The role of the AALA Ethics Committee, as defined in Article VIII, Section 4, of the AALA by-laws, is to “consider complaints against any agent member relating to a claimed violation of the Canon of Ethics, Bylaws or otherstandards of the Association.”
In addition, the Ethics Committee “shall promote the observance of the Canon, and shall forward to the Board of Directors for the Board’s approval such revisions to the Canon and such measures to enforce them as the Committee may recommend.”
The Role of the AALA Ethics Committee
The Ethics Committee, per the Bylaws, is composed of seven AALA members, appointed by the President. The President attends all Ethics Committee meetings as an ex-officio eighth member and is entitled to vote. The lawyer for the AALA attends all Ethics Committee meetings but is not entitled to vote.
The principal role of the AALA Ethics Committee is to address complaints against AALA members alleging violations of the AALA Canon of Ethics. A complaint must identify the member in question and state both the specific factual basis for the allegation and the provision of the Canon that was allegedly violated.
The Committee receives a range of emails, including:
- complaints about members
- requests for advice or for the Committee to mediate when there is no formal complaint
- complaints about non-member agents, editors, and clients
- requests for help interpreting aspects of the Canon of Ethics
The Chair responds to all letters after consulting with the AALA lawyer and the President.
Upon receipt of a complaint about an AALA member, the Chair informs the complainant that his/her/their letter will be sent to the AALA member against whom the complaint is lodged requesting that the AALA member provide the Chair with a detailed, factual response to the assertions made in the complaint. Once the Chair has received that response, it considers the merits of the complaint in discussion with the AALA lawyer and the President.
If the allegation is not resolved by correspondence, the Chair convenes the Ethics Committee who meet with the AALA lawyer to discuss what recommendations to make to the Board. The Ethics Committee may decide there has been no violation of the Canon. Or, per the Bylaws, the Ethics Committee can recommend that the Board reprimand, censure, suspend, or expel the member, in which case the Chair sends a letter to the Board with the Committee’s recommendation. If the Board decides to reprimand, censure, suspend, or expel the member, the Board offers the member, per the Bylaws, the chance to appear before the Board. Once the Board has made a decision based on the recommendations of the Ethics Committee, the Chair writes to the complainant and advises the complainant of the Board’s decision.
In some cases, the Chair may point out that it is beyond the role, function, and capability of the AALA Ethics Committee to respond to specific questions, for example, about how agents conduct their separate businesses. In other cases, the Chair might advise the complainant to seek the services of a lawyer or to call the Authors Guild.