August 19, 2008
The AALS Boycott
Posted by Gordon Smith

Paul has the roundup on TaxProf Blog. I didn't participate in the initial wave of blog commentary on the proposed boycott in San Diego, and I will refrain from any substantive comments about the issue in this post. But I wanted to note something from the AALS email that I received yesterday:

In the last few weeks there have been suggestions that the Association should boycott the Hyatt because its owner has contributed money to a ballot initiative designed to overturn the California Supreme Court’s May decision in favor of same-sex marriage.... We will honor our contracts with both hotels, and we have exercised our option to hold all AALS events at the Marriott to ensure the maximum participation by our members.

Does anyone notice anything strange here? Instead of holding the event at the Manchester Grand Hyatt because the owner of the hotel contributed to a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in California, the AALS moved the main events to a Marriott Hotel.

In case you are having trouble keeping up, I will type this slowly: the CEO of Marriott International is Bill Marriott, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (for those who are new here, I am also a Mormon), which issued this statement on the California ballot initiative.

Note that neither Bill Marriott nor members of his family own a majority of the stock of Marriott International, but all of a sudden, the questions Larry Ribstein asked a couple of weeks back seem rather prescient:

What if Mr. Manchester were only a majority shareholder? A minority shareholder? Vice president?  CFO?  Since the protest here isn’t over the hotel’s policies, control would seem to be irrelevant. What if he had only invested a lot of his money in the holding company of the hotel? The franchisor?

I couldn't help but notice that one of the groups calling for the boycott was the AALS Section on Legal Writing Research and Reasoning. They seem strangely light on reasoning over there.

UPDATE: Haha ... Dan Filler:

There is a bit of an irony here, as all the social lefties flock to a hotel chain started and run by a member of the not-so-liberal Church of Latter Day Saints.  Then again, the Marriott is a major pornographer, at least according to one conservative Christian activist group.  Damn it's hard to signal clearly!

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Comments (3)

1. Posted by KipEsquire on August 19, 2008 @ 8:09 | Permalink

This is not at all self-contradicting, despite your ("slow-typing") efforts to make it appear so.

An individual hotel can have three separate "controllers" -- the owner, the manager and the franchiser. They can, indeed almost always are, distinct entities.

In the case of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the property owner, Doug Manchester, is the target of the boycott. The Hyatt franchise has nothing to do with the issue one way or the other. This is problematic -- how exactly?

Meanwhile, Marriott International, which is almost certainly not the owner of whatever particular property is hosting the AALS events (the company owns almost no real estate) has been VERY cognizant of its Mormon past and is now one of the leading "gay friendly" corporations in America.

If I have a bad experience in one McDonald's, I am not being inconsistent if I boycott only that McDonald's and not the entire chain. Again, how is this in any way inconsistent or hypocritical or whatever other ("slow-typing") word you might choose?

2. Posted by Gordon Smith on August 19, 2008 @ 8:53 | Permalink


The point is not that Manchester and Marriott are indistinguishable in their connections to the properties, but rather that potential bases of distinction for the purpose of boycotting the hotel are unprincipled. You call Manchester a "property owner," as if that means something quite different from being the operator of the hotel (Marriott International). The point Larry Ribstein and others have made is that all sorts of people have "ownership" claims on major businesses like a convention hotel. And distinguishing among claimants with words like "property owner" is silly.

3. Posted by Jake on August 19, 2008 @ 19:56 | Permalink

I'm glad that many law profs have the courage to risk tarnishing their San Diego boondoggle by engaging in this silly debate. It just goes to show, as my grandmother used to say, that people with too much time on their hands will dream up some kind of mischief. Bah.

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