For the first time as Deputy Director, it is indeed my privilege to report on the important, ongoing work of the Alabama Law Institute. I never fail to be amazed by the generosity of the members of the Alabama State Bar that make this work possible. “Lawyers Render Service” continues to be a motto that rings true in the dedication of so many Alabama lawyers, judges, and professors committed to improving the law in their state.

This past year, more than 180 dedicated professionals from all over Alabama donated 3,300 hours of time working on Law Institute drafting committees and other projects. This time does not include the time spent by the Council and Membership’s in review and comment directed to the improvement of the drafts prior to submission to the Legislature for consideration.

The dedication of these professionals who perennially drive the Law Institute’s fulfillment of its mission is without parallel. The three essential ongoing purposes of the Law Institute – code revision, legislative services, and professional education – are all being addressed because of the many lawyers, legislators, and officials that believe in the Law Institute’s positive impact on Alabama.

2020 Legislation

A legislative session significantly shortened by the advent of the COVID-19 Pandemic still resulted in the passage of a significant ALI bill: Amendments to the Alabama Business and Nonprofit Entities Code, sponsored by Senator Sam Givhan and Rep. Bill Poole. This piece of legislation significantly updates and modernizes Alabama’s business entities law, bringing it into the digital age. The Legislature’s confidence in this piece of legislation, and the others that were moving towards passage at the time of the shutdown, is a testament to the competent efforts of the lawyers that had met continuously throughout the year to timely present well-drafted proposals

Legislative Services

During the 2020 legislative session, the Institute again provided research, drafting, and other services to a number of legislative committees and individual legislators. In addition to the Institute staff, lawyers were retained to assist with legislative committees on a regular basis.

The Legislative Intern Program exposes a number of student interns to the legislative process and also provide valuable assistance to legislative office staff. Typically, these student interns work thirty-two hours per week at the State House during a legislative session. Any of these student interns earn academic credit for their efforts.

The Legislative Law Clerk program continues its success by upper-level students providing the Institute and its committees with research assistance on legislative and publishing matters.

Legal Education

The Institute and the Alabama Probate Judges’ Association, with the assistance of videoconference/webinar technologies, continued to hold continuing legal education seminars through the Pandemic, allowing the state’s probate judges to increase their professional knowledge and maintain their continuing judicial education requirements without interruption.

The Institute has also arranged with the Alabama State Bar and the legal research search engine Casemaker to provide a Casemaker account to all non-attorney probate judges – along with training on how to use the search engine. This will significantly enhance the resources available to probate judges in handling their caseloads. The Institute is grateful to the Alabama State Bar for its willingness to embrace this novel program

With the assistance of the Law Division of the Legislative Services Agency, the Institute conducted a statutory drafting tips and essentials seminar for chairs and reporters of Institute committees.

Other Institute Contributions to Alabama Law

To overcome the significant logistical challenges created by the COVID-19 Pandemic and continue to improve Alabama jurisprudence, the Institute initiated two new projects. First, the Institute assisted the state’s judicial branch continue dispensing justice in all corners of Alabama by drafting a guidelines and best practices reference source for circuit and district judges regarding appropriate Pandemic hearing protocols and the safer re-opening of court facilities.

Second, with the Pandemic resulting in the most extensive scrutiny of Alabama’s public health law in a century, it was revealed that Alabama apparently had no convenient resource reviewing its public health statutes and caselaw. Therefore, the Institute addressed that need and is currently drafting the first edition of The Alabama Public Health Law Handbook. This new publication will be available some time in 2021.

Third, work continues by Family Law Committee members on a web version of legally permissible parenting plans that, when completed, can be readily accessed and employed by attorneys, litigants, and the judiciary for the proposing and selection, respectively, of the appropriate parenting plan based upon the particular circumstances of the parties in each instance.

Finally, with the advent of the Business and Nonprofit Entities Code revisions, one of its primary challenges requiring electronic filings of entities with the Secretary of State was the change in the forms to be used. Therefore, members of the Business Entities Committee to their great credit took on the project and timely submitted proposals for a substantial number of new forms to the Secretary of State’s office for its use. The Act became effective on January 1, 2021.

2021 Legislation

The Institute anticipates offering several bills to the Alabama Legislature: In addition to the several bills previously approved by the Institute, but shelved last year due to the COVID shutdown (The Alabama Court Cost Commission Amendment, the Alabama Model Procurement Code, the Alabama Qualified Dispositions in Trust Act, the Alabama Non-Disparagement Obligations Act, the Custody Act, the Subdivision Revision Act, and a CA to delete archaic references to orphans), the Institute has two revisions drafted by Institute standing committees for the Business Entities and Nonprofit Entities Code Revision Act and for the Alabama Uniform Trust Decanting Act. There is also a companion bill to the Alabama Model Procurement Code to allow the collection of data for the identification of small and disadvantaged businesses involved in the procurement process.

Clay Hornsby
Deputy Director
January 2021

Legislative Services Agency
Alabama State House
11 South Union Street
Montgomery, AL 36130