February 21, 1997
The Honorable Judge Paul L. Friedman
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
3rd & Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
SUBJECT: Proposed Merger of West Publishing with Thomson Corporation
Dear Judge Friedman:
I am writing today on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) to request a thirty day extension of time for comment in the final disposition of the settlement in the matter of the merger of West Publishing Company with the Thomson Corporation.
The American Association of Law Libraries is a nonprofit educational organization headquartered in Chicago with nearly 5,000 members nationwide. Our members build legal and law-related collections in over 1,900 libraries, and they respond to the legal and governmental information needs of attorneys and law students, judges and legislators, and the general public. We are probably the largest single identifiable consumer group for the products of the legal publishing industry.
The American Association of Law Libraries has viewed with great concern the merger of the two largest publishers of print legal materials in America today. As our immediate past-President Patrick E. Kehoe said when the merger was first announced: "the merger of Thomson and West will change legal publishing forever." As a result of those concerns, while we did not oppose the merger outright, we did file comments with Anne K. Bingaman, Assistant Attorney General of the United States, in March 1996, and with Craig Conrath, Chief of the Merger Task Force, in July 1996. Copies of those filings are attached for your information. Our original position of neutrality on the issue reflected the fact that we saw no real alternative to Thomson as the purchaser, and we know Thomson to be a dedicated legal publisher. Nonetheless, we have always been concerned about the potential impact of the consolidation of substantial parts of the legal publishing industry under one owner. Many members of our Association continue to believe that the proposed settlement is not adequate to ensure a healthy competitive environment in the legal information marketplace.
AALL only recently became aware that there might be another opportunity to comment on the proposed settlement. It was reported on an electronic discussion group for law librarians that the Court had some concerns about the proposed divestiture of the package of print products to LEXIS and the subsequent decision by LEXIS that it will no longer oppose the merger. It was further reported that the Court was concerned that there was no one left to represent the public interest and that it had invited comments to be submitted to the Department of Justice. So far as we know, there was no official notice given of the opportunity to make those additional comments and, even though AALL had commented previously, we were not separately notified. As the largest identifiable consumer group for the products of the companies involved, law librarians are probably in the best position to inform the Court about the impact of the merger and whether or not the proposed divestiture of print products and the other aspects of the settlement are sufficient to protect the competitive environment, or whether stronger steps -- such as divesting entire companies -- would be more appropriate.
The American Association of Law Libraries would like an opportunity to present its views to the Court. The AALL Executive Board is scheduled to meet on the weekend of March 1, and one of the items on the agenda is the merger and its impact on law libraries nationwide. If it were acceptable to the Court, we could be prepared to present our views within a week to ten days thereafter. Accordingly, we respectfully request a thirty day extension of the time in which to file comments.
Thank you for considering this request.
Robert L. Oakley