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Restatement of Law

A series of volumes regarded as an authoritative work of legal scholarship prepared by the authors, scholars, and members of the judiciary who comprise the American Law Institute (ALI), which presents a survey of a general area of the law and the changes that have occurred therein.

Restatements are published in the areas of contracts, TORTS, agency, trusts, conflict of laws, judgments, property, security, and restitution. The drafters of restatements take COMMON LAW rules that have been developed by judicial decisions and organize them in a manner similar to black letter law. Restatements are also based on the judicial application of statutes that have been in force for many years. For example, a restatement titled Foreign Relations Law of the United States summarizes U.S. law and practice in international relations.

The first series of restatements were produced from 1923 to 1944. In 1951, the ALI began working on a second series, which included updates to the topics included in the first restatement, adding new rules and expanding upon commentary. Some restatements in the second series also advocated changes in the law from the majority rule in place at the time the restatement was drafted. Moreover, new topics were added to the second series, such as the topic of Foreign Relations Law of the United States. In 1986, the ALI began work on the third series of the restatements. Although some of the topics from the first and second series, such as Agency, have been updated in the third series, many of the topics consist of subtopics of broader subjects. For example, two of the restatements in the third series are Torts: Apportionment of Liability and Trusts: Prudent Investor Rule.

Restatements are sources of secondary authority to be cited in the support or defense of a particular claim made in a lawsuit. Although not legally binding upon the courts, restatements are effective in persuading a court to accept an argument advanced in an action. They are divided into sections, each beginning with a general statement of a legal principle accompanied by explanatory text. The discussion is illustrated with particular cases and variations used as examples of the operation of the principle. When new developments occur in a particular area, a subsequent edition of the restatement is prepared and published. The restatements have individual indexes, and a single general index for all the volumes also exists. A glossary contains definitions of significant words appearing in the text.


Mersky, Roy M., and Donald J. Dunn. 2002. Fundamentals of Legal Research. 8th ed. New York: Foundation.


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