The American Law Institute will present the following awards at this year's Annual Meeting:

  • Roberta Cooper Ramo will present the Distinguished Service Award to Lance Liebman.
  • Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will present the Wisdom award to Thelton Henderson.

Please read more about our award recipients below. Biographies of our award presenters are located on our Speakers page.

Distinguished Service Award: Lance Liebman

At this year’s Annual Meeting, the Distinguished Service Award will be presented to former ALI Director (1999 to 2014) Lance Liebman of Columbia Law School. The award is given from time to time to a member who over many years has played a major role in the Institute as an institution, by accepting significant burdens as an officer, Council member, committee chair, or project participant and by helping keep the Institute on a steady course as the greatest private law-reform organization in the world. Director Emeritus Liebman by all accounts epitomizes the ideal recipient of this award.


During his time as Director of The American Law Institute, Liebman oversaw a significant expansion of the Institute’s work, as well as the development of ALI’s international partnerships, including with the European Law Institute. His commitment to ALI’s contribution to the international community continues today.

At the opening session of the Institute’s 2014 Annual Meeting, Liebman’s last as ALI Director, then-President Roberta Cooper Ramo shared her thoughts on Liebman’s spirit:

“As President of the ALI, you have an extraordinarily close relationship in an organization like this with the Director. It is always important that you have the ability to have an intellectual discourse at the highest level. It is always important that you have somebody you trust completely to oversee the day-to-day operations of something as important as The American Law Institute. What is not always obvious is whether it is going to be fun and whether you are going to enjoy that or endure it, and in my case, and I suspect in Michael [Traynor]'s as well, it was not just fun, it was a pure pleasure, an honor and a joy to have a chance to talk to Lance, sometimes three or four times in a day.”

Restatement projects begun during his tenure include American Indian Law, Charitable Nonprofit Organizations, Consumer Contracts, Employment Law, Data Privacy, International Commercial and Investor-State Arbitration, three Torts projects (Economic Harm; Intentional Torts; and Physical and Emotional Harm), and Concise Restatement volumes on Law Governing Lawyers, Property (compiled by Liebman himself), and Torts. Principles projects started during Liebman’s tenure include: Aggregate Litigation, Election Law, Government Ethics, Software Contracts, and Transnational Intellectual Property. ALI also began its work on two portions of the Model Penal Code: Sentencing and Sexual Assault and Related Offenses. Liebman guided each of these projects through numerous drafts at project, Council, and Annual Meetings.

Liebman earned his B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. from Cambridge University, and his J.D. from Harvard Law School. Before joining Columbia in 1991 as Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, Liebman was on the faculty of Harvard Law School for 21 years, becoming a full professor in 1976 and serving as Associate Dean from 1981 to 1984. He spent two years working on transportation and community issues as an Assistant to Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York City, after serving as a law clerk to Justice Byron White of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1967 term.

Liebman has been a Visiting Fulbright Professor of Law at Maharajah Sayajirao University in Baroda, India, a visiting lecturer at Tokyo University, and an adviser for the Japanese Institute of Labor. He also taught at the Harvard-Fulbright School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.


John Minor Wisdom Award: Thelton E. Henderson

The American Law Institute will present the John Minor Wisdom Award to Thelton E. Henderson at this year’s Annual Meeting. The Wisdom Award is given from time to time in specific recognition of a member’s contributions to the work of the Institute or a person’s outstanding achievement in the area of civil rights and related fields following the example of Judge Wisdom. 


An elected member of The American Law Institute, Thelton E. Henderson received his B.A. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. After graduation, Henderson was drafted into the United States Army, where he served as a clinical psychology technician. He earned his J.D. from University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Upon graduation, Henderson was hired as an attorney with the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice, where he served from 1962 to 1963. During his tenure with the Justice Department, Henderson investigated patterns of discriminatory practices in the South.

He practiced general law in private practice and was the directing attorney of the East Bayshore Neighborhood Legal Center in Palo Alto. From 1968 to 1976, Henderson was the assistant dean of the Stanford University School of Law. There, he helped increase minority enrollment to twenty percent of the student body during his tenure. In 1977, he became a founding partner of Rosen, Remcho and Henderson in San Francisco. He also taught administrative law and civil procedure at Golden State University of Law in San Francisco.

In 1980, Henderson was appointed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. He was later appointed chief judge in 1990, becoming the first African American to reach that position. He assumed senior status in 1998 and retired in 2017.

The Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at Berkeley Law is named in his honor in recognition of his tremendous dedication to transformative justice, noting, “Judge Henderson has a remarkable ability—and willingness—to protect the vulnerable among us. In 1987, he became the nation’s first judge to declare that gay people, like racial minorities, are entitled to equal protection and due process of law under the United States Constitution. While the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, we now know that he was ahead of his time: twenty-eight years later, the United States Supreme Court agreed that gay people are entitled to marriage equality.”

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