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
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
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
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
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
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
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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