- The American Law Institute (“ALI”) is a prestigious and influential organization that creates treatises on the current state of the law, including “Restatements” of case law that guide judicial decisions and legislation. This paper uses previously secret tobacco industry documents made available as the result of state and federal litigation against the industry to describe how the tobacco companies, acting both indirectly through their trade organization, the Tobacco Institute, and directly, using influential lawyers, quietly influenced the ALI’s writing of the Restatements.
The tobacco industry’s ease of access to the ALI calls into question the Institute’s independence, the preparation of major policy documents such as the Restatements, as well as the Institute’s ability to monitor and control conflicts of interest. The ALI’s conflict of interest policies lag behind comparable organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and are insufficient to protect Institute projects from significant outside influence. Because of the undisclosed influence of the tobacco industry over the ALI, courts and legislatures should not apply the principles embodied in the Restatements in tort cases against the tobacco companies for injuries suffered from tobacco use. Until the ALI implements strong conflict of interest policies to ensure independence from private-interest manipulation, courts and legislatures should not rely on Institute reports and recommendations as neutral scholarly summaries of the law that should guide judicial and legislative decision-making.