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Institute Honorees

Garth Thorton 2009: Garth Thornton

When Garth Thornton arrived in Tanzania in 1958 and assumed responsibility for legislative drafting, he found no adequate training materials—so he created his own. These early perceptions of need ultimately resulted in his Legislative Drafting text, now in its fourth edition and regarded for four decades among Commonwealth countries as an essential resource for parliamentary counsel.

Garth’s career in legislative drafting took him thereafter to Kenya, where he prepared legislative drafts for the East African Legislative Assembly. Later, as Crown Counsel to the Hong Kong Government, he was seconded to service in Tanzania, where he served as Chief Parliamentary Counsel and Counsel to the Speaker. In 1970 he was appointed Crown Solicitor of Hong Kong and served in 1973-79 as Solicitor General. Garth moved to Perth, Australia in 1979 and served for 10 years as Chief Parliamentary Counsel in Western Australia. Since returning to New Zealand in 1990, Garth has continued his career in legislative drafting as a consultant to The Law Commission of New Zealand and the Government of Western Australia.

Garth first joined us as a speaker at the 1996 International Legislative Drafting Institute, when he spoke on “Technical Aspects of Drafting.” In his remarks about drafting “Definitions,” Garth related his own experience as a young drafter, laboring mightily over the proper wording of a particularly troublesome definition. Finally, after much thought, many false starts, and numerous revisions, he arrived at a satisfactory work product and proudly placed it into the bill. Much later, after the measure had been enacted, he realized to his profound embarrassment that his carefully crafted definition defined a term that appeared nowhere in the Act! Garth told this tale in support of his advice to “Draft definitions last,” but we might also treasure it as a commentary about humility as a virtue in the legislative drafting enterprise.

We’re very pleased that Garth and Judith Thornton were able to join us in New Orleans during June 15-26, 2009 for this 15th edition of the International Legislative Drafting Institute, which honors Garth’s lifetime of service and his enduring contributions in the realm of legislative drafting. Read about Garth’s “Reflections on a Career in Legislative Drafting.”


Richard Wydick 2008: Professor Richard Wydick

This year, we honor the work and the wisdom of Professor Richard C. Wydick, whose marvelous little book, Plain English for Lawyers, has been such an enduring resource to hundreds of Institute graduates. Professor Wydick has played a key role in the Institute with his annual lectures on the fundamentals of plain language drafting during the past twelve years.

When we first invited Dick Wydick to speak at the 1996 Institute, we knew he expressed himself extremely well in print, because we used his text in our classes with Tulane and Loyola law students. We did not know how he would present himself in person, however, when we introduced him for that first Institute presentation. Despite his many accomplishments, Professor Wydick is a modest man whose concern for others gives him an attentive rather than an assertive demeanor. Fifteen seconds into his presentation, any doubts were dispelled.

Watching Dick Wydick in the classroom is like watching Muhammad Ali in the ring—without the violence. He energetically engages students in a “Socratic” dialogue, using question-and-answer to elicit their opinions and refine their responses. The experience can be challenging for students who are accustomed to being the passive recipients of information imparted by lecture. For many participants, the encounter with Dick Wydick on Wednesday morning of Week One may have been their first experience with “active learning,” and their memories no doubt remain vivid.

Professor Wydick retired in 2007 from a successful teaching career as a faculty member of the Law School at the University of California at Davis. He served as Acting Dean of the Law School in 1978-80 and received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1983. He's authored books on ethics, evidence, and good writing. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Scribes—the American Society of Legal Writers, and in 2005 he received the Golden Pen Award from the Legal Writing Institute.

Hundreds of Institute graduates experienced Dick Wydick in the classroom. Several thousand law school students benefitted from his career in teaching. Tens of thousands of writers have improved their abilities because of important lessons learned from Plain English for Lawyers. We are honored to dedicate the 2008 International Legislative Drafting Institute to a celebration of the works and the wisdom of Professor Richard C. Wydick.


John R. Kramer 2006: Dean John R. Kramer

We dedicate this year’s Institute to John R. Kramer, who served as Dean of Tulane Law School from 1986 to 1996 and continued his service to Tulane as a faculty member until his death on March 7, 2006.

In 1988, shortly after his appointment as Dean, John Kramer helped to establish The Public Law Center (TPLC) as a joint venture of Tulane and Loyola Law Schools. When TPLC conducted its first International Legislative Drafting Institute in 1995, Dean Kramer discussed “The Worst Bill Ever Drafted,” which was the Food Stamp Act drafted by—John Kramer! He chose that title because he had deliberately violated one of the cardinal rules of legislative drafting by placing important substantive law into the “Definitions” section. He did it for “strategic reasons,” John said, “because no one ever reads the Definitions.”

John Kramer embraced in his life many of the elements that are united in this 2006 Institute:

  • At Georgetown University Law Center and Tulane Law School, he pursued a stunning thirty-year career in legal education.
  • In Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, Louisiana, he contributed to the civic life of two cities that occupy a special place in the political and cultural identity of America.
  • The Institute’s combination of academic instruction and practical training mirror Dean Kramer’s commitment to clinical legal education.
  • And finally, this Institute unites in one experience the fun and hard work that fueled John Kramer’s life: “He had a robust enthusiasm for everything he did. He had a good life and a good time living it.”

John was a national figure in legal education and legislative practice. The New Orleans Times-Picayune, The Washington Post, and The New York Times all wrote obituaries; we’ve included some in your materials. We invite you to read about this accomplished man. His work is done, but his good works endure.