Restatements are highly regarded distillations of common law. They are prepared by the American Law Institute (ALI), a prestigious organization comprising judges, professors, and lawyers. The ALI's aim is to distill the "black letter law" from cases to indicate trends in common law, and occasionally to recommend what a rule of law should be. In essence, they restate existing common law into a series of principles or rules.
Restatements cover broad topics, such as Contracts or Property. They are organized into chapters, titles, and sections. Sections contain a concisely stated rule of law, comments to clarify the rule, hypothetical examples, explanation of purpose, as well as exceptions to the rule.
Restatements are not primary law. Due to the prestige of the ALI and its painstaking drafting process, however, they are considered persuasive authority by many courts. The most heavily cited Restatements are the Restatement of Torts and the Restatement of Contracts.
The ALI web site contains information regarding Restatement projects, ALI membership, history and institutional processes.
Annotations of cases citing a Restatement section can be found in the Appendix volumes the Restatements in print. There may be one or many Appendix volumes. They are organized by Restatement series, (i.e. citations to the first Restatement, then second, etc.), then by section number. Appendices are not cumulative. The spines indicate sections and years covered. They are updated with pocket parts, cumulative annual supplements, and semiannual pamphlets called Interim Case Citations. The same case annotations are available when using the Restatements on LexisNexis or Westlaw.
You can Shepardize a Restatement section on LexisNexis using the following formats. Note that Bluebook citation format for Restatements, or permutations thereof, will not work.
You can also KeyCite a Restatement section on Westlaw using the following formats. Note that KeyCite finds significantly more citing material than Shepard's for Restatements. (See the KeyCite Publications List for additional help with citation format.)
Listed below are print editions of the Restatements and their locations in the library. Restatements are also available on both Lexis and Westlaw:
Restatements on LexisNexis
Rules (along with comments, illustrations, and notes) are searchable in separate sources from case citations. This makes searching for relevant rules very efficient on LexisNexis. Case citations are linked from individual rules. Browse tables of contents or search by keyword. Restatement drafts are in separate sources from final versions of Restatements. The first series of Restatements is not available on LexisNexis.
Retreiving Restatement sections using Get a Document is not intuitive. Search for restatement in the Get a Document Citation Formats list to determine the proper format.
Restatements on Westlaw
All series of Restatements are available on Westlaw. Browse tables of contents or search by keyword. Searching the Restatements on Westlaw can be problematic, because multiple series as well as selected drafts are combined into one database along with case citations to all of them, e.g. Torts first, second, and the topic-specialized Torts third series along with citations to all series are in one database. This can make keyword searching inefficient unless you use a fielded search or use the Table of Contents mode to search within a particular Restatement. Examine your search results carefully to ensure you are looking at the current version of a rule. If a rule has been superceded, there will be note above the rule text indicating this.
Retrieving Restatement sections using Find is somewhat intuitive. The format mimics the database ID. See the listed format for KeyCite below; they will also work for Find. For a complete list of Restatement retrieval formats, search the Find Publications List for restatement.
For more information about the drafting process, see the Restatements Drafts sub-tab.
See Bluebook Rule 12.8.5
RESTATEMENT (THIRD) OF PROP.: DONATIVE TRANSFERS § 2 (2000).