Why I’m Boycotting LexisNexis at #AALL19

Tom Boone
Tom Boone
Jul 11, 2019 · 4 min read

A few days ago I explained that I’m boycotting Thomson Reuters at the 2019 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference because of the company’s contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) providing personal data used to identify and detain immigrants as part of President Trump’s “War on Immigration.”

I also called upon AALL and its Executive Board to stop accepting sponsorship money from TR until the company ceases working with ICE and commits to no longer allowing its products and services to be used by ICE and other agencies “to enforce cruel, arbitrary, and disproportionate measures.”

I repeat both my boycott and call to AALL to stop accepting sponsorship money, but this time I do so with regards to the RELX Group, formerly known as Reed Elsevier, the parent company of LexisNexis .

LexisNexis is the sole Gold Sponsor of this year’s AALL Annual Meeting

RELX has provided products and services to ICE since at least 2013. In a justification document issued in September of that year explaining the expenditure, ICE explained:

The LexisNexis databases are mission-critical. They help to leverage emerging technology that shares secure law enforcement date Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, so that ICE can continue to expand its coverage nationwide in a cost effective manner.

[…]

[T]he vendor will need to be able to conduct rapid electronic batch searches for information relating to aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety, recent illegal entrants, aliens who are fugitives or otherwise obstruct immigration controls. FOSC [Fugitive Operations Support Center] will also require a continuous monitoring and alert system to track certain alien information for new activity on a large scale basis. The vendor must be able to provide person-specific commercial information and jail booking information to subscribers.

[…]

At this time, LexisNexis is the only vendor that can provide the services to assist FOSC in accomplishing its mission.

While RELX’s business relationship with ICE began prior to the current administration’s policy of family separation and detention of children in squalid conditions, budgets documents from 2017 show that ICE increased its spending on LN for fiscal year 2018—in other words, right after President Trump took office:

Contracts — Lexis/Nexis — NCATC: The Lexis/Nexis contract provides support for the NCATC. The increase from FY 2017 to FY 2018 is due to additional contract services required related to EO 13768.

The executive order referenced in that budget document, EO 13768, is the one President Trump signed right after his inauguration containing broad expansions of immigration enforcement, including the disqualification of sanctuary cities from receiving federal grants.

Just as with Thomson Reuters’s products and services, it is logical to assume based upon the above information that LexisNexis is being used by ICE to identify, detain, and incarcerate undocumented immigrants, a process that will accelerate beginning this Sunday—during the AALL Annual Meeting—with mass immigration raids across the country.

Because of its business relationship with ICE, as a matter of personal conscience I will not participate in any specific events at the conference in which RELX/LexisNexis is involved.

I decline to:

  1. Set foot in any LexisNexis booths in the AALL Exhibit Hall;
  2. Attend any AALL program or other event run by or sponsored by LexisNexis; or
  3. Attend any educational program session with a LexisNexis speaker.

The following AALL events specifically mention LexisNexis as a sponsor or coordinator:

  • AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers Committee Meeting
  • Opening General Session (sponsored by LexisNexis) (aka “the keynote address”)
  • AALL Award Recipients Lunch (sponsored by LexisNexis)
  • Powerful LexisNexis® Litigation Analytics to Ensure a Winning Outcome
  • Diversity & Inclusion Symposium: Privilege and Power in Legal Environments: Overcoming Barriers to Entry and Advancement (sponsored by LexisNexis)
  • Diversity & Inclusion Symposium Reception (for symposium attendees) (sponsored by LexisNexis)
  • ALL-SIS Middle Managers Breakfast (sponsored by LexisNexis)
  • LexisNexis® Digital Library New CX Enhancement Preview
  • CourtLink® on Lexis Advance®: Efficiency for Today’s Legal Professionals
  • AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers: The Librarian as Author
  • Innovation Tournament (sponsored by LexisNexis)
  • Association Luncheon (sponsored by LexisNexis)

The following educational program sessions feature LexisNexis representatives as speakers:

  • A8: The New Wild West: Assessing and Managing News in the 21st Century
  • D7: Deep Dive: The Federal and State Court Analytics Market — Should the Buyer Beware? What’s on the Horizon?

As with my Thomson Reuters boycott, I wish to reiterate a few key points:

  • This is in no way meant as some form of “punishment” toward the LexisNexis representatives attending the conference — and I’d be happy to chat or grab a drink with any of them outside of the conference.
  • Nor am I begrudging or condemning anyone speaking on or attending a program with LexisNexis reps.
  • And I am not demanding or expecting anyone else to join my boycott.

This is a matter of personal conscience for myself, but I want all AALL attendees to know the facts about LexisNexis’s business relationship with ICE so they can all make informed decisions about their own interactions with LexisNexis at the conference.

And finally:

I also call upon AALL and its board to take a principled stand: Do not accept future sponsorship from RELX Group/LexisNexis unless and until it ceases working with ICE and commits to non-cruel, non-arbitrary, and non-disproportionate uses of its products and services.


For a more detailed examination of the Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis business relationships with ICE, see:

Sarah Lamdan, When Westlaw Fuels Ice Surveillance: Ethics in the Era of Big Data Policing, 43 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 101 (Forthcoming 2019) https://ssrn.com/abstract=3231431

(And as proof how intertwined all of these issues are for librarians, to share that article I had to link to SSRN—which is owned by RELX Group.)

    Tom Boone

    Written by

    Tom Boone

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