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Contribution to Book
Legal Formalism, Procedural Principles, and Judicial Constraints in American Adjudication
General Principles of Law: The Role of the Judiciary (2015)
  • Christopher J Peters, The University of Akron
Abstract
American proponents of legal formalism, such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, worry (quite reasonably) that unfettered judicial discretion poses a threat to democratic legitimacy, and they offer formalism – the mechanical implementation of determinate legal rules – as a solution to this threat. In this chapter from a forthcoming edited volume (General Principles of Law: The Role of the Judiciary [Laura Pineschi, ed., Springer 2015]), the author contends that formalist interpretive techniques are neither sufficient nor necessary to impose meaningful constraint on judges. Both the text and the “original meaning” of legal rules are endemically underdeterminate, leaving much room for judicial discretion in the decision of cases. But meaningful judicial constraint can and does flow from other sources in American adjudication. Judges are constrained by the dispute-resolving posture of their task, which requires that they be impartial as between the litigants and responsive to the litigants’ participatory efforts. And they are constrained by the need to be faithful to the substantive principles that justify legal rules, even when those rules themselves are indeterminate. Judicial constraint in the American system thus stems not primarily from formalist interpretative methods, but rather from largely unwritten procedural principles of judicial impartiality, responsiveness, and faithfulness. 
Keywords
  • constitutional law,
  • judicial review,
  • Scalia,
  • legal formalism,
  • comparative law
Disciplines
Publication Date
2015
Editor
Laura Pineschi
Publisher
Springer
Citation Information
Christopher J Peters. "Legal Formalism, Procedural Principles, and Judicial Constraints in American Adjudication" General Principles of Law: The Role of the Judiciary (2015)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/christopher-peters2/6/