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Measures of Legal Formalism: Readings in Jurisprudence and in Legal Cases
Unformatted Document Text:  seeks to explore legal phenomena in context. 27 In this research, the aim is first to map the debate on formalism in legal academia, and then to evaluate the extent of legal formalism in concrete written decision-making. The two stages of the research will include discourse analysis 28 of jurisprudential writing and legal cases (consecutively), and both assume that legal formalism is a cultural phenomenon that calls for various methods of evaluation. The use of research methodologies originating in the social sciences while trying to adapt them to legal culture and to legal writing in particular is, in itself, an interdisciplinary project that this paper is trying to establish. Measuring legal writing bottom-up using standard measures may contribute to a more systematic and accurate way of evaluating legal phenomenon than the methods that exist today. 29 Schemes of formalism that will emerge through the evaluation of the writing of specific judges or in a particular area or jurisdiction will enable a richer perception of the legal phenomenon as a whole. The basic argument developed in this paper is that a multidimensional measure of formalism is a significant tool for evaluating legal decision-making texts and that assessing the varying degrees of formalism and the interplay among them within a certain context is an important intellectual endeavor that can produce new insights and encourage interesting research directions. The suggested measure can be applied to cases from different legal historical periods; to 27 For an overview of the research method of Law and Society scholars, see Carroll Seron & Susan S. Silbey, 2004. “Profession, Science, and Culture: An Emergent Canon of Law and Society Research”, in T HE B LACKWELL C OMPANION TO L AW AND S OCIETY , A. Sarat (Ed.) (Australia: Blackwell Publishing), pp. 30-59. See, for example, p. 31: "By researching the gap between the claims of law and its practices, and importantly the space within that gap, law and society scholars have moved close to the mainstream of contemporary scientific and humanistic inquiry." 28 For a preliminary description of "discourse analysis" see http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/courses/ed253a/ Luke/SAHA6.html ; See also http://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~palmquis/courses/discourse.htm . 29 For a critique of the "non professional" quality of legal scholarship and an offer to improve it by applying to the social sciences see R ICHARD A. P OSNER , T HE P ROBLEMATICS OF M ORAL AND L EGAL T HEORY (1999).In contrast to Posner's argument, which rejects several jurisprudential cultures and accepts others, the claim here is that any claims regarding the law is "real" so long as they receive a substantive supportive audience, become part of legal discourse and are internalized by judges and other legal actors. 7

Authors: Alberstein, Michal.
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seeks to explore legal phenomena in context.
 In this research, the aim is first to map 
the debate on formalism in legal academia, and then to evaluate the extent of legal 
formalism in concrete written decision-making. The two stages of the research will 
include discourse analysis
 of jurisprudential writing and legal cases (consecutively), 
and both assume that legal formalism is a cultural phenomenon that calls for various 
methods of evaluation.
The use of research methodologies originating in the social sciences while trying to 
adapt them to legal culture and to legal writing in particular is, in itself, an 
interdisciplinary project that this paper is trying to establish. Measuring legal writing 
bottom-up using standard measures may contribute to a more systematic and accurate 
way of evaluating legal phenomenon than the methods that exist today.
 Schemes of 
formalism that will emerge through the evaluation of the writing of specific judges or 
in a particular area or jurisdiction will enable a richer perception of the legal 
phenomenon as a whole. The basic argument developed in this paper is that a 
multidimensional measure of formalism is a significant tool for evaluating legal 
decision-making texts and that assessing the varying degrees of formalism and the 
interplay among them within a certain context is an important intellectual endeavor 
that can produce new insights and encourage interesting research directions. The 
suggested measure can be applied to cases from different legal historical periods; to 
27
 For an overview of the research method of Law and Society scholars, see Carroll Seron & Susan S. 
Silbey, 2004. “Profession, Science, and Culture: An Emergent Canon of Law and Society Research”, in 
T
HE
 B
LACKWELL
 C
OMPANION
 
TO
 L
AW
 
AND
 S
OCIETY
, A. Sarat (Ed.) (Australia: Blackwell Publishing), pp. 
30-59. See, for example, p. 31: "By researching the gap between the claims of law and its practices, 
and importantly the space within that gap, law and society scholars have moved close to the 
mainstream of contemporary scientific and humanistic inquiry." 
28
  For a preliminary description of "discourse analysis" see 
; See also 
29
 For a critique of the "non professional" quality of legal scholarship and an offer to improve it by 
applying to the social sciences see R
ICHARD
 A. P
OSNER
, T
HE
 P
ROBLEMATICS
 
OF
 M
ORAL
 
AND
 L
EGAL
 T
HEORY
 
(1999).In contrast to Posner's argument, which rejects several jurisprudential cultures and accepts 
others, the claim here is that any claims regarding the law is "real" so long as they receive a substantive 
supportive audience, become part of legal discourse and are internalized by judges and other legal 
actors.
7


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