Martha Ertman

Carole & Hanan Sibel Professor of Law




(410) 706-3923


(410) 706-0407

Photo of Martha Ertman


  • BA, 1985, Wellesley College
  • JD, 1990, Northwestern University


Martha M. Ertman is the Carole & Hanan Sibel Research Professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She teaches Contracts, Commercial Law and Foundational Transaction Skills courses. She researches and writes about commodification – the upside of contracts into families, genetic materials, and remedies for racial injustice – as well as classroom materials for Contracts as well as the experiential transactional skills courses.

Professor Ertman’s books include a casebook Contract Law: An Integrated Approach (2020, with Billy Sjostrom & Debora Threedy), a coursebook covering the basics of transactional literacy titled  Developing Professional Skills: Secured Transactions (West Academic 2018), and  Love’s Promises: How Contracts and Deals Shape All Kinds of Families (Beacon Press 2015), which translates her academic writing about contracts and not-legally-binding “deals” in reproductive technology, adoption, cohabitation, and marriage for readers outside of law schools. This two-minute YouTube video describes the book, including the way contracts have shaped Professor Ertman’s family.

Her other law review articles, encyclopedia entries, and book chapters explore a range of topics, including office housework, adoption, and polygamy, and her book Rethinking Commodification: Cases and Readings in Law and Culture (2005, with Joan Williams) (NYU Press 2005) excerpts classic texts alongside newer takes on the reach of markets into all areas of our lives. Public presentations of her work on contracts include a New America Foundation reading, an online symposium on Concurring Opinions, and articles on,, and the Women=Books blog. She has also been interviewed by WYPR, Newstalk, and Keeping Democracy Alive.

Professor Ertman is a member of the American Law Institute. Before joining the Maryland Carey Law faculty in 2007, she taught at the University of Utah and University of Denver law schools. She has also been a visiting faculty member at the universities of Michigan, Connecticut, and Oregon. Prior to entering academia, she clerked for the Honorable Peter H. Beer, a U.S. district court judge in Louisiana, and practiced law at Davis, Wright Tremaine in Seattle.


Contract Law: An Integrated Approach (2019) (with Debora L. Threedy and William K. Sjostrom Jr). Abstract

Developing Professional Skills: Secured Transactions (2018). Abstract

Love's Promises: How Formal and Informal Contracts Shape All Kinds of Families (2015). Abstract

Editor, Rethinking Commodifcation: Cases and Readings in Law and Culture (2005) (with Joan C. Williams). Abstract

Book Chapters

Adoption: A Mosaic of Market and Non-Market Elements, in Routledge Handbook of Commodification 321 (Elodie Bertrand & Vida Panitch eds., 2024). Abstract

Contract's Influence on Feminism and Vice Versa, in The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States (Deborah Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna Williams eds., 2021). Abstract

Adoption, in Springer Encyclopedia of Law & Economics (Alain Marciano & Giovanni Battista Ramello eds., 2015).

Love and Contracts in Don Quixote, in Don Quixote: Interdisciplinary Connections 251 (Matthew D. Warshawsky & James A. Parr eds., 2013). Abstract

The Productive Tension between Official and Unofficial Stories of Fault in Contract Law, in Fault in American Contract Law 132 (Omri Ben-Shahar & Ariel Porot eds., 2011). Abstract

The Upside of Baby Markets, in Baby Markets: Money and the New Politics of Creating Families 23 (Michele Bratcher Goodwin ed., 2010). Abstract

The Story of Reynolds v. United States: Federal "Hell Hounds" Punishing Mormon Treason, in Family Law Stories 51 (Carol Sanger ed., 2007) Abstract

Private Ordering Under the ALI Principles: As Natural as Status, in Reconceiving the Family 284 (Robin Fretwell Wilson ed., 2006). Abstract

The Business of Intimacy: Bridging the Private-Private Distinction, in Feminism Confronts Homo Economicus: Gender, Law, and Society 467 (Martha Albertson Fineman & Terence Dougherty eds., 2005). Abstract


Contract as a Tool of Systemic Racism & (Maybe) Reparations, Jotwell, June 28, 2023 (reviewing Marissa Jackson Sow, Whiteness as Contract, 78 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1803 (2022)). Abstract

The New Private Law Thirty Years After, 100 Denver Law Review 533 (2023).

Reparations for Racial Wealth Disparities as Remedy for Social Contract Breach, 85 Law & Contemporary Problems, no. 2, 2022, at 231. Abstract

The Cost of Non-Billable Work, 99 Texas Law Review Online 184 (2020). Abstract

Contract in Crisis, Jotwell, April 6, 2020. Abstract

Keep it Simple, Smarty: Tips for Transactional Training Programs, 48 UCC Law Journal 1 (2018).

We Who Believe . . . Cannot Rest, 17 University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class 9 (2017). Abstract

The Social Life of Blood, Milk & Sperm, 51 Tulsa Law Review 393 (2016). Abstract

Drinking from the Data Well: Response to Gamete Donor Anonymity and Limits on Numbers of Offspring: The Views of Three Stakeholders, 3 Journal of Law and the Biosciences 655 (2016). Abstract

Marital Contracting in a Post-Windsor World, 42 Florida State University Law Review 479 (2015). Abstract

Unexpected Links Between Baby Markets and Intergenerational Justice, 8 Law & Ethics of Human Rights 271 (2014). Abstract

The Legacy of Jane Larson: The Politics of Practicality and Surprise, 28 Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society 207 (2013). Abstract

Exchange as a Cornerstone of Families, 34 Western New England Law Review 405 (2012). Abstract

Race Treason: The Untold Story of America's Ban on Polygamy, 19 Columbia Journal of Gender & Law 287 (2010). Abstract

Book Review, For Both Love and Money, The Far Reach of Viviana Zelizer’s The Purchase of Intimacy, 34 Law & Social Inquiry 1017 (2009). Abstract

Mapping the New Frontiers of Private Ordering, 49 Arizona Law Review 695 (2007). Abstract

Accepting the Court’s Invitation, 57 Journal of Legal Education 159 (2007). Abstract

Legal Tenderness, 18 Yale Journal of Law & Feminism 545 (2006) (reviewing Feminist Perspectives on Contract Law (Linda Mulcahy & Sally Wheeler eds., 2005)). Abstract

The Elasticity of Contract, 18 Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 202 (Supp. 2006). Abstract

What's Wrong with a Parenthood Market? - A New and Improved Theory of Commodification, 82 North Carolina Law Revew 1 (2003). Abstract

Love and Work: A Response to Vicki Schultz's Life's Work, 102 Columbia Law Review 848 (2002). Abstract

Marriage as a Trade: Bridging the Private/Private Distinction, 35 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 79 (2001). Abstract

The ALI Principles' Approach to Domestic Partnership, 8 Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy 107 (2001) Abstract

Changing the Meaning of Motherhood, 76 Chicago-Kent Law Review 1733 (2001). Abstract

Contract Sports, 48 Cleveland State Law Review 31 (2000). Abstract

Oscar Wilde: Paradoxical Poster Child for both Identity and Post-Identity, 25 Law & Social Inquiry 153 (2000). Abstract

Commercializing Marriage: A Proposal for Valuing Women's Work Through Premarital Security Agreements, 77 Texas Law Review 17 (1998). Abstract

Reconstructing Marriage: An InterSEXional Approach, 75 Denver University Law Review 1215 (1998). Abstract

Vive no Différence, 91 Northwestern University Law Review 642 (1997). Abstract

Contractual Purgatory for Sexual Marginorities: Not Heaven, but Not Hell Either, 73 Denver University Law Review 1107 (1996). Abstract

Denying the Secret of Joy: A Critique of Posner's Theory of Sexuality, 45 Stanford Law Review 1485 (1993). Abstract