The Story of ALI


Founding of The American Law Institute

In the early 1920’s, a group of prominent American judges, lawyers, and law professors formed "The Committee on the Establishment of a Permanent Organization for the Improvement of the Law," led by Elihu Root, George Wickersham, and William Draper Lewis. The Committee reported to the members of the legal profession that the “law is unnecessarily uncertain and complex,” and as a result, there is a “general dissatisfaction with the administration of justice.”

According to the Committee, the law's uncertainty stemmed in part from a lack of agreement on fundamental principles of the common law, while the law's complexity was attributed to the numerous variations within different jurisdictions. 

In order to remedy these issues, the Committee proposed the formation of The American Law Institute in order "to promote the clarification and simplification of the law and its better adaptation to social needs, to secure the better administration of justice and to encourage and carry on scholarly and scientific legal work."

One of the Committee’s suggestions was for a Restatement of the Law that “should not only be to help make certain much that is now uncertain and to simplify unnecessary complexities, but also to promote those changes which will tend better to adapt the laws to the needs of life.” A Restatement should be critical and constructive, and although largely based on statutes and decisions, “it should not be confined to examining and setting forth the law applicable to those situations which have been the subject of court action or statutory regulation, but should also take account of situations not yet discussed by courts or dealt with by legislatures….”

The Committee then recommended that the work be done by members that represent the profession as a whole. The diversity of voice, in all ways, would prove essential to the work that the Institute produces.

Based on the recommendation of the Committee, The American Law Institute was incorporated in 1923. That year, work began on the first four Restatements, covering the subjects of Agency, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, and Torts. Additional early leaders of ALI included William Howard Taft, Charles Evans Hughes, Learned Hand, and Benjamin Cardozo. ALI held its first Annual Meeting in February 1923.


"A Permanent Organization for the Improvement of the Law"

In 1928, ALI Director William Draper Lewis submitted to the Executive Committee of ALI “The Future of the Institute: Report No. 1 on Things to be Considered and How We Should Proceed to Consider Them.” The report makes it clear that Lewis assumed and intended the Institute to be permanent. 

In this video, Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, explains common law and how it may change over time, necessitating future ALI work.

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Tentative Draft Sales Reported

"The preparation of an adequate Restatment of any Subject is a long and ardous task. There is no short cut." - ALI Director William Draper Lewis 1929 Annual ReportAlthough the Institute had yet to publish a Restatement, the volume of sales of Tentative Drafts and of the Code of Criminal Procedure reflected that the Institute’s work, even in its early stages, was regarded with respect by the legal community.

It was understood at this stage that drafts were tentative and not final. Nevertheless, lawyers were purchasing these drafts and using them in preparing briefs. Judges, particularly those in the higher courts, were also citing the Tentative Drafts. In addition to judicial and practical use of the drafts, the use of the Tentative Drafts by law school teachers continued to grow.

The number of drafts of each subject sold as of 1931 to members of the bar and to law schools is listed in the chart below from the ALI’s 1931 Annual Meeting Proceedings.


ALI's First Restatement Is Published

In the video below, Liability Insurance project Reporter Tom Baker explains the various parts of a Restatement. Black letter, Comments, and Illustrations can all be seen even in the earliest draft of Contracts. Reporter’s (or Reporters’) Notes were included in the Appendix Volumes within the Restatement Second series.

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Torts Published

ALI began its work on Torts in June 1923. In 1939, the Institute published the fourth volume of Restatement of the Law, Torts, marking the completion of this 16-year endeavor.

During the project’s life cycle, the editorial organization created to deal with the subject increased from one to five groups. In the year leading up to the final Annual Meeting vote, the five groups working on Torts held 16 conferences on 58 conference days. In all, 145 Preliminary Drafts were considered. Twenty-seven Tentative and Proposed Final Drafts were reviewed and considered by the Council and membership.

The Restatement of Torts very quickly became a popular secondary resource for the courts and legal profession across the country. By 1950, the appellate courts had cited this work more than 4,600 times. In his 1950 Annual Meeting address to the membership, Director Herbert Goodrich highlighted a study of the Restatement of Torts as it had been applied by the highest court in Pennsylvania:

There has been a very interesting study made by a law student of the University of Pennsylvania who has looked over the some five hundred and fifty-three instances in which the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has cited and worked with the Restatement of Torts. This student finds—and here is the interesting quotation with which he starts his paper—“To the extent that past cases are in conflict with the view of Section 339 of the Restatement of Torts which we have adopted, they are no longer authority.”

Then the student goes on to examine the various instances in which the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has used the Restatement of Torts, and what it has done with it. His conclusion is that the Restatement has become primary authority in the Supreme Court of that state.

The Institute later revisited the subject of Torts. The first Preliminary Draft of the Restatement Second of Torts was prepared in 1955.


Annual Meeting Cancelled

In 1945, due to World War II, the Institute’s Executive Committee decided to not hold an Annual Meeting. 

In his Annual Report, Director Lewis explains this decision: “It is not that there are no matters of importance which could be taken up at such a meeting; but our war conditions and the statement of James F. Byrnes rightly prohibits any large meeting not directly connected with the war effort.” The war not only affected ALI's meetings but its publication schedule as well. The publication of Volumes 4 and 5 of the Restatement of Property was delayed due to paper shortage across the country. 

ALI and 'Humanity's Magna Carta'

One of the lesser-known, but important and influential, projects undertaken by The American Law Institute is the Statement of Essential Human Rights. In the spring of 1941, William Draper Lewis, Director of the Institute, and Warren A. Seavey, Reporter for the Restatements of Agency, Judgments, Restitution, and Torts, began a correspondence that would span four years.

In these letters, they discussed their shared hope for an end to World War II and the "destruction of Hitlerism." They also discussed the issue of Germany’s future, as well as the broader question of what role the United States should take in the postwar world. In a memorandum issued in 1941, an initial project plan was proposed.

Their discussions led Lewis and Seavey to a shared belief that a just and permanent peace required the recognition of basic human rights, and that the Institute should draft a Statement of Essential Human Rights. Funded by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, a drafting committee was formed, with representatives from Britain, Canada, China, France, pre-Nazi Germany, India, Italy, Latin America, Poland, Soviet Russia, Spain, and Syria. Its goal was to define the indispensable human rights in terms that would be acceptable to all nations.

Committee members researched the constitutions of other countries and other primary documents relating to individual rights. Throughout the drafting process, Lewis and Seavey disagreed passionately about which human rights should be classified as fundamental. Ultimately they were unable to come to an agreement on the topic.

The Statement was never presented to the ALI membership for a vote, as the ALI Council did not feel that it was advisable for the Institute to draft an international bill of rights. The Council did direct that copies of the committee’s report be distributed to ALI members in 1944.

In 1946, John P. Humphrey was appointed as the first Director of the Human Rights Division in the United Nations Secretariat, and one of his first undertakings was to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In his 1984 memoir Human Rights and the United Nations: A Great Adventure, he says that “the best of the texts from which I worked was the one prepared by the American Law Institute, and I borrowed freely from it.”

After its adoption in 1948, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights went on to become the best-known and most-cited human-rights document in the world. It has been translated into over 500 languages and has been incorporated into the constitutions of many countries to lay a foundation for human rights.

In her 2003 Annual Dinner speech to the ALI membership, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, thanked the Institute for its “pioneering and prophetic work” on the Statement of Essential Human Rights.

“The Statement broke new ground in identifying not only civil and political liberties, but also education, food, housing, and social security as human rights, and through its broad membership—from China, the Arab world, India, and Latin America—it anticipated and answered later critics who would claim that human rights are a product of western culture and history. That Statement is something I will come back to, because we need that approach now more than ever, at the start of this new century.”

The history of the Statement of Essential Human Rights demonstrates that the Institute can be influential in the ideas it disseminates, even if it does not always take an official position with the requisite concurrence of both the Council and the members.

Learn more about ALI’s story of assembling the Statement from former ALI President Michael Traynor.



In the aftermath of another world war, at a time when lawyers were returning to work, they found themselves confronted with not only the difficulties of assimilating back into civilian life, but the added  challenge of needing to make up for the gaps in their legal knowledge–a result of advancements that had been made during their absence. In light of these deficiencies, and the growing demand for a more structured way to ensure needs were met, the continuing education of the bar became a matter of first importance to the legal profession.

In 1947, the American Bar Association asked ALI to undertake a national program of continuing education of the bar. The Institute immediately saw the importance of this request and agreed to the task. As a result, the effort that the ABA initiated and ALI undertook became ALI-ABA — The American Law Institute-American Bar Association Committee on Continuing Professional Education.

Friendly Medal Concept ArtALI-ABA would assist in the creation of state and local sponsoring agencies (with the help of bar associations, law schools, and other lawyer groups), supply literature and "know how" for lectures, and provide program panelists.

In its first year of operation, following the policy of working with local agencies of the bar, ALI-ABA organized Continuing Legal Education (CLE) lectures in 30 states.

From 1947 to 1968, ALI-ABA produced 654 courses attended by 70,159 lawyers; published 83 titles by 121 authors, some in multi-editions; and sold 499,277 books. The first edition of The Practical Lawyer (still published today) was available in 1955. For 65 years, ALI-ABA would continue to provide thousands of legal seminars and publications to lawyers across the country. In 2012, ALl and the ABA amicably ended their 65-year collaboration in continuing legal education known as ALI-ABA, with each entity moving forward on its own to produce CLE.


Work on Restatement Second Begins

In the Institute’s 1952 Annual Report, Director Goodrich spoke on the importance of continuing work on Restatements.

“Into the Restatement project went a great deal of money. Into this work also went days, months and years of labor by a great many people. That labor will never be lost. But the life of law books is such in this day and age that unless a book, no matter how authoritative, is constantly looked over for necessary revision, it soon becomes obsolete. By obsolete it is not meant that what was said is necessarily no longer the law.

Some legal principles change very slowly. But without fresh assurance of continuous examination, the user can never depend upon the current authenticity of a statement. Even more he is in danger of losing out on some new development or ramification of an old principle. These developments are important in many instances. The Restatement, if it is to speak contemporaneously, must include them. So, five years after our previous re-examination we shall go to work again.”

The Restatement Second includes the following subjects: Agency, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Foreign Relations Law of the United States, Judgments, Property (Landlord and Tenant), Torts, and Trusts.

The first subjects completed in the Restatement Second were Agency and Trusts. Both were approved at the 1957 Annual Meeting. Agency Second was published in 1958. Trusts Second was published in 1959.

The Editorial Board for the Restatement Second—R. Ammi Cutter, Edwin D. Dickinson, Learned Hand, and ALI’s President and Director—had the responsibility of making decisions on matters of form and style to present the work in the best way possible. 

As the first publication in the Restatement Second series, Agency Second was the Institute’s first effort to make an enlarged version and set the standard for the second edition Restatements to follow. “We are changing the size of the pages, quality of paper, the appearance of the binding. In other words, the Second Agency will be a new book.” – 1958 Annual Report from Director Goodrich

Another modification introduced in the Restatement Second series was the development of Reporter’s Notes. Unlike the black letter, and Comments (including Illustrations), the Reporter’s (or Reporters’) Notes are regarded as the work of the Reporter (or Reporters). Reporter’s Notes are not approved by ALI members. Nevertheless, they are submitted for review together with the other components of the Section to which they pertain. Reporter’s Notes set forth and discuss the legal and other sources relied upon by the Reporter(s) in formulating the black letter and Comment and enable the reader better to evaluate these formulations; they also provide avenues for additional research. In addition, the Notes furnish a vehicle for the Reporter(s) to convey views not necessarily those of the Institute and to suggest related areas for investigation that may be too peripheral for treatment in the black letter or Comments. Reporter’s Notes contain lucid analyses of hard problems and the wealth of citations will lead the researchers to case material otherwise hard to find.

The Restatement Second also included court citations to the Restatement First, categorized by date. 

The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)

The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) is a comprehensive set of laws governing commercial transactions in the United States. It is a uniform code addressed to legislatures with a view toward legislative enactment and written in prescriptive statutory language. The UCC is a modernization of various statutes relating to commercial transactions including sales, leases, negotiable instruments, bank deposits and collections, funds transfers, letters of credit, bulk sales, documents of title, investment securities, and secured transactions.

Learn how the UCC has promoted safe, predictable, reliable commerce for businesses and consumers throughout the United States in the video below.

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The Model Penal Code

Although not completed until 1962, the Model Penal Code was the product of a decade of intensive labor by the Institute. Led by Herbert Wechsler, the Model Penal Code project set out to draft a model criminal code that could be adopted by the states. After its publication, 37 states adopted parts of the Code, and several, including New York and New Jersey, adopted nearly all its provisions.

In the video below, Erin E. Murphy from NYU Law and Samuel W. Buell of Duke Law discuss the impact and influence of the Model Penal Code. 

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Foreign Relations Second Published

In the video below, Foreign Relations Fourth Reporters Paul B. Stephan and William S. Dodge discuss the history of the Restatement Second of Foreign Relations Law and its role in formalizing this area of law.

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Trial Manual Published

In 1967, A Trial Manual for the Defense of Criminal Cases was published by the ALI-ABA Joint Committee on Continuing Legal Education. The product of the combined effort of the ALI-ABA Joint Committee, the American College of Trial Lawyers, and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the Manual was designed for use in a course of study to be conducted throughout the country and as a working document for lawyers involved in the defense of persons accused of crime.

Originally authored by Anthony G. Amsterdam, Bernard L. Segal, and Martin K. Miller, the Manual is designed to be a how-to-do-it exposition for the general practitioner of the law and practice of criminal defense. It provides a lawyer in criminal proceedings with a compact guide through the stages of a criminal case, from arrest and investigation to appeal. It identifies critical points in the proceedings, warns of rights to be asserted and interests to be protected at each stage, describes the practices and procedures necessary or useful for the assertion of those rights and the protections of those interests, and, in both narrative and checklist form, suggests steps to be taken or considered by defense counsel at the various stages.

Trial Manual 6 was published in 2016, and supplements to the work are released annually. ALI is proud to continue working on this essential project with current authors Anthony Amsterdam and Randy Hertz, both of NYU School of Law.

In the video below, Randy Hertz maps out the organization of the Trial Manual and how it is designed to provide public defenders with the information they need as easily as possible.


The Boskey Motion

Named for longtime ALI Treasurer Bennett Boskey, this motion is made to approve a draft, or portions of a draft, by ALI’s Council (at a Council Meeting) or membership (at an Annual Meeting). A standard structure of the Boskey motion is: “I move we approve [draft] subject to today’s discussion and the usual editorial prerogatives.”

In other words, the members are asked to approve the draft, subject to any requested changes to which the Reporters agreed or any motions that passed during the course of the Meeting, as well as general, nonsubstantive edits that may be required before publishing.

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First Principles Project Launched

ALI’s first Principles project launched on May 16, 1978, after the Council voted to proceed with a project on the Structure and Governance of Corporations, with former SEC Commission Chairman Ray Garrett Jr. serving as the Chief Reporter.

Soon after the project was underway, it became apparent that its title, "Principles of Corporate Governance and Structure: Restatement and Recommendations," was misleading to many observers of the project. To some of those who studied Tentative Draft No. 1 there appeared to be an inconsistency in applying the term "Restatement" to the project when the product was interlaced with material in the nature of recommendations.

Accordingly, in late 1983, between the publication of Tentative Draft No. 1 and that of Tentative Draft No. 2, it was decided that one peripheral area of controversy could be avoided by changing the title to "Principles of Corporate Governance: Analysis and Recommendations."

For greater clarification of what a Principles project means and encompasses in current times, read Director Richard L. Revesz’s letter in the Fall 2019 issue of The ALI Reporter

Work on Restatement Third Begins

The continued reassessment of the law and the Restatements is at the core of the Institute’s function. In support of this goal, the third series of Restatements began in 1978, starting with the topic of Foreign Relations and later adding the topics of Agency, the Law Governing Lawyers, Property, Restitution and Unjust Enrichment, Suretyship and Guaranty, Torts, Trusts, and Unfair Competition.

In 1977, Foreign Relations Reporter Adrian S. Fisher explained how quickly a new edition could be required. "Although the [Foreign Relations] Restatement was published and distributed only twelve years ago, the pace of change in international law has been so rapid that the Council of the Institute recently called for an exploration of the need for reexamination and revision of the work and for its expansion into other fields.”


Torts Second and Strict Liability

In 1979, the Institute finished its reexamination of the subject of torts with the completion of Restatement of the Law Second, Torts. Led by Reporter William Lloyd Prosser, this Restatement included § 402A on the topic of strict liability, approved at the 1964 Annual Meeting, which provides that “One who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm” even if the seller has “exercised all possible care.”

In the video below, Kenneth W. Simons, who serves as Reporter on Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Intentional Torts to Persons, discusses § 402A and strict liability.

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Membership Extended to Foreign Lawyers

In May 1985, the Institute’s Council amended its rules to allow entry to membership for foreign lawyers. This profound change allowed the Institute to make progress towards its goal of making a difference in the global law community. The first members to be chosen in the new category were a group of distinguished representatives of the British legal profession, which included Baron Scarman (Leslie George Scarman), former Chairman of the British Law Commission and Lord Justice of Appeal.

In July of 1985, the Institute held a special ceremony in conjunction with the London meeting of the American Bar Association to induct these new foreign members. It was ALI’s first event across the pond. 


Introduction of Members Consultative Groups

In 1986, the Institute’s newly formed Committee on Member Participation approved an experimental program calling for the creation of a Members Consultative Group (MCG) for some of its new projects. An MCG is made up of ALI members who volunteer to join project discussions at any stage of a project’s life cycle. MCG members are not necessarily experts in the project’s area of law, but provide a vital perspective, as they read the drafts from a generalist’s point of view. MCG participants provide input by attending project meetings and by submitting written comments. The core purpose of the MCG was to more effectively utilize the great resources, knowledge, and expertise of the Institute’s members.

For many years the Institute seemed to function well with the principal involvement of most members consisting of the review of Tentative Drafts and attendance and voting at the Annual Meeting. However, in the 1980s, then ALI President Roswell Perkins sensed frustration among many members because they wanted to play a more useful role in the functioning of the Institute. Similarly, new members often asked how they might become active and contribute to the evolution of the drafts, rather than reviewing a work product that was essentially in final form.

The topic of The Law Governing Lawyers was the first project to have an MCG. At the conclusion of the project, Chief Reporter Charles W. Wolfram of Cornell Law School noted, "Without in the least devaluing the enormous contribution of our Advisers, I would have to say that we often pick up insights and critiques from the Group that we have not received from the Advisers … I would say that the impact of Members through the Group has been truly significant.”


The Henry J. Friendly Medal Established

Established in memory of Henry J. Friendly and endowed by his former law clerks, the Henry J. Friendly Medal recognizes contributions to the law in the tradition of Judge Friendly and the Institute.

In the below video, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. presents the Friendly Medal to Retired Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the 2019 Annual Meeting.

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John Minor Wisdom Award Established

The Wisdom Award was established in honor of Council member John Minor Wisdom, former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The award was endowed in 1990 by Wisdom’s then-present and former law clerks, who did so on the occasion of the celebration of his 85th birthday.

Wisdom served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit during the 1950s and 1960s when the court became known for a series of decisions crucial in advancing the civil rights of African Americans. Until 1981, the Fifth Circuit included Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and the Panama Canal Zone in addition to its current states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Writing for the majority in U.S. v. Jefferson County Board of Education in 1966, he wrote:

Wisdom Award Concept Art“The Constitution is both color blind and color conscious. To avoid conflict with the equal protection clause, a classification that denies a benefit, causes harm, or imposes a burden must not be based on race. In that sense, the Constitution is color blind. But the Constitution is color conscious to prevent discrimination being perpetuated and to undo the effects of past discrimination. The criterion is the relevancy of color to a legitimate governmental purpose.”

The Wisdom Award is not presented annually, but instead is given from time to time in specific recognition of a member of the Institute for outstanding contributions to the work of the Institute. Below is the list of recipients.

Thelton Henderson (2024)
Neil B. Cohen (2014)
Guy Miller Struve (2011)
Jack B. Weinstein (2006)
Michael Marks Cohen (2004)
Donald J. Rapson (1999)
M. Bernard Aidinoff (1995)
W. Loeber Landau (1993)


Cutter Reporter's Chair Established

The first Reporter’s Chair was established in the name of then-Chairman of the Council Emeritus R. Ammi Cutter, retired Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and former President of the Institute (1976-1980). The Cutter Chair is occupied by an active ALI Reporter of proven effectiveness for the remaining duration of the project on which the Reporter is engaged.

Cutter was an ALI member for more than 55 years. He joined the Council in 1949 and was elected Second Vice President in 1964, First Vice President in 1968, and then President in 1976. He served as an Adviser to the Model Land Development Code; the Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure; the Restatement Second of Property (Landlord and Tenant); the Restatement Second of Property (Donative Transfers); the Restatement Second of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States; and the Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws.

The following individuals have held the Chair since it was established: 

Melvin A. Eisenberg, Principles of Corporate Governance (1991–1994)
Neil B. Cohen, Restatement of the Law Third, Suretyship and Guaranty (1994–1997)
James A. Henderson Jr. and Aaron D. Twerski, Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Products Liability (1997–1998)
Ira Mark Ellman, Katharine T. Bartlett, and Grace Ganz Blumberg, Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution (1998–2001)
William C. Powers Jr. and Michael D. Green, Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm (2001–2006)
Andrew Kull, Restatement of the Law Third, Restitution and Unjust Enrichment (2006–2011)
Nora Freeman Engstrom, Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Miscellaneous Provisions (2022- )


Casner Reporter's Chair Established

In the history of the ALI, there have been many Reporters, Advisers, and members who have contributed to the success of the Institute. The late A. James Casner is near the top of this list as he was a vital Reporter and Adviser to the Institute for more than half a century. Casner’s work had a profound and revolutionary effect on the law of property, the taxation of trusts and estates, and estate planning.

Following Casner's death, President Perkins addressed the following words to the Council: "As the Reporter with the longest history of service to the Institute in that capacity, he carved a niche in ALI history that is unlikely ever to be duplicated. He earned a special place in the hearts of all who knew him.'"

Casner's affiliation with the Institute began in 1937 when he became a Special Reporter and member of the Advisory Committee for portions of the original Restatement of Property. He would go on to serve as an Adviser for the Restatement Second of Trusts, as Reporter for the project on Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, and Reporter for the Restatement Second of Property, and over the next 20 years produced in that capacity two volumes on the law of Landlord and Tenant as well as four on Donative Transfers.

During this period he was also the Reporter for the Federal Income Tax Project's study of Subchapter J, a Consultant for the Study on Generation-Skipping Transfers Under the Federal Estate Tax, and Consultant to the Reporter for Restatement Third of Property (Servitudes).

The A. James Casner Reporter’s Chair was held by Edward C. Halbach Jr., Reporter for the Restatement Third of Trusts.

In the video below, Casner discusses his development of the first-ever comprehensive course on estate planning as well as ALI’s influence on the development of American jurisprudence.

The Prudent Investor Rule

In 1992, The American Law Institute published Restatement of the Law Third, Trusts (Prudent Investor Rule), which revised portions of the Restatement Second of Trusts. Since its approval, every state has adopted a version of the modern Prudent Investor Rule, dramatically transforming the law of trusts and other fiduciary investments. Rooted in the teachings of Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), the Rule abolishes all categorical restrictions on investments and imposes a portfolio-as-a-whole standard of care that includes an augmented duty to diversify.

In this video, Robert H. Sitkoff of Harvard Law School details the history and evolution of fiduciary law that led to the Prudent Investor Rule, and the Rule’s continuing influence today.

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First Principles Project Completed

When completed in 1994, the Corporate Governance project was almost as old as the Institute itself. At a meeting of ALI’s founding committee on February 23, 1923, ALI’s founders shared their report that included a section entitled "The Topics Which the Institute May First Undertake to Restate." One of the first topics suggested was business corporations.

The Committee Reporters observed:

"The major part of the law of business corporations is the result of decisions made in the past fifty years. The importance of the subject is obvious. The present uncertainty of the law pertaining to it is not so much due to conflicts in decisions and statutes as between state and state, or to an overelaboration of rules for the application of fundamental principles, as it is to a confusion and conflict in regard to the legal character of the association and to real differences of opinion as to the correct statement of the fundamental principles applicable to the solution of the more difficult problems presented."

Throughout the next 70 years, the project would make progress, stall, and be revived multiple times by ALI Directors William Draper Lewis, Herbert Wechsler, and, finally bringing the project to completion, Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr.


Going Global: ALI in London

“The principal theme of my presidency of The Institute has been the need for strengthening the international aspects of our work.” – Charles Alan Wright

In keeping with his goal to reach the global law community, ALI President Charles Alan Wright proposed a reception in London, England, in the summer of 2000 (to coincide with the ABA annual meeting). The timing seemed especially appropriate in light of the increased globalization of both the Institute’s membership and work.

This was, however, not the first time ALI held an event in England. In 1985, the Institute held an event to honor Lord Leslie Scarman, former Chairman of the British Law Commission. The event also celebrated the election to ALI of nine members of the UK bar to the newly created category of nonresident members.

Sadly, Wright died just 10 days before the 2000 event, on July 7, at the age of 72. On July 17, the Institute held its reception at the legendary Army & Navy Club. The circumstances of Wright’s death transformed the event into a tribute and remembrance.

Along with new ALI President Michael Traynor and ALI Director Lance Liebman, several other notable ALI members attended the event in order to pay their respects, including U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said, “The great man I once described as a Colossus standing at the summit of our profession was indeed to so many gathered here ‘the quintessential friend.’ We will miss not only his extraordinary scholarship and magnetic advocacy, but above and beyond those qualities, his caring concern for those who joined with him in striving to serve the legal system honorably.”

Today, the Institute continues to uphold Wright’s vision by examining the law on a global scale with recent projects including, among others, Principles for a Data Economy, a joint project with The European Law Institute; the Restatement of the Law, The U.S. Law of International Commercial and Investor–State Arbitration and; its continued work on the Restatement of the Law Fourth, The Foreign Relations Law of the United States.


Distinguished Service Award Established

The Distinguished Service Award is given from time to time to a member who over many years has played a major role in the Institute, accepting significant burdens as an officer, Council member, committee chair, or project participant and helping keep the Institute on a steady course.

In the video below Carol F. Lee accepts the Distinguished Service Award at ALI’s 2019 Annual Meeting.

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Death Penalty Withdrawn from Model Penal Code

In 2001, ALI launched a project to revisit the Sentencing provisions of the 1962 Model Penal Code. During the course of that project, a motion was presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting that urged the Institute to take a position against the death penalty. At that time, no vote was taken, but Council took the motion under advisement and formed an Ad Hoc Committee on the Death Penalty (committee members included Christine Durham, Kay Knapp, Gerard Lynch, Myles Lynk, Daniel Meltzer (Chair), and William Webster). The ALI Program Committee, chaired by Paul Friedman, reviewed member comments and the report by the Ad Hoc Committee and recommended further study—to be completed by Carol and Jordan Steiker.

The study produced by the Steikers examined whether or not the death penalty was in fact being administered in compliance with the U.S. Constitution. They found that there are too many obstacles, both structural and institutional, to administering the death penalty in a non-arbitrary way, and recommended that ALI avoid any attempt to come up with new rules regarding its proper administration.

From the report: “[T]hese conditions strongly suggest that the Institute recognize that the preconditions for an adequately administered regime of capital punishment do not currently exist and cannot reasonably be expected to be achieved.”

The Council compiled the Steiker Report into a full “Report of the Council to the Membership of The American Law Institute On the Matter of the Death Penalty,” presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting. At that Meeting, a motion was made on behalf of the Council to withdraw Section 210.6 of the Model Penal Code:

“For reasons stated in Part V of the Council’s report to the membership, the Institute withdraws Section 210.6 of the Model Penal Code in light of the current intractable institutional and structural obstacles to ensuring a minimally adequate system for administering capital punishment.” Membership approved this motion at the Annual Meeting. Having been approved by membership, but not yet by the Council, ALI's Council then had to consider the motion at its next meeting. 

On October 23, 2009, the Council voted overwhelmingly, with some abstentions, to accept the above resolution of the capital punishment matter as approved by the Institute’s membership at the 2009 Annual Meeting.

Listen to ALI's Immediate Past President Roberta Cooper Ramo and Retired Judge Christine M. Durham discuss ALI's removal of the death penalty from the Model Penal Code, perhaps one of the earliest indications of the future of capital punishment. 


Early Career Scholars Program Begins

The American Law Institute awards the Early Career Scholars Medal to one or two outstanding early-career law professors whose work is relevant to public policy and has the potential to influence improvements in the law.

The award was created to encourage practical scholarly work and to publicize the work of the honorees by sponsoring conferences on issues related to their work. Honorees are also asked to speak at an Annual Meeting. Formerly known as the Young Scholars Medal, the program is funded by the generous contributions of our members.

Leah Litman
Crystal S. Yang

Ashley S. Deeks
Francis X. Shen

Michelle Wilde Anderson
David Pozen

Colleen V. Chien
Daniel Schwarcz

Elizabeth Chamblee Burch
Michael Simkovic

Adam J. Levitin
Amy B. Monahan

Oren Bar-Gill
Jeanne C. Fromer

Below, Colleen V. Chien presents at the 2018 Annual Meeting.


ALI CLE Established

On April 30, 2012, after much discussion, ALl and the ABA amicably ended their 65-year collaboration in continuing legal education known as ALI-ABA, with each entity moving forward on its own to produce continuing legal education programs.

The ALI's effort in providing continuing legal education to lawyers became known as ALI CLE. The Institute is very proud to continue its service to lawyers throughout the United States.


Updates to the Restatement Numbering Protocol

Beginning in 2014, the way that Restatements are “numbered” changed. Previously, Restatements were numbered based on their “series.” For example, the Restatement Second series began in 1952, thus any Restatement that launched from that date is a “Restatement of the Law, Second …” This is true even for Restatements that did not have a previous “edition,” i.e., Restatement Second of Foreign Relations Law.

The Council voted to change this structure in October 2014. From that date forward, Restatements are numbered consecutively. Numbering of previously published Restatements will not be changed.

For example, the Restatement of Employment Law (2015), the first in its series, is titled Restatement of the Law, Employment Law; whereas Restatement Fourth of Foreign Relations Law (2018) followed the Restatement Third of Foreign Relations Law (1987).


ALI as Institutional Author in Citations

Through its 19th edition, The Bluebook provided that Restatements of the Law and Model Codes should be cited by their title, followed by their year of publication. The relevant rule indicated that the name of the author should be indicated parenthetically, unless the work was authored by the American Bar Association; The American Law Institute; the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, also known as the Uniform Law Commission (ULC); or a sentencing commission.

In 2015, ALI worked with the leadership of The Bluebook to be acknowledged as the institutional author of our works. ALI publications are now cited as such:


First Joint Project with European Law Institute

The Principles for a Data Economy project is the first of its kind.  It is being undertaken jointly by ALI and the European Law Institute (ELI), which, like the ALI, is a membership-based, independent nonprofit organization with the mission of providing guidance on legal developments.

As the proposal for the project indicates, “the law governing trades in commerce has historically focused on assets, and on trade in items, that are either real property, or goods, or rights (including shares, contract rights, intellectual property rights, licenses, etc.). With the emergence of the data economy, however, tradeable items often cannot readily be classified as goods or rights, and they are arguably not services. They are often simply ‘data’, which may be considered as any piece of information recorded in any form or medium.”

There is uncertainty, both in the United States and in Europe, concerning the legal rules that should apply to the data economy. When our walking and running steps are recorded by our smart phone or our driving patterns are recorded by our cars, data is being generated and then aggregated across large numbers of individuals. Who owns this valuable information? Who can trade in it? What rights do the various actors have?

This project will "study, identify, and collate the existing and potential legal rules applicable to transactions in data as an asset and as a tradeable item and assess the 'fit' of those rules with these transactions." It will not address, however, the regulation of data privacy or intellectual property rights relating to data. The end-product will be a set of transnational principles that could be used by participants in the data economy. And, these principles might also provide guidance to courts and legislatures worldwide.


Three Projects Begin to Complete Restatement Third of Torts

In 2019, ALI launched three projects, which will complete the ongoing Restatement Third of Torts. The three projects are Defamation and Privacy, Remedies, and Concluding Provisions.

The revision of the Restatement Second of Torts began in the early 1990s. Portions of the Restatement Second have been superseded by the Restatement Third of Torts: Products Liability, Apportionment of Liability, and Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm and Liability for Economic Harm. Two additional torts categories are being covered in current projects: Intentional Torts to Persons and Property Torts.

Restatement of the Law, Torts was one of the first projects launched in 1923, when ALI was founded. To date, the Torts publications are ALI’s most cited works in court opinions, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

Launch of Corporate Governance Restatement

The Institute first tackled the subject of corporate governance more than 25 years ago in Principles of Corporate Governance: Analysis and Recommendations. Although it provided valuable guidance in a new and unfamiliar area of law at the time, this area has evolved quite a bit in the intervening decades. This project will examine the current state of the law and reflect it in the Restatement.

ALI Documentary

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Annual Meeting Cancelled for Second Time

In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Institute’s Executive Committee decided to cancel the 2020 Annual Meeting, originally scheduled for May 18-20 in San Francisco, California.

This is only the second time in the Institute’s long history that the Annual Meeting has been cancelled.

Read the message from ALI President David F. Levi on the cancellation of the Meeting. 


ALI Holds First Virtual Annual Meeting

In response to group gathering and travel restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, ALI held its 2021 Annual Meeting on a virtual platform—a first for the Institute. Members, project participants, and guests gathered virtually on May 17-18 and June 7-8.

The agenda included sessions on eleven projects, including four projects that were presented for the first time to membership: Restatement of the Law, Copyright; Restatement of the Law Third, Conflicts of Law; Principles for a Data Economy; and Restatement of the Law Fourth, Property. Of the eleven projects presented to membership, four of the project drafts approved by membership marked the completion of the project, subject to the discussion at the Meeting and the usual editorial prerogative:

Restatement of the Law, The Law of American Indians

Principles of the Law, Compliance and Enforcement for Organizations

Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Intentional Torts to Persons

Principles for a Data Economy

Additionally, membership voted to approve Tentative Draft No. 5 of Model Penal Code: Sexual Assault and Related Offenses. Approval of this draft marks the completion of the project, subject to the Council’s approval of the amendments approved at the Annual Meeting.


Reforming the Electoral Count Act

The events of January 2021 generated calls for reform and the development and discussion of various approaches to urgently needed revision of the Electoral Count Act (ECA). Enacted 135 years ago in the years following the disputed 1876 presidential election, the ECA governs Congress’s constitutional role in counting each state’s electoral votes for President and Vice President. The statute has been widely criticized as poorly written, open to conflicting interpretations, and on uncertain constitutional footing.

At the invitation of the leadership of ALI, a group whose members span a range of legal and political views came together to consider possible ECA reforms. Despite holding diverse legal, political, and ideological commitments, the group was united by the belief that Congress should reform the ECA before the 2024 presidential election.

Led by co-chairs Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith, the group agreed on several general principles that should guide ECA reform, as well as specific proposals as to what ECA reform should seek to accomplish. Read the group's set of principles here.

The principles were released in April 2022. Because of the need for quick action, this project did not go through the typical ALI bicameral process, which requires approval by both its Council and membership, and therefore is not considered the official work of the Institute.

In July 2022, two proposals were introduced by a bipartisan U.S. Senate group which include legislation to reform and modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887 to ensure that the electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote for President. 

In developing the bills, the senators received input from state election officials, as well as from an ideologically diverse group of election experts and legal scholars, including ALI. On July 21, 2022, Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland presented the Senate group's proposal, highlighting ALI’s work in drafting ECA reform:

“I want to thank the work of The American Law Institute, which convened a bipartisan working group to consider possible ECA reforms. In particular, I want to thank cochairs Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith for their contributions to our efforts. I also want to thank the staff at Protect Democracy for their suggestions and work here."


Happy 100th Anniversary, ALI

ALI President David F. Levi expresses his gratitude to the Institute's members for all that they have done and continue to do.

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George W. Wickersham

George Wharton Pepper

Harrison Tweed

Norris Darrell

R. Ammi Cutter

Roswell B. Perkins

Charles Alan Wright

Michael Traynor

Roberta Cooper Ramo

David F. Levi

William Draper Lewis

Herbert F. Goodrich

Herbert Wechsler

Geoffrey C. Hazard

Lance Liebman

Richard L. Revesz

Diane P. Wood


For 100 years, ALI has built upon the original mission of its founders. Our recent publications remain as respected and relied upon as our first Restatement. Project drafts must be approved by both ALI's Council and membership before they are considered the position of the Institute. The membership and Council are a diverse group of lawyers, judges, and academics, and reflect a broad range of specialties and experiences. The Council is ALI's governing body, which determines projects and activities to be undertaken by the Institute, and, reflecting the Institute, itself, is nonpartisan and independent.


ALI is currently working on Restatement projects in the areas of Children and the Law, Conflict of Laws, Copyright, Corporate Governance, Election Litigation, Property, and Torts. Updates to the Model Penal Code Articles on Sexual Assault will be published soon. Revisions and updates to the Uniform Commercial Code, completed in partnership with the Uniform Law Commission, are ongoing. The Institute has an active Principles project on High-Volume Civil Adjudication.


ALI's international focus continues to grow. Members are currently working on completing the final portions of Restatement of the Law Fourth, The Foreign Relations Law of the United States, which will cover topics not addressed in the previous Restatement Fourth volume on selected topics in treaties, jurisdiction, and sovereign immunity, as well as selected topics that have emerged since the publication of the Restatement Third.