Several months ago freelance writer Chris Thompson happened upon a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office in San Diego with a particularly provocative headline: "Baby-Selling Ring Busted," it read. This was about the criminal case against Theresa Erickson, a prominent San Diego attorney who had paid women to become pregnant with embryos implanted at overseas clinics. "In her guilty plea," the press release noted, "Erickson admitted that she and her conspirators used GCs [gestational carriers] to create an inventory of unborn babies that they would sell for over $100,000 each."
"This release was written with such bombast," Thompson remembers. "But as I read on, I realized that the criminal charge prosecutors hung their case on - and the only one she pled guilty to - was wire fraud. This seemed rather odd to me, and sort of picayune."
Indeed, considering what she was up to, tripping Erickson up on wire fraud appears to be on par with convicting Al Capone of tax evasion. But it was enough to make Thompson want to investigate further, and in our cover story ("And Baby Makes Four") he tells us what he found.
As it turns out, the law has followed a winding road in attempting to address the unsettling - if not altogether surreal - issues that arise when babies are made to order in this fashion. In the late 1980s, for example, the New Jersey Supreme Court struck down a surrogacy contract. Four years later our own California Supreme Court upheld one.
Should new legislation be passed? Thompson's protagonist, a Woodland Hills lawyer named Andrew W. Vorzimer, certainly thinks so. (It was Vorzimer, in fact, who brought Erickson's activities to the attention of federal authorities in California.) But could such laws be enforced without violating the fundamental privacy rights articulated in Roe v. Wade
The truth is, rapidly changing technology does have a way of altering our perceptions of cherished principles. Contributing writer Barbara Kate Repa
drives home the same point this month in her look at the legal conundrums posed by schoolchildren's cyberbullying ("E-Cruelty"). Of course, cruelty among youngsters is nothing new. But breaking up a schoolyard fistfight is a lot simpler than policing what a student posts at home on a smartphone or laptop. And therein lies the rub.
Finally, it is my pleasant duty to announce that California Lawyer
has won two national awards from Folio
magazine for editorial excellence. In the business-to-business category, our January 2012 cover story, "Targeting ADA Violators" by Tom McNichol
, took the gold Eddie Award. And in the same category our April cover story, "You Bet Your Life" by Matthew Heller
, won the bronze. Congratulations to the winners!