Friday, July 25, 2008
The Legal Writing Institute--one of the largest associations of legal academics with more than 2,100 members--has joined the boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego. Doug Manchester, owner of that hotel, had donated $125,000 to help put an anti-gay consitutional amendment on the November ballot to remove the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Manchester's donation helped put "Proposition 8" on the November 4 ballot.
The Legal Writing Institute sent a letter on Friday to Carl Monk, Executive Director of the Association of American Law Schools, informing him that the Legal Writing Institute would not be holding the Golden Pen and Blackwell Awards at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.
The Golden Pen Award is given by the Legal Writing Institute to recognize those who make significant contributions to advance the cause of better legal writing, such as by promoting the use of clear language in public documents. The award is normally given to someone who is not an active member of the Writing Institute. In 2007, the award winners of the Golden Pen included the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Ronald M. George, who was--coincidentally--the author of the California Supreme Court decision authorizing same-sex marriage. Click here to see that decision from the California Supreme Court. (That an earlier Golden Pen recipient was the author of the decision played no part in the LWI vote to boycott the Manchester Grand Hyatt -- indeed, one of the other winners of the Golden Pen Award in 2007 was a dissenting judge in that same same-sex marriage case.) The program from the 2007 Golden Pen Award is available by clicking here.
The Golden Pen Award has been given in conjunction with the Thomas Blackwell Award, which is jointly given by the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors to honor the memory of Thomas Blackwell.
The LWI President wrote to the AALS Executive Director after the LWI Board voted unanimously to remove all LWI-sponsored events from the Manchester Grand Hyatt, one of the two hotels where the AALS had scheduled its conference for the annual meeting in January 2009.
The LWI letter says that the LWI Board based its decision on LWI’s non-discrimination policy, which was adopted by the LWI Board of Directors in June 2006. Here is the policy as adopted by LWI: "The Legal Writing Institute is committed to a policy against discrimination and in favor of equal opportunity for all of its members regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
The LWI adopted that nondiscrimination policy in 2006 after a religious law school posted a job announcement that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. The job posting was deeply offensive and caused great controversy within the Legal Writing Institute. The LWI Board at the time adopted a formal nondiscrimination policy for the organization as a response. Additionally, LGBT members and many of their supporters formed an informal "Pink Ink" Caucus, which recently met again during the LWI Conference in Indianapolis.
Click here to read the LWI Letter to the Executive Director of the AALS. Download AALS_letter_from_LWI_July_25_2008.pdf
California is the second state (after Massachusetts) to allow same-sex marriage in the United States. The state had previously had domestic partnerships that purported to offer the same benefits of marriage as those otherwise available under state law, but the California Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples access to "marriage" violated their rights under the California State Constitution.
The AALS Executive Committee will meet next month to decide what response to take. They are faced with a difficult task, given the large size of the AALS Annual Meeting. Meetings of such sizes are normally planned out five, six, and seven years in advance. There are two AALS meeting hotels in San Diego, and conflicting reports about whether Mr. Manchester has an ownership in both of them or whether he sold his interest in the other hotel earlier this year. Your Google is as good as mine on whether there is a final word on that question. The options available to the AALS would be to move the meeting (if possible) to another hotel or even another city, a daunting task at this late date. At a minimum, it is expected that there will be a strong push to minimize any revenue going to the Manchester Grand Hyatt.
The AALS Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity has planned a full-day program on sexual orientation and gender identity, including a break-out session on legal writing and appellate advocacy problems involving issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Initial responses of LWI members to the LWI letter have been quite positive, with some members expressing great pride that they are members of an organization that has taken such a strong position. (Click on "Comments" below to see comments posted here on this blog.) The LWI has already started searching out other locations for the Golden Pen and Blackwell Awards. The San Diego AALS meeting will also mark the start of the LWI's 25th anniversary, which will begin in January 2009 and continue through the next LWI conference in 2010 at Marco Island, Florida.
There is no call to boycott the AALS meeting -- only the hotel owned by Manchester. I have great confidence in the AALS, its professional staff, and its leadership. I know that they are hard at work to deal with this unfortunate situation. The LWI and others (including me) have offered their support to the AALS.
The AALS meeting will be in January 2009, after the November 2008 election. If the measure fails in November, Mr. Manchester will have wasted his money. I certainly hope that is the case.
With more than 2,100 members in 38 countries, the Legal Writing Institute is the second largest organization of legal academics, second only to the Association of American Law Schools. Click here for more information about the Legal Writing Institute.