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Full-Text Articles in Law

Contract Schemas, Roseanna Sommers Oct 2021

Contract Schemas, Roseanna Sommers

Articles

This review draws on the notion of “contract schemas” to characterize what ordinary people think is happening when they enter into contractual arrangements. It proposes that contracts are schematically represented as written documents filled with impenetrable text containing hidden strings, which are routinely signed without comprehension. This cognitive template, activated whenever people encounter objects with these characteristic features, confers certain default assumptions, associations, and expectancies. A review of the literature suggests that contract schemas supply (a) the assumption that terms will be enforced as written, (b) the feeling that one is obligated to perform, and (c) the sense that one …


Distributive Justice And Donative Intent, Alexander Boni-Saenz Jul 2017

Distributive Justice And Donative Intent, Alexander Boni-Saenz

All Faculty Scholarship

The inheritance system is beset by formalism. Probate courts reject wills on technicalities and refuse to correct obvious drafting mistakes by testators. These doctrines lead to donative errors, or outcomes that are not in line with the decedent’s donative intent. While scholars and reformers have critiqued the intent-defeating effects of formalism in the past, none have examined the resulting distribution of donative errors and connected it to broader social and economic inequalities. Drawing on egalitarian theories of distributive justice, this Article develops a novel critique of formalism in the inheritance law context. The central normative claim is that formalistic wills …


Contract Exposition And Formalism, Gregory Klass Feb 2017

Contract Exposition And Formalism, Gregory Klass

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Formalism in contract law has had many defenders and many critics. What courts need, however, is an account of when formalist approaches work and when they do not. This article addresses that need by developing a general theory of the rules of contract interpretation and construction—contract “exposition.” The theory distinguishes inter alia two forms of formalism. Formalities effect legal change by virtue of their form alone, and thereby obviate interpretation. Examples from contract law include “as is”, the seal and boilerplate terms. Formalities work when parties intend their legal effects, that is, when they perform juristic acts. Plain meaning rules, …


The Common Sense Of Contract Formation, Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, David A. Hoffman Jan 2015

The Common Sense Of Contract Formation, Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, David A. Hoffman

All Faculty Scholarship

What parties know and think they know about contract law affects their obligations under the law and their intuitive obligations toward one another. Drawing on a series of new experimental questionnaire studies, this Article makes two contributions.First, it lays out what information and beliefs ordinary individuals have about how to form contracts with one another. We find that the colloquial understanding of contract law is almost entirely focused on formalization rather than actual assent, though the modern doctrine of contract formation takes the opposite stance. The second Part of the Article tries to get at whether this misunderstanding matters. Is …


Efficient Contextualism, Peter M. Gerhart, Juliet P. Kostritsky Jan 2015

Efficient Contextualism, Peter M. Gerhart, Juliet P. Kostritsky

Faculty Publications

This Article recommends an economic methodology of contract interpretation that enables the court to maximize the benefits of exchange for the parties and thereby enhance the institution of contracting. We recommend a methodology that asks the parties to identify the determinants of a surplus maximizing interpretation so that the court can determine whether the determinants raise issues that need to be tried. We thus avoid the false choice between textualist and contextualist methodologies, while allowing the parties and the court to avoid costly litigation. For textualist courts, our methodology helps the judge determine when the terms the parties used are …


Notes On A Geography Of Knowledge, Michael J. Madison Jan 2009

Notes On A Geography Of Knowledge, Michael J. Madison

Articles

Law and knowledge jointly occupy a metaphorical landscape. Understanding that landscape is essential to understanding the full complexity of knowledge law. This Article identifies some landmarks in that landscape, which it identifies as forms of legal practice: several recent cases involving intellectual property licenses, including the recent patent law decision in Quanta v. LG Electronics and the open source licensing decision in Jacobsen v. Katzer. The Article offers a preliminary framework for exploring the territories of knowledge practice in which those legal landmarks appear.


Embracing Unconscionability’S Safety Net Function, Amy J. Schmitz Oct 2008

Embracing Unconscionability’S Safety Net Function, Amy J. Schmitz

Faculty Publications

Despite courts' and commentators' denial of morality and focus on efficiency in contract law, fairness and flexibility have remained the bedrocks of the unconscionability doctrine. This Article therefore departs from the popular formalist critiques of unconscionability that urge for the doctrine's demise or constraint based on claims that its flexibility and lack of clear definition threaten efficiency in contract law. Contrary to this formalist trend, this Article proposes that unconscionability is necessarily flexible and contextual in order to serve its historical and philosophical function of protecting core human values. Unconscionability is not frivolous gloss on classical contract law. Instead, it …


From Langdell To Law And Economics: Two Conceptions Of Stare Decisis In Contract Law And Theory, Jody S. Kraus Jan 2008

From Langdell To Law And Economics: Two Conceptions Of Stare Decisis In Contract Law And Theory, Jody S. Kraus

Faculty Scholarship

In his classic monograph, The Death of Contract, Grant Gilmore argued that Christopher Columbus Langdell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Samuel Williston trumped up the legal credentials for their classical bargain theory of contract law. Gilmore's analysis has been subjected to extensive criticism, but its specific, sustained, and fundamental charge that the bargain theory was based on a fraudulent misrepresentation of precedential authority has never been questioned. In this Essay, I argue that Gilmore's case against the classical theorists rests on the suppressed premise that the precedential authority of cases resides in the express judicial reasoning used to decide them. In …


Formalism In American Contract Law: Classical And Contemporary, Mark L. Movsesian Jan 2006

Formalism In American Contract Law: Classical And Contemporary, Mark L. Movsesian

Faculty Publications

It is a universally acknowledged truth that we live in a formalist era—at least when it comes to American contract law. Much more than the jurisprudence of a generation ago, today's cutting-edge work in American contract scholarship values the formalist virtues of bright-line rules, objective interpretation, and party autonomy. Policing bargains for substantive fairness seems more and more an outdated notion. Courts, it is thought, should refrain from interfering with market exchanges. Private arbitration has displaced courts in the context of many traditional contract disputes. Even adhesion contracts find their defenders, much to the chagrin of communitarian scholars.

This is …


Arbitration, Unconscionability, And Equilibrium: The Return Of Unconscionability Analysis As A Counterweight To Arbitration Formalism, Jeffrey W. Stempel Jan 2004

Arbitration, Unconscionability, And Equilibrium: The Return Of Unconscionability Analysis As A Counterweight To Arbitration Formalism, Jeffrey W. Stempel

Scholarly Works

However incomplete, unaggressive, or sub-optimal, unconscionability analysis of arbitration agreements has made something of a comeback in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, water seeks to be level, and ecosystems work to retain environmental stability, the legal system has witnessed an incremental effort by lower courts to soften the rough edges of the Supreme Court's pro-arbitration jurisprudence through rediscovery of what might be called the “unconscionability norm”--a collective judicial view as to what aspects of an arbitration arrangement are too unfair to merit judicial enforcement. In rediscovering and reinvigorating the unconscionability norm …