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Secondary Sources: Restatements

Description

Restatements of Law, or simply Restatements, are highly-regarded summaries of common law. They are prepared by the American Law Institute (ALI), a prestigious organization comprised of judges, professors, and lawyers. ALI's aim is to distill the "black letter law" from cases to indicate trends in common law and occasionally to recommend what a rule of law should be. In essence, they restate existing common law into a series of principles or rules.

Restatements cover broad legal topics, such as Contracts or Property. They are organized into chapters, titles, and sections. Sections contain a concisely stated rule of law, explanation of purpose, comments to clarify the rule, hypothetical examples, and any exceptions to the rule.

Although Restatements are not primary law, they are considered persuasive authority by many courts due to the prestige of ALI and its painstaking drafting process. The most heavily cited Restatements are the Restatement of Torts and the Restatement of Contracts.

See Restatements of the Law and Uniform Laws LibGuide for more details.

Finding Restatements

Online: The most comprehensive collection is available in HeinOnline's American Law Institute Library, but Restatements can also be found on Lexis and Westlaw platforms.

Print: The Law Library has some of the Restatements in print; for additional details, see Restatements held by the Law Library.

Current Status of Restatement

The American Law Institute is continually working on Restatements and other projects. Researchers are often interested in determining whether a Restatement has become final, or at what stage the drafting process has reached. The following tools can help answer those questions, as well as provide a history of the development of ALI projects.

  • ALI Catalog of Publications
    The catalog contains information about draft content and authorship. It mentions which portions of Restatements are superceded or in development.
  • Annual Report of the ALI Director
    The Annual Report summarizes work contemplated, underway, and completed during the year on various Restatements.
    Available online from 1999.  Oklahoma City University has microform and/or print copies of historic and current annual reports. Use the catalog to locate them.
  • Proceedings of ALI Annual Meetings
    The Proceedings contain proposed amendments, an index of sections discussed, and records of discussions. Meetings take place in May and the Proceedings are usually available by March or April of the following year.

Drafting Process

For a short overview of the drafting process for a Restatement, see How the ALI Works.

Parties Involved

  • ALI Officers: A group of approximately ten, including the Chair of the Council, President, Vice Presidents, Treasurer, Director, and Deputy Directors
  • ALI Council: An elected, standing group of approximately sixty judges, professors, and lawyers
  • Reporter: Head of the Restatement project appointed by the ALI Officers and Council, responsible for drafting the language of the Restatement
  • Advisers: A group of professors and lawyers (usually 12-30 for a Restatement) with subject expertise appointed to advise the Reporter
  • Members Consultative Group: Groups of ALI members (usually 50-75 for a Restatement) interested in the topic of a Restatement who wish to offer input
  • ALI Membership: approximately 3000 ALI members who discuss and occasionally vote on Restatement language at annual meetings; membership gives input only near the end stages of the drafting process

Drafting Process

The following process typically takes between 9 and 21 years:

  • A Reporter is appointed by the Council
  • The Reporter divides the project into parts that go through the following process separately:
  • The Reporter writes a preliminary draft
  • The Preliminary draft is sent to the Advisers and the Members Consultative Group
  • The Advisers and Members Consultative Group recommend revisions
  • The Reporter, at his/her discretion, makes the revisions
  • The draft goes back and forth between the Advisers and the Reporter and a series of revised preliminary drafts are made
  • The Reporter and Advisers send a council draft to the Council of the Institute
  • The Council suggests revisions
  • The Reporter is somewhat obliged to make the suggested revisions
  • The draft goes back and forth between the Advisers and the Council and a series of council drafts are made
  • The Council presents a tentative draft to the ALI membership
  • The draft goes back and forth between the Council and the Membership and a series of tentative drafts are made
  • Issues surrounding the draft settle and a proposed final draft is usually created
  • The proposed final draft (or last tentative draft) is submitted to the ALI Membership at the annual meeting
  • The Membership and the Council approve the proposed final draft
  • The Restatement is adopted and promulgated and the official text of the Restatement is published

Other ALI-authored works, such as Uniform Commercial Code articles, are created in a similar process. If you want assistance locating materials relating to non-Restatement ALI projects, please ask a reference librarian.

Restatements Bluebook

When citing Restatements, use the abbreviation chart in Table T6.

Examples:

  • Restatement (Third) of Prop. § 2 (2000).  
  • Restatement (Second) of Torts § 847A (Tentative Draft No. 18, 1974).

Comments should be cited according to Bluebook Rule 3.4. Below is an example.

  • Restatement (Second) of Contracts  §21 cmt. a, (1971).
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