Distilling the Law: American Law Institute again taps NYU Law faculty to oversee publications on key areas of practice

NYU Law faculty members will play leading roles in two of the American Law Institute's four new projects in 2015. Professor Christopher Sprigman will serve as the reporter of the ALI’s first Restatement of Law, Copyright, and Geoffrey Miller, Stuyvesant P. Comfort Professor of Law, will be the reporter for a new Principles of the Law, Compliance, Enforcement, and Risk Management for Corporations, Nonprofits, and Other Organizations. Jennifer Arlen '86, Norma Z. Paige Professor of Law, will join Miller as an associate reporter on the compliance project.

The ALI is the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and otherwise improve the law. In recent years, it has tapped members of the faculty for a number of key positions. In addition to the projects just announced, several NYU Law professors are current or recent reporters on other ALI projects. And in early 2014, the ALI’s governing council named Richard Revesz, Lawrence King Professor of Law and dean emeritus, as ALI’s director.

The ALI’s restatements and principles of the law are highly respected distillations of the law in a wide range of areas, from torts to property to conflict of laws. One measure of their status is the frequency with which judges turn to them. The US Supreme Court, for example, which is highly selective about the kinds of legal authority it cites in its opinions, relied on ALI publications in 15 cases in its 2013-14 term, according to ALI statistics. Since the ALI’s founding in 1923, US courts have cited restatements and principles roughly 200,000 times. State supreme courts also regularly “adopt” sections of restatements, which means that the law as described in a cited portion of a restatement becomes the official law of the state.

The copyright project will be a bit of a departure for the ALI, since typical restatements deal with common law. While copyright is primarily statutory, it nonetheless has areas in which judges may exercise broad discretion. “A successful restatement of copyright can help advance ALI’s mission,” says Sprigman. “The project’s goal is to help judges, lawyers and litigants navigate some of the complexities of copyright law, and, where possible, reduce the law’s imprecision and inconsistency.”

Miller and Arlen, who will collaborate on the ALI’s compliance project, have already teamed up in this area: During the 2013-14 academic year, they co-founded the Law School’s Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement. Miller also recently published The Law of Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance, the first-ever casebook in the field. “These fields are growing rapidly in complexity and importance,” notes Miller. “At present there is no single set of standards in this area. The ALI project will bring together leading people in the law of compliance, enforcement, risk management, and governance, with a view to offering best practice ideas in this rapidly evolving field.”

Other NYU Law professors who are current or recent reporters on ALI projects are:

  • Rochelle Dreyfuss, Co-Reporter, Intellectual Property: Principles Governing Jurisdiction, Choice of Law, and Judgments in Transnational Disputes
  • Samuel Estreicher, Chief Reporter, Restatement of the Law, Employment Law
  • Samuel Issacharoff, Reporter, Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation
  • Florencia Marotta-Wurgler '01, Co-Reporter, Restatement of the Law, Consumer Contracts
  • Erin Murphy, Associate Reporter, Model Penal Code: Sexual Assault and Related Offenses
  • Linda Silberman, C0-Reporter, Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments: Analysis and Proposed Federal Statute
  • Stephen Schulhofer, Reporter, Model Penal Code: Sexual Assault and Related Offenses

“The role of reporter provides a unique opportunity to contribute the development of the law and to blend academic insight with real-world experience,” observes Dreyfuss. “From my own experience, I know how difficult it can be to reach agreement on controversial matters, so the reporter must be someone held in high regard by the practitioners, academics, judges, and policymakers who comprise the ALI.” She adds: “It is a great pleasure to see so many of my NYU colleagues appointed to lead new projects.”

Posted December 12, 2014