My nerd dream

I’m a nerd. This should surprise no one. I love fantasy, and I love learning. Especially learning the law. It has been my dream for some time to create a blog explaining legal concepts using pop culture references (99 Problems totally explains the automobile exception to the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement), but I haven’t had the energy.

A friend of mine is starting law school in the fall, and I am just so excited for her! I know I hold the minority opinion, but I really enjoyed law school. What can I say, I love learning. I met a lot of great people, did a lot of exploring, and spent a lot of time in the library while this guy looked down on me.

nathan hale

I only regret that I have but one life to lose to my law degree. Notice the Mardi Gras beads. Nathan Hale was a party animal.
Photo from wikimedia commons

One of the great people I met was this friend. What? I met a great person at law school who will be starting law school in the fall? Yes. The great people I met were not law students (well, maybe some of them were). I hung out with a lot of undergrads and med students.

One class I did not like in law school was Contracts I. My professor was not so great. I did well in the class, but I’m convinced my success was due not to him, but to Harry Potter and my sexcapades. And so, I made a Contracts I outline explaining issues with contracts through pop culture (and my weird sexcapades) dedicated to this friend. It’s not quite done (I’m still looking for some nerdy examples to explain some things) but I’m just so excited that I had to share! And maybe you can help me finish it. Without further ado, everything you ever wanted to know about contracts as explained by JK Rowling and other writers. And a few for realsies case law references too:

I. Formations
    A. Offer
         1. An offer is a manifestation of an intent to be bound.
         2. Objective manifestation. What would a reasonable 
            person believe?
         3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry, Ron, 
            and Hermione offered the Sword of Gryffindor to 
            Griphook. In consideration, Griphook would help them 
            break into Gringotts. Harry et al. had the subjective 
            intent was not to give Griphook the sword until they
            were done with it. How would a reasonable person 
            interpret the term of this contract?
         4. Is an advertisement an offer? Usually no. 
              a. Leonard v. Pepsi Co., 210 F.3d 88 (2d Cir. 2000). 
                 For an ad to be an offer, it must use specific 
                 language (like “first come, first served”) or 
                 request a particular performance. In Leonard, a 
                 reasonable person would have understood that the 
                 ad was a joke. 
              b. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. 
                 Fred and George offered a discount to students 
                 who would use their products to get rid of
                 Umbridge. Was it reasonable to assume that this 
                 was a binding offer?
    B. Consideration
         1. An exchange or payment that makes the offer a 
            contract rather than a promise.
         2. Can be a benefit to the offeror (I’ll give you my 
            car for $100. $100 is the consideration) or a 
            detriment or surrender of a right to the offeree 
            (I’ll give you $100 if you quit smoking. Quitting 
            smoking is the consideration)
         3. Consideration must be bargained for. A contract is  
            a bargained for exchange. Offer and consideration  
            must bear the reciprocal relationship of motive and 
            inducement. 
         4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Harry gave Fred 
            and George his Triwizard money and made them promise 
            to use the money to buy Ron new dress robes. Not 
            valid consideration because Harry would have given 
            them the money anyway. No reciprocal relationship.
    C. Acceptance
         1. Generally, words like “I accept,” evidence intent to
            accept.
         2. In a unilateral contract, the contract is formed 
            when one side performs. Lily Potter offered her life 
            in exchange for Harry’s. Contract was formed when
            Voldemort accepted through his performance.
    D. Terms of the contract
         1. The terms of the contract must be reasonably certain 
            in its essential terms
         2. Once Upon a Time. Mr. Gold and Emma entered into a 
            contract to allow Ashley to keep her baby (Ashley 
            had promised to give her baby to Mr. Gold in exchange 
            for money). Ashley would be allowed to keep the baby, 
            and Emma would have to perform a favor for Mr. Gold.
            The contract would likely fail because “favor” it 
            too uncertain.
    E. Defenses against formation. (If this was true at the time 
       of formation, no contract was entered into)
         1. Duress
              a. A contract made under duress—violence, threat, 
                 or pressure—is not enforceable.
              b. The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon forced Leonard 
                 into a new roommate agreement under threatening 
                 to tell Priya’s parents about Leonard and Priya. 
                 It is arguable that the contract would not be 
                 enforceable.
         2. Lack of capacity
              a. law forbids a person from entering into the 
                 contract due to age or mental illness
              b. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My problem
                 with the Goblet being a "binding magical
                 contract" aside, Harry was underage and probably
                 should not have been bound
         3. Undue influence
              a. one person takes advantage of his position of 
                 power over the other
              b. Once Upon a Time. Probably every contract 
                 Rumplestiltskin entered into. He's the freaking
                 Dark One. Damn right he wields undue influence!
II. Not real contracts
    A. Quasi-contract and unjust enrichment
         1. A benefit given with the expectation of some sort
            of compensation
         2. Four questions
              a. Was a benefit conferred?
              b. Was there appreciation or knowledge of the 
                 benefit?
              c. Did the party have the opportunity to refuse 
                 the benefit?
              d. Did the acting party have reason to expect 
                 repayment?
         3. My friends and I called one other law student "unjust
            enrichment" because when I hooked up with him, he got
            an orgasm and I didn't
     B. Quantum meruit--what one has earned. 
         1. Payment for the reasonable value of services rendered.
         2. Three elements:
              a. the defendant was given a benefit
              b. at the plaintiff’s expense
              c. good conscious require that the defendant makes 
                 restitution
         3. The Princess Bride. The Six Fingered Man tells 
            Domingo Montoya he will give him only what he 
            believes the sword is worth.
III. Interpretation
    A. Objective. What a reasonable person would believe. Not 
       subjective.
    B. The role of custom in the industry the contract relates to.
         1. Smith v. Boyd, 553 A.2d 131 (R.I. 1989). “We shall 
            consider, among other things, the practice of the 
            trade or profession, the prior practice between the 
            parties, whether the written contract was to be 
            drawn up by persons other than the parties, and
            statements made during the negotiations.” In real
            estate, contract is formed at closing.
         2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The  
            Unbreakable Vow. There was no consideration, but  
            the custom was that the parties intended to be bound.
    C. Contracts should be interpreted against the drafter.
        1. U.S. v. Seckinger, 397 U.S. 203 (1970) (writing “the 
           general maxim that a contract should be construed most 
           strongly against the drafter.”)
        2. The Big Bang Theory. Priya interprets an ambiguity in 
           roommate agreement against Sheldon.
IV. Performance
    A. In a unilateral contract, performance is acceptance. Lily 
       Potter and Voldemort again. Lily said “kill me instead of 
       Harry,” and he did. Thus contract formed.
    B. Substantial performance. Partial performance of 
       consideration may fully satisfy the contract if there was 
       no ill will by the actor in the failure to complete
       performance
         1. The Little Mermaid. Ariel turning mostly into krill
            before Ursula stopped her should have fulfilled her 
            obligation
         2. Mardi Gras. I was in the French Quarter, and I
            wanted a rubber chicken! So this guy had a whole 
            bunch, and I asked him for one. He said ok, but I 
            had to kiss his friend (apparently this is some Mardi
            Gras game). I demanded payment upfront. I leaned for 
            the kiss, and someone else said “wait, let me get a 
            camera,” and the guy pulled back. So I said “sorry, 
            I substantially performed,” took the chicken, and
            left.
    C. Breach. Non-performance by one party. Breach may be 
       excused in some circumstances.
         1. Frustration of Purpose
              a. An unforeseen event occurs which undermines a
                 party's purpose for entering into the contract.
                 Both parties must know this underlying purpose
                 before entering into the contract.
              b. Once Upon a Time. Regina and Jefferson enter 
                 into a contract. Jefferson will get his hat to
                 work once more to open a portal into the 
                 Enchanted Forest so Regina can get the poisoned 
                 apple to give to Emma. In exchange, Regina will 
                 rewrite Jefferson’s daughter’s memory so they 
                 can be together. Jefferson performs and gives 
                 the apple to Regina. Regina bakes it into a
                 turnover and gives it to Emma, but Henry eats 
                 it. When Jefferson later goes to Regina and 
                 asks her to make good on the contract, she says 
                 no because Emma was supposed to eat the turnover, 
                 not Henry. She tried to argue that her purpose 
                 for entering into the contract (to poison Emma) 
                 was frustrated. I think this is a poor argument, 
                 since Jefferson’s performance was completed when
                 he delivered the apple. It wasn’t his fault that 
                 Regina messed up.
         2. Illegality
              a. A contract to perform something illegal is not 
                 enforceable.
              b. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black 
                 Pearl. Will gets Jack free from jail, Jack will 
                 bring Will to the Black Pearl. Jack will give 
                 Barbossa 15% of his plunder and Barbossa gets to 
                 introduce himself as “Commodore.” A contract to 
                 perform something illegal (busting Jack from
                 jail, piracy) is not enforceable.
         3. Unconscionability
             a. Terms excessively unfair to one party.
             b. Shrek—Happily Forever After. Shrek gives 
                Rumpelstiltskin a day of his life so he can be an 
                ogre for a day. But the day Rumpel takes is the
                day Shrek was born, so Shrek dies after the 
                contract is fulfilled.
         4. Mistake
             a. a party erroneously believes a certain fact is 
                true prior to entering into the contract.
         5. Misrepresentation
             a. a false, material statement knowingly made by one 
                party with the intent to induce the other into 
                the agreement.
         6. Impracticability
             a. performance becomes unfeasibly difficult
         7. Impossibility
             a. a change in circumstances regarding an underlying 
                assumption of the contract which makes
                performance impossible
         8. Unclean hands
            a. The party that has performed has acted unethically 
               or in bad faith and so is not entitled to a remedy
               by the court.
            b. Once Upon a Time. PRETTY MUCH EVERY CONTRACT 
               RUMPELSTILTSKIN ENTERS INTO! Though he does give
               fair warning (ad nauseam) that all magic has a
               price.
            c. Once Upon a Time. Regina and Jefferson enter into  
               a contract whereby he will take her via his hat  
               through the lookingglass to retrieve something  
               and she will give his daughter anything she wants.
               They go through the lookingglass, but Regina traps 
               him there, as was her intent from the beginning.
V. Third Parties
    A. Beneficiaries—a person not a party to the contract who 
       nonetheless receives a benefit from it.
         1. Intended beneficiary
            a. Original parties agree to provide consideration to 
               the third party. There is an intent to benefit the 
               third party.
            b. Intended beneficiary can sue for breach
            c. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Assuming that 
               Fred and George buying new dress robes for Ron was 
               valid consideration, then Ron would have been able 
               to sue to enforce the contract between Fred and 
               George and Harry.
            d. Night Watch. Anton caught Alisa doing a 3rd or 4th 
               degree intervention. In exchange for not punishing 
               her, Zabulon told Anton he could do a 2nd degree 
               intervention. Alisa was the intended beneficiary 
               of the contract between Zabulon and Anton.
         2. Incidental beneficiary
            a. Someone who stands to benefit though that was not 
               the intent of either contracting party.
            b. Does not have the right to sue for breach
    B. Assignment
         1. the transfer of rights under a contract to a third 
            party.
         2. valid as long as the person receiving the new 
            contract rights has notice.
    C. Novation
         1. Replacing with an obligation under the contract 
            with a new obligation
             a. Once Upon a Time. The contract between Cora 
                and Rumplestiltskin originally was to give 
                Rumple her first born child. The contract was 
                changed so that she would give him their first 
                born child.
         2. Replacing one party with a new party
             a. Once Upon a Time. To allow Ashley to keep her 
                baby after she had agreed to give it to Mr. Gold, 
                Emma agreed to perform a favor for Mr. Gold. 
                Replaces the obligation and a party.
         3. Valid only with the consent of all parties
             a. The Little Mermaid. Agreement between King Triton 
                and Ursula was not a novation of the original 
                contract between Ariel and Ursula because Ariel 
                did not consent.

Any thoughts on this? Any suggestions to help me fill in the blanks?

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About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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3 Responses to My nerd dream

  1. sj says:

    I love this post so much. I would bookmark it for future reference, but then I wouldn’t get to bug you.

    • emmawolf says:

      I loved doing this so much! It started as something small. I was going to give her my own outline but just supplement it with Harry Potter. But I just got carried away and now want to teach a law school course based on Harry Potter and Once Upon a Time. (One of my professors said it was his dream to teach ethics via movies.)

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