To the general public, the American Law Institute (ALI) may sound like a run-of-the-mill professional society. But to people like Chancellor & Dean Emeritus Mary Kay Kane, the ALI embodies the best aspects of the legal profession.
“Early on, I set it as a goal that I would someday have enough credentials to be elected as a member of this prestigious body,” says Kane. “Belonging to the ALI has been a very important part of my professional career.”
The ALI describes itself as “the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and otherwise improve the law.” But that description does not even approximate the vast influence that the 90-year-old organization continues to have on the country’s courts and legislatures, as well as on legal scholarship and education. Today, the ALI also has a global reach, influencing international law and inspiring the creation of a similar organization for the European Union’s legal community.
“I’m not overstating it when I say that it is the most important lawyer-formed organization in the world,” says Lance Liebman, director of the ALI since 1999 and currently Columbia University’s William S. Beinecke Professor of Law.
It is no small achievement, then, that 25 members of the UC Hastings faculty have been elected to the ALI. They include Kane, who joined in 1980, only nine years after she graduated from law school and having already produced an impressive body of scholarly work in the field of civil procedure. Membership in this august body is highly selective and requires a serious commitment of time and talent, according to Michael Traynor, the ALI’s former president and now emeritus member of the council, a volunteer board of directors that oversees the organization. “We choose legal professionals who have shown leadership, academic inclination, and interest,” he says. “We look for those who have demonstrated contributions to the profession and show real promise of continuing the work of the institute.”
“The ALI brings together practitioners, academics, and judges,“ says Chancellor & Dean Frank H. Wu, also an elected member. “The UC Hastings emphasis on engaged scholarship matches perfectly what the ALI does: It engages in a thorough deliberative process that meets the highest intellectual standards to produce work that influences actual decision making.”
AN HONOR AND A BURDEN
Restatements of the Law are the ALI’s traditional product, says Associate Dean for Research William S. Dodge, an ALI member since 2006. “A restatement is a statement of rules or principles of American law in a form that looks like a statute. It includes commentary, illustrations, and explanations of the law’s applications,” Dodge notes. “Restatements are not binding, but they have been very influential in judicial opinions, and courts often cite the restatements without any other authority.”
Each restatement is drafted by one or more reporters—ALI members recognized as leaders in their fields. “Being a reporter is regarded as a very important role,” says Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Hazard, a former director of the ALI. “It is both an honor and a burden.” Drafting a restatement takes years to complete and involves a level of scrutiny uncommon even in academic circles. “It does not become an official restatement until it has been approved line by line by the entire membership and published by the institute,” Dodge explains.
Dodge, who recently served as counselor on international law to the legal adviser at the U.S. State Department, was chosen by Liebman to serve as co-reporter for the ALI’s Restatement (Fourth) of Foreign Relations Law. The Restatement of Foreign Relations Law has had a huge influence in the development of the law, says Liebman. “People tell me that it’s the first source they go to, and it hasn’t been updated for more than 25 years,” he says. “If we don’t take up the subject again, people will gradually stop using the Third Restatement. So this is important work for the institute.”
Dodge says he is humbled by the extraordinary responsibility with which the institute has entrusted him. “Restatements aim to clarify the law. That’s a particular challenge when you are dealing with international law and its relationship to U.S. law, but it is a challenge that I am looking forward to.”
KEEPERS OF THE RING
Like other ALI reporters, Dodge was chosen because of his sterling academic credentials. He was appointed in November 2012 and follows in the footsteps of other UC Hastings professors—notably, Kane and Hazard—who have made great contributions to the development of the law through their work with the institute.
Kane, now a life member, is currently a member of ALI’s governing council. Over the years, she has seen an expansion of ALI’s mission for Restatement of Law projects to Principles of Law projects, which focus on areas of law that need reform. In that vein, as co-reporter for one of those projects in the early 1990s, the institute’s Complex Litigation Project, she commented, “We are essentially inventing proposed law,” Kane says. “It is an incredible opportunity to be part of the process of studying and reforming the law to address issues we face as a society.”
Hazard’s work with the institute started with his impressive performance as a reporter updating the Restatement of Judgments. His contributions in drafting the Restatement (Second) of Judgments were so significant that he was appointed director of the institute when the position opened.
“The institute decided to reward my good performance by giving me more work,” Hazard jokes. “It’s a very substantial job. As director of the ALI, you are essentially the keeper of the ring, the intellectual leader, and the managerial director.”
Hazard served as ALI director from 1984 to 1999, spearheading the group’s most ambitious project: the ALI/UNIDROIT Principles of Transnational Civil Procedure. The project, which took six years to complete, created a set of procedural rules and principles to be adopted globally to facilitate the resolution of disputes arising from transnational commercial transactions. Hazard collaborated with Michele Taruffo, a law professor at Pavia, to test the idea of devising a uniform set of rules that, he says, would be “congenial to civil lawsuits and common law disputes.
“A lot of people didn’t think it would be possible,” Hazard recalls. “So we tried it out for ourselves quietly before we even proposed it.” The work, published by the institute in 2006, spawned the creation of similar projects, including Transnational Insolvency: Global Principles for Cooperation in International Insolvency Cases, which formulated rules governing cross-border insolvency issues in bankruptcy courts in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Hazard and Taruffo’s project also spurred the establishment of the European Law Institute, of which Ugo Mattei, UC Hastings Alfred and Hanna Fromm Chair in International and Comparative Law, is a member.
“Our work attracted the attention of people in Europe, and now they are looking at the ALI to do a model law for European countries,” Hazard says. In May, the institute recognized Hazard by honoring him with the Distinguished Service Award, only the fifth time in the institute’s history the award has been given.
“The UC Hastings faculty has certainly played a very important role in the life of the institute,” Liebman says. And the tradition continues—Professors Robin Feldman and Chimène Keitner were elected as members within the last year. “UC Hastings has always been interested in law reform, and being part of ALI is a natural fit for us,” Kane says.
FACULTY MEMBERS ELECTED TO THE AMERICAN LAW INSTITUTE
William S. Dodge
Elizabeth L. Hillman
Carol L. Izumi
Mary Kay Kane
Harry G. Prince
William K.S. Wang
D. Kelly Weisberg
Frank H. Wu
Read more from UC Hastings magazine here.