Wednesday, February 18, 2009
AALS Says It Did Not Breach Contract Due to Hyatt Boycott
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The American Association of Law Schools did not have to breach any contracts in order to avoid meeting at a San Diego hotel that has become the target of a boycott because of its owner’s support of Proposition 8, the group’s chief executive said yesterday.
Susan Prager told the MetNews that the AALS had reserved blocks of hotel rooms at both the San Diego Marriott and the Manchester Grand Hyatt for its annual meeting, which took place January 6-10.
The organization generally reserves space in two to three hotels to accommodate its meetings, Prager explained, but in light of the controversy over Doug Manchester’s $125,000 contribution to the campaign to overturn same-sex marriage rights in California, the organization issued a statement in August declaring that it would “hold all AALS events at the Marriott to ensure the maximum participation by our members.”
Boycott advocates have cited the AALS as an example for the State Bar of California and Conference of Delegates—which are scheduled to meet at the Hyatt in September—to emulate.
Prager explained yesterday that the AALS “did not breach any contractual arrangement” because it had the option of selecting which hotel would serve as the “headquarters” for the event under its contracts, and that it still offered rooms at the Manchester Hyatt to attendees.
She said that the group’s purpose in exercising its option to hold its events at the Marriott was “to ensure that faculty would feel comfortable attending the meetings, and we wanted to have the meetings in a hotel that would not bring people into personal conflict into personal conflict about whether they would attend the meeting,” but she emphasized that “it was the nature of our contract that shaped our ability to change our plans.”
The Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s delegation to the Conference of Delegates have requested that the State Bar consider similarly moving its events from the Manchester Hyatt.
Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom—an organization representing gay lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area—has threatened to boycott the events entirely.
The hotel is already the target of a boycott led by Californians Against Hate, a non-profit organization devoted to drawing attention to the major donors to the Yes on 8 campaign, and UNITE HERE, San Diego’s hotel workers’ union.
Prager said she could not comment on the State Bar’s decision to meet at the Hyatt because her group was “not in the same situation as an entity that only has a contract with one of the hotels and made firm commitments to them.”
She declined to provide a copy of the AALS contract with the Hyatt.
The AALS is a non-profit organization of 171 member law schools.
The State Bar has taken the position that it cannot breach its contractual commitments because the cost of doing so, if borne by the members, could violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting public entities from using mandatory dues money for political actions.
The State Bar contracted with Hyatt to reserve the space for its 2009 and 2011 annual meetings before the divisive Proposition 8 campaign. This year’s meeting is scheduled to take place Sept. 10-13.
At least one other legal group—the American Association for Justice, formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America—is scheduled to meet at the Manchester Grand Hyatt this year. The organization, whose annual meeting is scheduled for July 11-15, did not return MetNews phone calls seeking comment on the boycott.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company