2003 Annual Report

2003 Board of Directors Meeting  ::
Washington, DC  ::  Capital Hilton
The meeting began at 8:10 p.m.

Opening Remarks
Bob Gordon, president of the Society, opened the meeting with the following remarks:
He thanked all members of the board for their service during the past year and for attending the meeting.

He thanked the local arrangement committee, Lewis Grossman and Jim May, for their work in organizing the meeting.  Bob noted that their report would be the surrounding meeting.

He thanked the Secretary/Treasurer, Jack Pratt, for his work on the meeting.

He reported that the Executive Committee had taken no actions of consequence during the past year.  There had been approval of a substantial subsidy for a book to be published by the University of North Carolina Press, but fortunately a contribution from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation (to be discussed more fully later) had made it unnecessary for the Society to spend its funds.

The minutes of the 2002 meeting were approved as they appeared on H-Law and in the summer newsletter, and as distributed prior to this meeting.

Committee Reports

2003 Program Committee

Ariela Gross added to the written report she had submitted by noting that the committee had tried to put together a diverse program, from the many proposals submitted.  The committee had tried to emphasize comparative and international topics.  The large number of good individual proposals had become parts of five panels.  She thanked all members of the committee for their service, with special thanks to David Rabban for his help as chair of the prior year’s program committee.  Ariela reported that online submissions of proposals had helped, along with other electronic communications.  She suggested that future program committees might want to reconsider the practice of having each member of the committee solicit a panel, especially if the committee is as large as this year’s (17 members).  The smaller size of the 2004 program committee could alleviate potential problems.

2004 Local Arrangements Committee

The committee’s report on preparations for the meeting in Austin, Texas, had been submitted in advance.

2004 Program Committee

The committee had begun its work.

Treasurer’s Report

Jack Pratt noted the summary of the Society’s finances that had been distributed in advance.  He called attention to the increases in expenses, especially for the annual meeting.  The significant result has been that the Society faces a net loss for the current year.

Sutherland Prize Committee

Tom Gallanis reported that the Committee had recommended that the Sutherland Prize be awarded to Professor Joseph Biancalana of the University of Cincinnati College of Law for his article “Actions of Covenant, 1200-1330″¨ in the Spring 2002 issue of Law and History Review.  In the view of the Committee’s majority: “Professor Biancalana’s article provides an admirably thorough answer to two questions of fundamental importance to the history of the common law of obligations.  First, when and why did the royal courts begin requiring the plaintiff to produce a writing under the defendant’s seal as proof of their covenant? Second, how, when, and why did the remedy in actions of covenant change? Professor Biancalana’s answers are careful, insightful, and persuasive. They show a remarkable command of legal nuance and are the product of exhaustive research in the surviving manuscripts. Important in its conclusions and meticulous in its detail, this article fully merits the Sutherland Prize for 2003.”

Nominating Committee

Tom Gallanis reported that the committee had tried to assemble a group of diverse candidates for vacant positions.  He announced that Charlie Donahue was president-elect.  Other results were as follows:

Charles Donahue, Jr. – elected

Board of Directors

Stuart Banner – elected
Raymond Diamond
Paul Finkelman
Philip Hamburger – elected
Victoria List – elected

Joyce Malcolm
Patricia Minter
David Seipp – elected
Victor Uribe-Uran
James Whitman – elected

Nominating Committee

Edward Harris
Adam Kosto – elected

Tahirih Lee – elected
Claire Valente

Bob Gordon thanked Tom for his work on the Nominating Committee as well as for his temporary service on the Sutherland Committee when one member had to recuse herself.

A question was asked about the Sutherland Committee’s listing all journals reviewed during deliberations on the award of the prize.  Tom Gallanis reported that any such list would be very long, and commented that he was not sure of the utility of the list.  It was noted that there had been an open invitation to authors to submit their own articles.  The concluding consensus was that the committee and its chair should have discretion to decide whether to publish a list.

Law and History Review

Chris Tomlins called attention to his written report.  He acknowledged the continuing assistance of the American Bar Foundation in providing office space and staff support for the Review.  He asked that the Society, through its president, thank the Bar Foundation, Renee Brown (the Foundation’s staff member who acts as the Review’s editorial coordinator, and Christina Dengate, copy editor at the University of Illinois Press.  The request received unanimous approval by the board.

Chris reported that the Review was in a very healthy position in terms of the number of manuscripts received, 55-60 a year.  The one problem that he noted was the increasing length of the manuscripts, which meant that more had to be rejected or that each issue of the Review had to be longer.  (He called attention to the fact that the contract with the University of Illinois Press had to be renegotiated by June 2004.)  He observed that the cost of the Review had increased as a percentage of the Society’s expenses.  With that fact in mind, he would favor an increase in dues.

Bob Gordon noted that this would be Chris’s final year as editor.  Bob thanked Chris for his exemplary performance.  The board responded with applause for Chris.

A question was asked about introducing password access to the Review’s online edition.  Chris responded that he preferred to have open access, though the policy should be reviewed regularly.  He noted that membership, both institutional and invitational, had remained relatively stable.  If institutional subscriptions declined, it might become necessary to gate access to the Review, as a means of encouraging institutional subscriptions.  He reported that individuals tended to stay as members once they joined, though he thought that there was not much potential for growth, as evidenced by the lack of significant growth from recent membership campaigns.

In response to a question about the possibility of increasing the number of issues each year, Chris said that each issue would be smaller in size, which would reduce the variety in each issue (because of the length of each article).  He was not confident that the result would solve any problem.  He said that there was currently no page limit on submissions, though he did encourage authors to cut length; a limit might become necessary in the future, though the Review had begun with the goal of publishing longer articles than appeared in other history journals. He also noted that increasing the number of pages published each year would probably lead to higher contract costs.

Committee on Conference & the Annual Meeting

Craig Joyce, chair, thanked the local arrangements committee for its work on the current meeting.  He reported that the next two conferences will be held in Austin, Texas (October 28-31, 2004), and Cincinnati, Ohio (November 10-12, 2005).  For the next two years, the committee had offers  pending from local committees in various cities.  For 2006, the leading cities were Baltimore and Ft. Lauderdale; for 2007, Las Vegas.  Craig summarized the past practices used for selection of sites, noting that
those practices needed to be reviewed in light of the increased costs faced for future meetings.

Jack Pratt summarized his recommendations for future meetings:
(1) engage a third-party meeting planner to assist in negotiating favorable contracts with hotels;
(2) prefer meetings in second-tier cities, where costs will be lower;
(3) raise registration and luncheon charges, to reflect the actual costs; and
(4) restrict off-site events to those that can be entirely funded through donations.
During the discussion that followed, an additional recommendation was made: That the program committee constrain the use of audio-visual equipment, which is expensive to rent, to programs in which the equipment is essential.

Bob Gordon suggested that if the board approved the policies, implementation would be left to the committee and the secretary/treasurer.  The discussion showed the board’s approval, along with favoring Baltimore over Ft. Lauderdale and with a positive reaction to a meeting in Las Vegas.

Publications Committee

Bruce Mann supplemented the written report submitted in advance by predicting that the University of North Carolina Press would probably request subventions regularly for volumes in the future.  Fortunately, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation had provided a generous grant to support publication of the book edited by Paul Craven and Douglas Hay, Masters, Servants and Magistrates in Britain and the Empire, 1562-1955.  Future subventions would have to come from the Society’s general funds.  Bruce suggested that it would be helpful to consider a special fund for subventions or an addition to dues to cover the costs of subventions; the Press and authors would continue to have responsibility to seek their own subventions whenever possible.

Bruce also reported that the committee had begun its search for an editor to succeed Chris Tomlins.

Bob Gordon thanked Laura Edwards for her service as book review editor for the Law and History Review, which the board approved with a round of applause.  Al Brophy has assumed those responsibilities.

Tom Green, as co-editor of the UNC series, noted that the need for subventions was a serious problem, especially for non-American topics. It was difficult for the editors not to think in market terms when
reviewing a manuscript for publication.  If decisions about subventions were postponed until later in the publication process, the publications committee would be confronted with a difficult decision after much
editorial effort had been devoted to the book.  Bob commented that the UNC Press had done a good job of reducing costs per volume.  Even so, there could be a series of volumes that need subventions of approximately $5,000 each.

Bruce reported that the committee had talked extensively about the concerns and had decided to respond on a case-by-case basis for the moment.

Future Projects Committee

Bill Nelson called attention to the proposal contained in the committee’s report which had been distributed in advance – the committee proposed the following by-law:

The President shall have authority to negotiate terms on which the Society shall participate as a co-sponsor with other organizations of academic conferences.  Provided, however, that no Society monies shall be used in any fashion to support such conferences unless and until the Board of Directors adopts general rules and standards for appropriating and spending such monies.  A special committee appointed by the President shall choose by unanimous vote all members of the society who will participate in any co-sponsored conference.

The committee made the proposal with the understanding that joint conferences would be approved so long as no Society money was spent.  Bob Gordon explained that the ambition was to have the Society cooperate with regional international conferences.  After discussion, the board approved the proposal, with the understanding that the committee would make minor changes in language to reflect the discussion.  [At its next meeting, the committee discussed the proposal further and decided that it was not necessary to amend the by-laws.]

Surrency Prize Committee

Richard Ross reported that the committee had recommended that the Erwin C. Surrency Prize, for the best article or review essay published during the previous year in the Law and History Review, be awarded to Stephen Jacobson for his article, “Law and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Europe: The Case of Catalonia in Comparative Perspective,” which appeared in volume 20 of the Law and History Review (2002).  The citation read: “Stephen Jacobson’s marvelously broad and ingenious article explores how resistance to civil law codification contributed to Catalan nationalism in the nineteenth century.  He richly explains how jurists, politicians, and controversialists took a decaying regional law, revived and modernized it in the process of resisting codification, and reimagined that law as one of the foundations of Catalan social identity and national solidarity.  Far from being backward or stubborn, resistance to codification becomes, in Jacobson’s telling, a creative project. Jacobson’s treatment of his theme is remarkably broad.  He manages to weave together the political history of nineteenth-century Catalonia and Spain; the intellectual context supplied by French, German, and English debates on codification; and an analysis of the substantive features of uncodified Catalan law that made it attractive to its advocates.  In so doing, Jacobson shows just how varied, deep, and unpredictable were the
connections between codification and nationalism.”

The committee also recommended an honorable mention for the 2003 prize be awarded to Ronen Shamir for his article, “The Comrades Law of Hebrew Workers in Palestine: A Study in Socialist Justice,” which appeared in volume 20 of the Law and History Review (2002).  The citation read: “Ronen Shamir has offered a new perspective on ‘socialist justice’ by exploring the aspirations and operation of the ‘Comrades Law,’ a legal system set up by the General Federation of Hebrew Workers (the Histadrut) in pre-World War II Palestine.  The Comrades Law sought, on one hand, to provide socialist justice as an alternative to the courts of the British colonial government.  On the other hand, it tried to further the project of nation-building pursued by a variety of Zionist institutions before the foundation of Israel.  Shamir’s masterful depiction of the tensions between these two roles allows him to contribute to debates about the possibilities and limits of socialist justice.  In particular, he is able to show how the imperatives of nation-building led the Comrades Law to subordinate the education and empowerment of workers to the bureaucratic needs of the Histadrut.”

Richard called attention to internationalizing of the field of legal history, as evidenced by the fact that the most recent recipients of the prize were authors of non-American topics.


Chris Waldrep supplemented the written report by noting that the ten-year anniversary of H-Law had passed this summer.  He reported work on the web page to make it easier to find using search engines.

Bob Gordon commended Chris and the other moderators for their work during the past decade.  The board responded with applause.

Membership Committee

Jack Pratt reported that the on-line membership directory was now available.  Access is open, though only those with membership numbers and email addresses can make changes to their own data.

Committee on Documentary Preservation

The committee’s report was circulated in advance.  Discussion followed, focusing on the need to be attentive to proposals to destroy court records.

Honors Committee

As explained in its written report, the committee proposed that the Society’s by-laws be amended to increase from ten to fifteen the maximum number of honorary fellows allowed.  Following discussion, the proposal was approved unanimously, with Harry Scheiber abstaining.

Hurst Memorial Committee

Bob Gordon reported that the 2003 summer institute had been a great success.  He pointed to the University of Wisconsin’s web pages for further information.  The next meeting will be in the summer of 2005.

Murphy Grant Committee

Harry Scheiber reported for the committee, noting that the first award had been made in the past year.

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New Business

Bob Gordon announced a new prize award, supported by the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation.  Sally Gordon explained that the award would be $5,000 for excellent work in legal history.  The Foundation had committed to support the award initially for five years.  The target of the award would be young scholars, not associate or full professors.  The procedure anticipated that a committee of the Society would provide the Foundation with three, ranked names in mid-September, allowing the Foundation’s board to make a selection at its meeting in late October.  The winner would be announced at the Society’s annual meeting.

Bob Gordon, on behalf of the executive committee, proposed that membership dues be increased to the following structure:

For individual members, with annual income:

below $50,000 – $60
$50,000  to $74,999 – $70
$75,000  to $99,999 – $80
$100,000 to $124,999 – $90
$125,000 to $149,999 – $100
$150,000 and above – $125

Student members – $20

Sponsor – $250

Sustaining – [eliminated; was $75]

Life member – $1000

For institutional members – $100

For non-US members, add $10 in each category.

Bob explained that the increase was needed because of higher costs in all aspects of the Society’s operation — Law and History Review, UNC Studies in Legal History series, and the annual meeting.  The likely increase in costs for the Review and for the series had already been discussed.  The additional costs for the annual meeting were due to a combination of factors, including: (1) increased charges by hotels to make up for lost revenue after the terrorist attacks of 2001; (2) special charges for off-site events; and (3) higher charges generally when meetings are held in large cities.  Those increases had been partially offset by the increase in the registration fee for the annual meeting; but other hoped-for revenues had not materialized — contributions from local donors and income from investments.  Because the Society’s current dues were low in comparison with those of other learned societies, the hope is that an increase will not cause a loss of members.  Bob estimated that the new dues structure could provide as much as $25,000 in additional revenue each year.

During the discussion that followed, an additional suggestion was made that the registration form for the annual meeting have space to invite contributions toward expenses of graduate students who want to attend the annual meeting.

Bob also suggested that in addition to altering the dues structure to provide sufficient income for the Society’s ongoing commitments, this was an appropriate time to build capacity to do more than that.  He referred to the occasional calls on the Society for subventions for books in our Studies in Legal History Series.  In addition, he suggested that the Society should continue the valuable policy of modest travel grants for foreign scholars to give papers at the annual meeting.  There are also ambitions for the Society’s playing a role in organizing regional/international conferences in legal history; while most of the funds for these would be raised specially for the occasion, he hoped that the Society would be in a position to help members with travel expenses. He also pointed to the efforts to update the Society’s web site and online address list, efforts which he hoped could be enhanced by links to bibliographic resources in legal history.  Finally, he noted that some would like to expand the Society’s public education functions, to make more and better legal history accessible to general audiences.  All of those ambitions pointed to the need for a campaign to solicit contributions from members and from other possible contributors.  Bob suggested that the Society send a letter (maybe signed by ASLH presidents from Laura Kalman to Charlie Donahue) requesting contributions from our
membership along with pledge cards;  and also individually addressed letters to retiring members asking that they make modest bequests to the Society in their wills.  He noted that there were ongoing efforts to identify foundations that would be worth cultivating, even though it was not easy to find ones that make legal history a priority.

The motion to alter the dues structure passed with Barry Cushman noting his disapproval.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Tom Green thanked Bob Gordon for all his work as president.  The board echoed the thanks with applause.

The meeting adjourned at 11:15 p.m.