Restatement of the Law
In American jurisprudence
American Jurisprudence
American Jurisprudence is an encyclopedia of United States law, published by West. It was originated by Lawyers Cooperative Publishing, which was subsequently acquired by the Thomson Corporation. The series is now in its second edition, launched in 1962...

, the Restatements of the Law are a set of treatises on legal subjects that seek to inform judges and lawyers about general principles of common law. There have been three series of Restatements to date, all published by the American Law Institute
American Law Institute
The American Law Institute was established in 1923 to promote the clarification and simplification of American common law and its adaptation to changing social needs. The ALI drafts, approves, and publishes Restatements of the Law, Principles of the Law, model codes, and other proposals for law...

, an organization of legal academics and practitioners founded in 1923.

Individual Restatement volumes are essentially codifications of case law
Case law
In law, case law is the set of reported judicial decisions of selected appellate courts and other courts of first instance which make new interpretations of the law and, therefore, can be cited as precedents in a process known as stare decisis...

, which are common law judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

-made doctrines that develop gradually over time because of the principle of stare decisis
Stare decisis
Stare decisis is a legal principle by which judges are obliged to respect the precedents established by prior decisions...

. Although Restatements of the Law are not binding authority in and of themselves, they are highly persuasive because they are formulated over several years with extensive input from law professors, practicing attorneys, and judges. They are meant to reflect the consensus of the American legal community as to what the law is (and in some cases, what it should become). As Harvard Law School describes the Restatements of the Law:
The ALI's aim is to distill the "black letter law
Black letter law
The black letter law refers to the basic standard elements for a particular field of law, which are generally known and free from doubt or dispute...

" from cases, to indicate a trend 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.

Each Restatement section includes a Black Letter principle, Comments and Illustrations, and, in the form of Reporters' Notes, a detailed discussion of most all the cases that went into the principle summarized in that one section. By citing a Restatement section in a legal brief, a lawyer may bring to the attention of a judge a carefully studied summary of court action on almost any common law legal doctrine. The judge can then consider the Restatement section and make an informed decision as to how to apply it in the case at hand. While courts are under no formal obligation to adopt Restatement sections as the law, they often do because such sections accurately restate the already-established law in that jurisdiction, or on issues of first impression, are persuasive in terms of demonstrating the current trend that other jurisdictions are following.

All told, the Restatement of the Law is one of the most respected and well-used sources of secondary authority, covering nearly every area of common law. While considered secondary authority
Secondary authority
In law, a secondary authority is an authority purporting to explain the meaning or applicability of the actual verbatim texts of primary authorities .Some secondary authority materials are written and published by governments to explain the laws in simple,...

 (compare to primary authority
Primary authority
A primary authority is a document that establishes the law on a particular issue, such as a case decision or legislative act. The search for applicable primary authority is an important part of the process of legal research....

), the authoritativeness of the Restatements of the Law is evidenced by their acceptance by courts throughout the United States. The Restatements have been cited in over a 150,000 reported court decisions.

In December 1923, Benjamin N. Cardozo
Benjamin N. Cardozo
Benjamin Nathan Cardozo was a well-known American lawyer and associate Supreme Court Justice. Cardozo is remembered for his significant influence on the development of American common law in the 20th century, in addition to his modesty, philosophy, and vivid prose style...

 explained the prospective importance of the Restatements in a lecture at Yale Law School
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

When, finally, it goes out under the name and with the sanction of the Institute, after all this testing and retesting, it will be something less than a code and something more than a treatise. It will be invested with unique authority, not to command, but to persuade. It will embody a composite thought and speak a composite voice. Universities and bench and bar will have had a part in its creation. I have great faith in the power of such a restatement to unify our law.

--Benjamin N. Cardozo, The Growth of the Law (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1924), 9.


In the period from 1923 to 1944, the American Law Institute published Restatements of Agency
Agency (law)
The law of agency is an area of commercial law dealing with a contractual or quasi-contractual, or non-contractual set of relationships when a person, called the agent, is authorized to act on behalf of another to create a legal relationship with a third party...

, Conflict of Laws
Conflict of laws in the United States
The choice of law rules in the conflict of laws in the United States have diverged from the traditional rules applied internationally. Choice of law is a procedural stage in the litigation of a case when it is necessary to reconcile the differences between the laws of different states, and in the...

, Contracts, Judgments, Property
Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...

, Restitution
The law of restitution is the law of gains-based recovery. It is to be contrasted with the law of compensation, which is the law of loss-based recovery. Obligations to make restitution and obligations to pay compensation are each a type of legal response to events in the real world. When a court...

, Security
Security interest
A security interest is a property interest created by agreement or by operation of law over assets to secure the performance of an obligation, usually the payment of a debt. It gives the beneficiary of the security interest certain preferential rights in the disposition of secured assets...

, Torts, and Trusts.

In 1952, the Institute started the Restatement Second — updates of the original Restatements with new analyses and concepts with and expanded authorities. (A Restatement on Foreign Relations Law of the United States was also undertaken.) The Second Restatement of the Law was undertaken to reflect changes and developments in the law, as well as to implement a new format that provided more expansive commentary and more meaningful illustrative material, affording fuller statements of the reasons for the positions taken. For example, the volumes generally included a set of Reporter's Notes that detailed the reasons on which the principles and rules stated were based and the authorities that supported them. And for the convenience of legal researchers, the second series of volumes also provided cross-references to the key numbers of the West Publishing Company's Digest System and to the A.L.R. annotations of the Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company. In addition, appendix volumes included digest paragraphs of decisions of state appellate courts and federal courts citing the Restatements on each subject.

The third series of Restatements was started in 1987 with a new Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States. The Restatement Third now includes volumes on Agency, the Law Governing Lawyers, Property (Mortgages, Servitudes, Wills and Other Donative Transfers), Restitution and Unjust Enrichment, Suretyship and Guaranty, Torts (Products Liability, Apportionment of Liability, and Physical and Emotional Harm), Trusts, and Unfair Competition. New Restatement projects on Employment Law, and the U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration are currently underway as part of the Restatement Third series.

Current versions of the Restatement of the Law

  1. Restatement of the Law of Agency, Third
    Restatement of the Law of Agency, Third
    The Restatement of the Law of Agency is a set of principles issued by the American Law Institute, intended to clarify the prevailing opinion on how the law of agency stands in 2006.-Definition of agency:...

  2. Restatement of Conflict of Laws, Second (1971)
  3. Restatement of Contracts, Second (1981)
  4. Restatement of Foreign Relations Law of the United States, Third (1987)
  5. Restatement of Judgments, Second (1982)
  6. Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers, Third (2000)
  7. Restatement of Property (1936−40; mostly superseded by Restatement of Property, Second and Third volumes)
  8. Restatement of Property, Second, Landlord and Tenant (1977)
  9. Restatement of Property, Second, Donative Transfers (1983−92)
  10. Restatement of Property, Third, Mortgages (1997)
  11. Restatement of Property, Third, Servitudes (2000)
  12. Restatement of Property, Third, Wills and Other Donative Transfers (1999−2003)
  13. Restatement of Restitution, Quasi-Contracts and Constructive Trusts (1937; soon to be superseded by Restatement of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment, Third)
  14. Restatement of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment, Third (not yet issued)
  15. Restatement of Security (Division I largely superseded by the Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code
    Uniform Commercial Code
    The Uniform Commercial Code , first published in 1952, is one of a number of uniform acts that have been promulgated in conjunction with efforts to harmonize the law of sales and other commercial transactions in all 50 states within the United States of America.The goal of harmonizing state law is...

    ; Division II entirely superseded by Restatement of Suretyship and Guaranty, Third)
  16. Restatement of Suretyship and Guaranty, Third (1996)
  17. Restatement of Torts, Second
    Restatement of Torts, Second
    The American Restatement of Torts, Second is an influential treatise issued by the American Law Institute. It summarizes the general principles of common law United States tort law...

    (1965−79; some sections superseded by Restatement of Torts, Third volumes)
  18. Restatement of Torts, Third, Apportionment of Liability (2000)
  19. Restatement of Torts, Third, Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm (2011)
  20. Restatement of Torts, Third, Products Liability (1998)
  21. Restatement of Trusts, Second (1959; some sections superseded by Restatement of Trusts, Third, General Principles)
  22. Restatement of Trusts, Third (2003−08)
  23. Restatement of Trusts, Third, Prudent Investor Rule (1992)
  24. Restatement of Unfair Competition, Third (1995)

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