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Other People’s Contracts

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Contract law does not adequately account for the harms that we can inflict on third parties by joint agreement. Some terms are prohibited, and some third party interests are protected by independent causes of action. But a wide variety of material interests that are otherwise recognized in law may be burdened by other people’s contracts. This Article proposes that ambiguous contract terms be construed to avoid harming third parties.

This Comment fills that gap by providing a descriptive account of lettermarking and by suggesting ways to curb this pernicious practice. Part I documents the rise of lettermarking and explains how lettermarks damage American democracy. Part I also discusses Executive Order 13,457, promulgated by President George W. Bush in an attempt to control lettermarking. We explain why EO 13,457 has not been enforced and suggest that some supplementary control mechanism — preferably one that relies on private actors — will be needed to curb lettermarks.

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