[This message has been posted to several lists to which law librarians subscribe in an effort to achieve as wide a distribution as possible. I apologize both for the duplication and for the length of this posting.]
To AALL members and other interested parties:
As president of the American Association of Law Libaries, I attach below for your information a letter sent today, February 22, 1997, by Robert L. Oakley, Washington Affairs Representative of AALL, to Judge Paul L. Friedman, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Writing on behalf of AALL and under the direction of the Association's Executive Board, Oakley has requested a thirty day extension of time for comment about the final disposition of the settlement in the matter of the merger of West Publishing Company with the Thomson Corporation.
This basis for this action is explained in the text of the letter, but I do wish to emphasize that it is consistent with the role that the Association has maintained in this matter since our original letter to the Department of Justice in March 1996. Representing the consumers of the products of the legal publishing industry--not only our nearly 5,000 members but also the patrons of the 1,900+ libraries we oversee--AALL has continuously and strenuously advocated for a resolution that would ensure a robust and vigorous legal information marketplace. AALL has forcefully expressed the concerns of law librarians and other legal information consumers in this matter, centering on the "larger goal of ensuring the continuation of high quality legal information products at reasonable prices in a healthy competitive environment" (Letter of Robert Oakley, AALL Washington Affairs Representative, to Craig Conrath, DOJ Antitrust Division, July 29, 1996).
I also wish to state, without equivocation, that this position emanates entirely from policy-based grounds, in particular the Executive Board's determination of the appropriate role for AALL--as an Association--to take in an antitrust proceeding. No promises were made, no deal was cut--AALL received nothing, nor does it expect to receive anything, "in return" for the stance that it took, and continues to take, regarding the West/Thomson merger. We have acted with complete regard for the mission of our Association "to provide leadership in the field of legal information and to foster a spirit of cooperation among the members of the profession." (AALL Bylaws, art. II)
In recent days there have been a number of law-lib postings, as well as private communications with me and other members of the Executive Board, that have asked about AALL's position regarding the latest developments in this matter. I regret that circumstances and the complex nature of the issues involved combined to delay an Association response. However, I can assure all members that the Board, with the assistance of the Washington Affairs Office, has been closely monitoring developments in this matter and working hard to determine what actions to take. On behalf of the Executive Board, I wish to thank those who have made comments and expressed their concerns, both publicly and privately. While we understand that, as your elected leaders, it is our responsibility to make decisions and act on your behalf, we do not do this in a vacuum. We invite your input, not only on this subject but on all matters of interest to you, and, more important, we listen.
In this regard, I have set aside a significant portion of the Spring meeting of the Executive Board (February 28-March 1, 1997, Chicago) to discuss the topic of publisher relations and relationships. To enrich and inform our discussion, I have invited several Association members with demonstrated knowledge and interest in the topic, including the chair of the Committee on Relations with Information Vendors (CRIV), to participate. We recognize that this is a subject of profound interest to our members and welcome all comments, both now and in the future.
Frank G. Houdek, President
American Association of Law Libraries