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News & Press: Awards

Undergraduate Student Paper Prize

Monday, May 11, 2020  
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The Law and Society Association presents one award to the undergraduate student paper that best represents outstanding law and society research.

Carrasco’s paper offers a sophisticated empirical and normative analysis of the how the unconscionability doctrine—one of the few doctrines in contract law that encourages judges to invalidate contracts that are grossly disadvantageous to poor consumers—operates to reinforce vulnerability in racialized and gendered ways. Through content analysis of judicial opinions in three of the nation’s poorest states, the author reveals that finding the weaker party vulnerable is an integral component of how courts understand unconscionability. Courts fail to rule on the ultimate morality of many unconscionable contracts, instead using the vulnerability of parties as a mechanism for invalidating contracts. Businesses prevail the majority of the time. When they lose, their loss is contingent upon a paternalistic view of the weaker party as so vulnerable as to be incompetent to enter into a contract. By focusing on the vulnerability of the weaker party, the courts reinforce notions of racial minorities, women, and the lower class as incapable legal parties.

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