The Flow of Projects

The Flow of Projects

This Director's Letter was originally published in the summer 2022 edition of The ALI Reporter.

The American Law Institute is defined by its substantive work, principally its Restatements of the Law, its Principles of the Law, and its Model or Uniform Codes. Eight years into my position as Director of The American Law Institute, I thought that it would be informative to provide a sense of the flow of our projects during that time. What new projects did we undertake? What projects did we complete? How much are we accomplishing? What is next on the horizon? As the following review shows, while ALI projects do take a long time to complete, we are accomplishing a large volume of important work. And the completion of existing projects opens up institutional capacity for undertaking new projects; members’ suggestions on this front are always welcome.

When I became Director in 2014, I inherited 13 ongoing projects from my illustrious predecessor, Lance Liebman. Six were Restatements: Consumer Contracts; Foreign Relations Law of the United States: Selected Topics in Treaties, Jurisdiction, and Sovereign Immunity; Law of American Indians; Torts: Intentional Torts to Persons; Torts: Liability for Economic Harm; and U.S. Law of International Commercial and Investor-State Arbitration.

In addition, two were Principles projects that got subsequently redefined as Restatements during my tenure because their goal was to provide guidance to the courts based on sources of positive law: Charitable Nonprofit Organizations and Liability Insurance. Three were Principles Projects: Data Privacy, Election Administration: Non-Precinct Voting and Resolution of Ballot-Counting Disputes, and Government Ethics. And the remaining two projects were portions of the Model Penal Code: Sentencing, and Sexual Assault and Related Offenses.

Twelve of these 13 projects have now been completed. The thirteenth—Government Ethics—will be on the agenda for final membership approval next year, at the 2023 Annual Meeting.

During my eight years as Director, The American Law Institute launched 12 new projects. Five are new Restatements in areas in which we have worked during most of our institutional history: Conflict of Law (Third), Property (Fourth), and the three portions that will complete Torts (Third): Concluding Provisions, Defamation and Privacy, and Remedies. Two are Restatements in which we had not previously done this work: Children and the Law, and Copyright. One—Corporate Governance—is in an area in which we had previously done a Principles projects but where we now launched a Restatement because the goal was to provide guidance to the courts based on sources of positive law.

In addition to these eight new Restatements, we undertook four new Principles projects: Compliance and Enforcement for Organizations, Data Economy, Policing, and Student Sexual Misconduct: Procedural Frameworks for Colleges and Universities. The Data Economy project was the first project undertaken jointly with the European Law Institute.

All four Principles projects launched since 2014 have now been completed. As a result, over the last eight years, The American Law Institute has completed a total of 16 projects. The average of two per year over an extended period of time is an institutional record. We sometimes note that it takes a village to produce a single ALI project: the Reporters, Advisers, Members Consultative Group, Council, Annual Meeting attendees, ALI staff, and others who contribute their learning and wisdom. It therefore should take a whole town to get 16 projects done. Everyone who played a role in this institutional accomplishment should take great pride!

During this period, the ALI, together with the Uniform Law Commission, also undertook and completed projects to amend the Uniform Commercial Code. A new Article and amendments to existing Articles to address emerging technological developments, including those relating to digital assets, were approved by both organizations this year. Amendments to Article 9 in 2018 clarified the Code’s relationship to anti-assignment provisions governing ownership interests in unincorporated entities.

Of course, the ALI is not resting on its laurels. Our Projects Committee, wonderfully chaired by Justice Goodwin Liu, has greenlighted the launch of four new projects: the completion of the Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States (Fourth); a new Restatement on Section 1983 law; a Principles project in the area of elections, focused on the safeguarding of democracy; and a Principles project on the adjudication of small claims. Over the next few months, Deputy Director Eleanor Barrett and I will be seeking formal approval from the Projects Committee and the Council for the scope of these projects and for their respective Reporters.

And, I keep a long list of possible future projects. Undoubtedly, the intellectual excitement that is accompanying the preparation for our 100th anniversary celebration in 2023 will provide fertile ground for new ideas. I encourage all members to reach out to me with suggestions of areas in which the ALI might make a significant contribution.

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