2007 Conference

The ASLH traveled to the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel for its annual meeting on October 25–8. Despite some difficulty in finding rooms when Arizona State University changed its football schedule to make this homecoming weekend (a problem brilliantly solved by the Local Arrangements Committee and, in particular, by its member Amanda Breaux), almost 300 people registered for and attended the conference. Dr Paul Brand of All Souls’ College Oxford gave the plenary address in Great Hall, Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University on “Thirteenth-century English Royal Justices: What We Know and Do Not Know About What They Did” The address was preceded by words of welcome from Justice O’Connor herself. It was followed by a splendid reception at the University’s Desert Botanical Garden sponsored by the School of Law.

The full program is available online (DOC).


Results of Elections
Professor Constance Backhouse, the Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair at the University of Ottawa, who ran unopposed, was elected President-Elect. As a result of this election, Maeva Marcus, the current President-Elect became president, and Charlie Donahue was put out to pasture.

Alfred L. Brophy of the University of Alabama, Mary Dudziak of the University of Southern California, Annette Gordon-Reed of the University Rutgers (Newark) and New York Law School, and Adam Kosto of Columbia University were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors in the general category, and Karen Tani of the University of Pennsylvania was elected as the graduate student representative. They replace Richard B. Bernstein of New York Law School, Lyndsay Campbell of the University of California (Berkeley), Thomas P. Gallanis of the University of Minnesota, James Oldham of Georgetown University, and Reva Siegel of Yale University, whose terms have expired. Our thanks are owing to the outgoing members of the board for their years of faithful service, and congratulations to the new members!

Amalia D. Kessler of Stanford University and Barbara Y. Welke of the University of Minnesota were elected to three-year terms on the Nominating Committee. They replace Kenneth Mack of Harvard University and Wesley Pue of the University of British Columbia , whose terms have expired. Once more our thanks are owing to the outgoing members of the committee for their years of faithful service, and congratulations to the new members!

Tom Gallanis Appointed Secretary and Craig Klafter Appointed Treasurer-Elect
Pursuant to the by-law amendment that the membership adopted in April 2007, the board voted to split the offices of Secretary and Treasurer. Tom Gallanis agreed to serve as secretary for a three-year term beginning in January of 2008. The President, with the approval of the Executive Committee, also appointed Craig Klafter, of the University of British Columbia, as treasurer-elect, to succeed Bill LaPiana as treasurer when Bill’s term expires at the end of 2008. Craig has considerable experience managing the finances of small non-profits, and his appointment now will allow for a smooth transition when Bill steps down.


Prizes and Awards
At the annual lunch on the 27th, Charlie Donahue announced the following prizes and awards:

Lyndsay Campbell

Pictured is Lyndsay Campbell with Charlie Donahue.

William Nelson Cromwell Research Fellowships were awarded to: Lindsay Campbell, a Ph.D. candidate in the JSP Program at Berkeley for her work on the meaning and scope of rights to free expression and a free press in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia in the early nineteenth century; Christopher Schmidt, who a recent J.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, for his work reinterpreting the origins of Brown v. Board of Education to show the emergence of racial liberalism as a ruling ideology; Hilary Soderland, a Ph.D. in Archaeology from Cambridge University, and a J.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, for her work on how the first century of archaeology law has shaped the study of Native American cultures, and Joshua Stein, a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA Department of History, for his work studying assault and battery prosecutions in New York City from 1760-1840, in order to understand local systems of justice and changing attitudes towards violence.

Gautham Rao and Laura Weinrib

Pictured are Gautham Rao and Laura Weinrib with Charlie Donahue.

This year’ Preyer Memorial Committee chose two 2007 Preyer Scholars: Gautham Rao, a PhD student at Chicago, for “The Federal Posse Comitatus Doctrine: Slavery, Compulsion, and Statecraft in Mid-Nineteenth Century America,” (forthcoming, Law and History Review) and Laura Weinrib, a PhD student at Princeton and Harvard Law School graduate, for “The Sex Side of Civil Liberties, United States v. Dennett and the Changing Face of Free Speech.” Maeva Marcus chaired the panel that was held at the annual meeting, and Linda Kerber and Bob Gordon served as commentators.

The first Cromwell Dissertation prize was awarded to Christopher Beauchamp for his dissertation The Telephone Patents: Intellectual Property, Business and the Law in the United States and Britain, 1876-1900—a dissertation submitted for a Ph.D. at Cambridge University in 2006.  (Christopher was at the meeting and sat at the head table, but for some reason the picture didn’t come out.)

John Wertheimer

Pictured is John Wertheimer with Charlie Donahue.

This year‘s Surrency Prize was split between Alison Morantz and John Wertheimer, the former for “There’s No Place Like Home: Homestead Exemption and Judicial Constructions of Family in Nineteenth-Century America,” and the latter for “Gloria’s Story: Adulterous Concubinage and the Law in Twentieth-Century Guatemala.”

This year’s Sutherland Prize was awarded to Sara Butler of Loyola University, New Orleans, for her article “Degrees of Culpability: Suicide Verdicts, Mercy, and the Jury in Medieval England,” published in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies in the Spring of 2006

The Cromwell Book Prize was awarded to Roy Kreitner of Tel Aviv University, for Calculating Promises The Emergence Of Modern American Contract Doctrine published by Stanford University Press.

Bill Wiecek

Pictured at the right is Bill Wiecek with John Reid.

The John Phillip Reid Prize for the best book in legal history published in English during the previous the calendar year was awarded to Bill Wiecek for The Birth of the Modern Constitution: The United States Supreme Court, 1941-1953, volume 12 of the Oliver Wendell Holrnes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States.


After awarding the prizes, Charlie Donahue devoted the remainder of his address on the “State of the Society” to the Society’s administration. A transcript of his remarks on this topic follows:

“I promised a word about the future. The future, I would suggest, lies in keeping on doing what we’re doing, because, it seems to me, that we’re doing quite well. Last year, I suggested that maybe we had gotten too big to operate without some professional help. Most learned societies that do as much as we do have a professional executive director. The problem is that our membership is still quite small for all that we do; one would be reluctant to raise dues any more than we have. Dipping into endowment for operating expenses is a ‘no-no’, and anyone who knows me will know that I would not want to be the one who was known as the man who created an administrative bureaucracy.

“So we tried something different. There’s a huge amount of good will in this group, and many of you want to help. You’re all busy, and there are just so many hours in the day, but if we split up the jobs, we may be able to hack it, and use what little money we have to support graduate students and the publications. We made a start. Tom Gallanis graciously agreed to take over as secretary, but in a more restricted role, as corporate secretary, not factotum. Sally Hadden as membership chair has taken charge of the mailing list. We’re not fully there yet, but we’re on the way. We need to have someone take over the website. Chris Waldrep can’t do that and run H-Law as well. We should at least start to communicate with members who are willing to receive communications this way by e-mail. Craig Klafter, who has considerable experience keeping the books for small non-profits, has agreed to take over as treasurer when Bill LaPiana’s term ends next year, and in the meantime Craig will serve as treasurer-elect. With modern technology, a willingness to help, and an ability to laugh off the glitches, we may be able to keep this an organization run by scholars for scholars, one which puts its principal effort into the scholarly enterprise. That is a model well worth trying to preserve as many universities, including my own, seem to be abandoning it.

“Where this will all end up so far as the administration of the Society is concerned, I do not know. What I know is that the society is strong and getting a stronger and that I turn over the gavel to someone in whom I have total confidence.”


Next Year: Ottawa
The Program Committee for the Ottawa meeting (November 13–16, 2008) has been formed.


Update Your Membership Profile
Charlie Donahue continues to urge members to update their profiles on the membership directory that is maintained at the University of Illinois Press. “We are in particular need of current email addresses of the members, since this is the most efficient method for us to communicate with you,” Donahue said.