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Contracts | Law | Legal Education


Center for Gender & Sexuality Law


For several years now I have begun my first-year contracts course with the 1988 New Jersey Supreme Court case In the Matter of Baby M. In this essay, I want to explain why. I offer the explanation in the spirit of modest proselytizing, recognizing that many of us already have a favored method or manner into the course: some introductory questions we pose before leaping into (or over) the introductions already provided by the editors of the many excellent casebooks available. But I have found that Baby M works extremely well in ways that others may want to consider. It provides an introduction to all the central topics and themes typically covered in a contracts course, and it does so with just the right mixture of familiarity and intrigue. The familiarity is with the facts of the actual case (though student memory shrinks with each passing year) and with the general structure of surrogacy arrangements. The intrigue develops as students glimpse that even the familiar is more complicated when viewed through a legal lens. Events and transactions that once seemed straightforward become unexpectedly dense as overlays of structure and logic, vocabulary and value emerge. Teaching Baby M is something like showing students a "reveal codes" key, as they discover that a complex ciphered system underlies the apparent simplicities of a real life arrangement.


Reprinted with permission of the Saint Louis University Law Journal © 2000, St. Louis University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri.