants; Chapter 4 focuses on the election-related activities of public servants; Chapter 5 examines the so-called ‘revolving door’ problems that arise when public servants leave public service for private employment or enter public service from the private sector; and Chapter 6 addresses disclosure’s role in detecting and deterring conflicts of interest, facilitating enforcement of ethics rules, and promoting public confidence in government. Chapter 7 turns from substantive principles to the equally important topic of the administration and enforcement of ethics rules and requirements.”

“I am very grateful to Professors Briffault and Painter, and to the very dedicated Advisers and Members Consultative Group,” said ALI Director Diane P. Wood. “Thanks to the ALI’s rigorous process of careful research and reasoned debate from a diverse group of project participants representing all sides of the issues raised in this Principles project, I hope that the work provides needed guidance to those who are currently struggling with these issues.”

The Reporters, subject to oversight by the Director, will now prepare the Institute’s official text for publication. At this stage, the Reporters are authorized to correct and update citations and other references, to make editorial and stylistic improvements, and to implement any remaining substantive changes agreed to during discussion with the membership or by motions approved at the Annual Meeting. Until the official text is published, the drafts approved by the membership are the official position of ALI, and may be cited as such.

* * *

About The American Law Institute

The American Law Institute is the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and improve the law. The ALI drafts, discusses, revises, and publishes Restatements of the Law, Model Codes, and Principles of Law that are enormously influential in the courts and legislatures, as well as in legal scholarship and education.

By participating in the Institute’s work, its distinguished members have the opportunity to influence the development of the law in both existing and emerging areas, to work with other eminent lawyers, judges, and academics, to give back to a profession to which they are deeply dedicated, and to contribute to the public good.

For more information about The American Law Institute, visit


Richard Briffault

Reporter, Government Ethics

Richard Briffault is the Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School. His research, writing, and teaching focus on state and local government law, legislation, the law of the political process, government ethics, and property. In 2014, he was appointed chair of the Conflicts of Interest Board of New York City. He was a member of New York State’s Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Public Corruption from 2013 to 2014, and served as a member of, or consultant to, several city and state commissions in New York dealing with state and local governance.

Richard Painter

Associate Reporter, Government Ethics

Richard W. Painter is the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at University of Minnesota Law School.  From February 2005 to July 2007, he was associate counsel to the president in the White House Counsel’s office, serving as the chief ethics lawyer for the president, White House employees, and senior nominees to Senate-confirmed positions in the executive branch. He has also been active in the Professional Responsibility Section of the American Bar Association. He is a board member and vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as well as a founding board member of Take Back our Republic, a campaign finance reform organization.

Jennifer Morinigo

The American Law Institute


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *