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When legal decision-makers like Justice Peckham, who are actually ... making a policy or political choice act as if there were no choice to be made—when they treat a policy choice as simply an exercise in knowing the plain meaning of a word—their behavior is sometimes described as formalistic. They act as if it is the form that matters, but in fact it is substance that is doing the work.

It is, to be sure, formalistic to take the literal meaning of the words “prior to December 31” in United States v. Locke as dictating a result other than what seems to be the most sensible one, because it is to treat the form of a legal rule as more important than its deeper purpose, or more important than reaching the best all-things-considered judgment in the particular context of a particular case.

Is it definition 1 or 4 or something else at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/form?q=form? I'm guessing that the meaning of form is the same in both examples?

Also, please explain your thought processes/deductive steps, so I can try to improve doing so and need not ask here?

Source: P30, Thinking like a Lawyer, Frederick Schauer

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    ibid. form 4 [MASS NOUN] The customary or correct method or procedure: an excessive concern for legal form and precedent in contrast to the "content" or "spirit." – Kris Jul 14 '14 at 9:38
  • @Kris Would you like to recast your comment as an answer, for which I’ll happily upvote? Also, would you please enlarge on it? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Oct 26 '14 at 15:28
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The answer you are looking for might be in the text sample you provide:

It is, to be sure, formalistic to take the literal meaning of the words “prior to December 31” in United States v. Locke as dictating a result (...)

There are different methods of judicial Interpretation, one of which is to primarily consider the form of a provision, i.e. the plain letter.

  • Thanks, but would you please pinpoint the specific definition that's right? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Oct 26 '14 at 15:35
  • Definition 1.2 comes near, I think. – Jonas Oct 28 '14 at 11:22

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