Dear Members of The American Law Institute:
I hope everyone is staying safe during this challenging time. It will not surprise you that in light of all of the uncertainties and circumstances, the Executive Committee has reached the conclusion that we must cancel the 2020 Annual Meeting, originally scheduled for May 18-20 in San Francisco. We recognize that many of you have already made plans to travel to San Francisco. Our Reporters and project participants also have spent countless hours preparing drafts for discussion and review. But we know you understand why we must take this action. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
You might be interested that this is only the second time in our long history that we have canceled an Annual Meeting. The last and only other time this happened was in 1945 due to the demands of World War II. Director William Draper Lewis explained at that time, that “our war conditions and [government restrictions] rightly prohibit any large meeting not directly connected with the war effort.” We find ourselves in a somewhat similar situation this year. Yet it is a testament to the important work and interactions that occur at an Annual Meeting that we so rarely have canceled it despite the various crises and challenges that may have afflicted us over the past 97 years.
I do want you to know that we carefully examined virtual meeting alternatives. Many of you are now using these alternatives in your own organizations. We concluded that we could not hold the 2020 Annual Meeting on a virtual platform and expect the kind of thoughtful decision-making and discussion that is the hallmark of our process. In our judgment, abruptly shifting to an online format for a membership body of 4,500, whose deliberations require carefully constructed debate and voting procedures, was not possible. Over the next few months, we will consider the role of on-line platforms in our future. If there is a role, it would seem most promising for smaller project meetings. Perhaps we will decide to experiment with such platforms, and we will welcome your thoughts and feedback. But to start any such experimentation with the Annual Meeting seems imprudent, were it even possible.
We had a full plate of projects to discuss this year including the Law of American Indians, Student Sexual Misconduct, Property, Intentional Torts, Sexual Assault, Copyright, Data Economy, and Conflict of Laws. Since we are losing valuable time together this year, we are currently considering an expanded Annual Meeting next year that will cover the projects we are unable to take up this May as well as the work we accomplish in the year ahead.
When the ALI reconvened in 1946, ALI President George Wharton Pepper invoked “that sense of fellowship which is not unusual among those engaged in a worthy intellectual task.” I will miss that fellowship this year. We all will. But when I see you at our next Annual Meeting in 2021, I know we will return as determined as ever to produce the work that is pivotal to supporting the rule of law and that our camaraderie will be as strong as ever.
In the meantime, I wish you good health and peace of mind in this difficult moment. I am so thankful for all you have done and will do for the ALI and our legal system. May we all be together in 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude for one another and our wonderful organization.
I send best wishes and personal regards,