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The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws has worked for the uniformity of state laws since 1892. It is a non- profit unincorporated association, comprised of state commissions on uniform laws from each state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each jurisdiction determines the method of appointment and the number of commissioners actually appointed. Most jurisdictions provide for their commission by statute.
There is only one fundamental requirement for the more than 300 uniform law commissioners: that they be members of the bar in the jurisdiction they represent. While some commissioners serve as state legislators, most are practitioners, judges and law professors. They serve for specific terms, and receive no salaries or fees for their work with the Conference.
The state uniform law commissions come together as the National Conference for one purpose to study and review the law of the states to determine which areas of law should be uniform. The commissioners promote the principle of uniformity by drafting and proposing specific statutes in areas of the law where uniformity between the states is desirable. It must be emphasized that the Conference can only propose no uniform law is effective until a state legislature adopts it.
The Conference is a working organization. The uniform law commissioners participate in drafting specific acts; they discuss, consider and amend drafts of other commissioners; they decide whether to recommend an act as a uniform or a model act; and they work toward enactment of Conference acts in their home jurisdictions.
The uniform law movement began in the latter half of the 19th century. The Alabama State Bar Association recognized as early as 1881 the legal tangles created by wide variations in state laws. But it was not until 1889 that the American Bar Association decided, at its 12th Annual Meeting, to work for "uniformity of the laws" in the then 44 states.
Within a year, the New York Legislature authorized the governor to appoint three commissioners to explore the best way to effect uniformity of law between increasingly interdependent states. The ABA endorsed New York's action. The result was the first meeting of the Conference of State Boards of Commissioners on Promoting Uniformity of Law in the U.S.
Seven states sent commissioners to that first meeting of the Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1892. By 1912, every state had appointed uniform law commissioners. The U.S. Virgin Islands is the last jurisdiction to join, appointing its first commission in 1988.
Since its organization, the Conference has drafted more than 200 uniform laws on numerous subjects and in various fields of law, setting patterns for uniformity across the nation. Uniform acts include the Uniform Probate Code, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, the Uniform Partnership Act, the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act and the Uniform Limited Partnership Act.
Most significant was the 1940 Conference decision to attack major commercial problems with comprehensive legal solutions a decision that set in motion the project to produce the Uniform Commercial Code. The Code took ten years to complete and another 14 years before it was enacted across the country. It remains the signature product of the Conference.
Today the Conference is recognized primarily for its work in commercial law, family law, probate and estates, law of business organizations, health law, and conflicts of law. It rarely drafts law that is regulatory in character.
The major portion of financial support for the Conference comes from state appropriations. Expenses are apportioned among the states by means of an assessment based on population.
The Conference gets maximum results from minimum budgets because its major asset, drafting expertise, is donated. The only compensation for commissioners is the satisfaction derived from solving important legal problems. Commissioners devote hundreds and even thousands of hours amounting in some cases to millions of dollars worth of time to the development of uniform and model acts. No state could afford the bills for the legal expertise that is donated to the drafting of uniform state laws.
Each uniform law is years in the making. The process starts with the Scope and Program Committee, which initiates the agenda of the Conference. It investigates each proposed act, and then reports to the Executive Committee whether a subject is one in which it is desirable and feasible to draft a uniform law. If the Executive Committee approves a recommendation, a drafting committee of commissioners is appointed. Drafting committees meet throughout the year. Tentative drafts are not submitted to the entire Conference until they have received extensive committee consideration.
Draft acts are then submitted for initial debate of the entire Conference at an annual meeting. Each act must be considered section by section, at no less than two annual meetings by all commissioners sitting as a Committee of the Whole. With hundreds of trained eyes probing every concept and word, it is a rare draft that leaves an annual meeting in the same form it was initially presented.
Once the Committee of the Whole approves an act, its final test is a vote by states one vote per state. A majority of the states present, and no less than 20 states, must approve an act before it can be officially adopted as a Uniform or Model Act.
At that point, a Uniform or Model Act is officially promulgated for consideration by the states. Legislatures are urged to adopt Uniform Acts exactly as written, to "promote uniformity in law among the several states." Model Acts are designed to serve as guideline legislation, which states can borrow from or adapt to suit their individual needs and conditions.
When drafting is completed on an act, a commissioner's work has only begun. They advocate the adoption of uniform and model acts in their home states.Normal resistance to anything "new" makes this the hardest part of a commissioner's job. But the result can be workable modern state law that helps keep the federal system alive.
The work of the Conference simplifies the legal life of businesses and
individuals by providing rules and procedures that are consistent from
state to state. Representing both state government and the legal
profession, it is a genuine confederation of state interests. It has
sought to bring uniformity to the divergent legal traditions of more
than 50 sovereign jurisdictions, and has done so with significant
National Conference of Commissioners
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