Sources of Contract LawWHAT'S COVEREDIn this lesson, you will learn more about where contract law comes from. Specifically, this lesson will cover:1.Case (Common) Law and the Restatement of Contracts2.Statutory Law and the Uniform Commercial Code1.A Brief History of the UCC2.The Basic Framework of the UCC3.Three Basic Contract Types4.The Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods1. Case (Common) Law and the Restatement of ContractsBecause contract law was forged in the common law courtroom, hammered out case by case by individual judges, it grew in the course of time to house volumes of written decisions. By the early twentieth century, tens of thousands of contract disputes had been submitted to the courts for resolution, and the published opinions, if collected in one place, would have filled dozens of bookshelves. Clearly this mass of case law was too unwieldy for efficient use.A similar problem had developed in the other leading branches of the common law. Disturbed by the profusion of cases and the resulting uncertainty of the law, a group of prominent American judges, lawyers, and teachers founded the American Law Institute in 1923 to attempt to clarify, simplify, and improve the law. One of its first projects, and ultimately one of its most successful, was the drafting of theRestatement of the Law of Contracts, completed in 1932. A revision, the Restatement (Second) of Contracts, was undertaken in 1946 and finally completed in 1979.
The Restatements (others exist in the fields of torts, agency, conflicts of laws,judgments, property, restitution, security, and trusts) are a detailed collectionof the law embodied in these decided cases. They are broken down into various principles that have emerged from the courts, and to the maximum extent possible, the Restatements declare the law as the courts have determined it to be.The Restatement of Contracts won prompt respect in the courts and has been cited in innumerable cases. The Restatements are not authoritative, in the sense that they are not statutes or actual judicial precedents, but they are nevertheless weighty interpretive texts, and judges frequently look to them for guidance. They are as close to “black letter” rules of law as exist anywhere in the American legal system for judge-made (common) law.TERM TO KNOWRestatement of the Law of ContractsA summary of U.S. case law regarding contracts compiled by the American Law Institute and considered to be authoritative. It is currently in its second form as the Restatement (Second) of the Law of Contracts.2. Statutory Law and the Uniform Commercial CodeCommon law contract principles govern contracts for real estate and for services, obviously very important areas of law. But in one area, the commonlaw has been superseded by an important statute: theUniform Commercial Code (UCC), especially Article 2, which deals with the sale of goods.