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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 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- February 21, 1997 The Honorable Judge Paul L. Friedman United States District Court for the District of Columbia U.S. Courthouse 3rd & Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20001 SUBJECT: Proposed Merger of West Publishing with Thomson Corporation Dear Judge Friedman: I am writing today on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) to request a thirty day extension of time for comment in the final disposition of the settlement in the matter of the merger of West Publishing Company with the Thomson Corporation. The American Association of Law Libraries is a nonprofit educational organization headquartered in Chicago with nearly 5,000 members nationwide. Our members build legal and law-related collections in over 1,900 libraries, and they respond to the legal and governmental information needs of attorneys and law students, judges and legislators, and the general public. We are probably the largest single identifiable consumer group for the products of the legal publishing industry. The American Association of Law Libraries has viewed with great concern the merger of the two largest publishers of print legal materials in America today. As our immediate past-President Patrick E. Kehoe said when the merger was first announced: "the merger of Thomson and West will change legal publishing forever." As a result of those concerns, while we did not oppose the merger outright, we did file comments with Anne K. Bingaman, Assistant Attorney General of the United States, in March 1996, and with Craig Conrath, Chief of the Merger Task Force, in July 1996. Copies of those filings are attached for your information. Our original position of neutrality on the issue reflected the fact that we saw no real alternative to Thomson as the purchaser, and we know Thomson to be a dedicated legal publisher. Nonetheless, we have always been concerned about the potential impact of the consolidation of substantial parts of the legal publishing industry under one owner. Many members of our Association continue to believe that the proposed settlement is not adequate to ensure a healthy competitive environment in the legal information marketplace. AALL only recently became aware that there might be another opportunity to comment on the proposed settlement. It was reported on an electronic discussion group for law librarians that the Court had some concerns about the proposed divestiture of the package of print products to LEXIS and the subsequent decision by LEXIS that it will no longer oppose the merger. It was further reported that the Court was concerned that there was no one left to represent the public interest and that it had invited comments to be submitted to the Department of Justice. So far as we know, there was no official notice given of the opportunity to make those additional comments and, even though AALL had commented previously, we were not separately notified. As the largest identifiable consumer group for the products of the companies involved, law librarians are probably in the best position to inform the Court about the impact of the merger and whether or not the proposed divestiture of print products and the other aspects of the settlement are sufficient to protect the competitive environment, or whether stronger steps -- such as divesting entire companies -- would be more appropriate. The American Association of Law Libraries would like an opportunity to present its views to the Court. The AALL Executive Board is scheduled to meet on the weekend of March 1, and one of the items on the agenda is the merger and its impact on law libraries nationwide. If it were acceptable to the Court, we could be prepared to present our views within a week to ten days thereafter. Accordingly, we respectfully request a thirty day extension of the time in which to file comments. Thank you for considering this request. Sincerely, Robert L. Oakley Frank G. Houdek Law Library Director & Prof. of Law Southern Illinois University School of Law Carbondale, Illinois 62901-6803 (618)453-8788/////FAX (618) 453-8728 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org