1 ' A m e r i c a n L e g a l R e a l i s m

AMERICAN LECAL REALISM
Also iefeiieu to as piagmatism
Apait fiom the othei schools of juiispiuuence
(natuial, positivist, teleogical, functional,
foimalist)
aseu on P0RE EXPERIENCE
Rejects all tianscenuental piinciples, concepts anu
iueas
If theie is no piactical effect of a concept oi iuea,
then theie woulu be no point in puisuing its
analysis
I. Two Pion¢¢rs of L¢gal R¢alism
ŵ. )ustic¢ Uliv¢r Holm¢s
isputes the concept of natuial law. The piecepts
of natuial law aie not manifest anu still neeu pioof
anu ieasoning. It is so abstiact that people aie
leau to contiauictoiy iesults by them.
uman law shoulu N0T be a system of ieason,
logic oi ethical piinciples
uman law shoulu be human. The law uiaws its
life fiom human expeiiences, whethei past oi
piesent. Nan makes up his own law. Insteau of
consulting univeisal piinciples, man consults his
own neeus, wants, anu agenuas, oi the changing
noims of the society in which he lives.
Expeiiences may be classifieu into uiffeient
metalegal stimuli which have a consequence on
how a juuge may ienuei his uecision in couit
cases. is uecisions, ueteimine the law.
The juuge is a ieal peison, an impeifect human
being, with biases anu piejuuices, anu affecteu by
all kinus of metalegal stimuli. e is subject to all
kinus of ieal socio-psychological piessuies.
Relevant classifications of metalegal stimuli, aie
the following:
i. Felt necessities of the times
ii. Pievalent moial anu political theoiies
iii. Intentions of public policy
iv. Piejuuices which juuges shaie with
common men
Netalegal stimuli have a moie piofounu effect
than logic oi ieason in ueteimining the iules anu
iegulations goveining conuuct
Emphasis on the 0: Law thiobs with life anu
activity not mainly because of logic¡ieason but
because of human expeiience
Ŷ. Prof¢ssor )obn Cbipman Cray
(Iuly ŵŸ, ŵ8ŷ9 - Febiuaiy ŶŹ, ŵ9ŵŹ)
Ameiican scholai of piopeity law anu piofessoi
at aivaiu Law School
Co-founuei of one of the oluest anu most
piestigious law fiims in the 0niteu States, the fiim
of Ropes & uiay
e was half-biothei to 0.S. Supieme Couit
Iustice oiace uiay
is best known woik is Tbe Noture onJ Sources of
tbe low (ŵ9Ŵ9)
Legal iealists piesent a veiy inteiesting anu
compelling claim: what qualifies as law is not what
legislatois enact, but what juuges enfoice. Iohn
Chipman uiay was the fiist to systematize this
iuea into a coheient theoiy of law.
e emphasizeu that the law "is not an iueal
concept but something that actually exists. It is not
that which is in accoiuance with natuie, oi
ieligion, oi moiality, it is not that wbicb ouqbt to
be but that wbicb is."
uiay believeu that "any law that the couits fail to
auopt is not law. . The tiue lawgivei, is not he
who utteis the woius of a law, but as ishop
oauly saiu, 'Whoevei hath an obsolute outboritv
to interpret any wiitten oi spoken laws.'"
Rules aie meiely woius, anu 'woius can get into
action only thiough uecisions: it is foi the couits
in ueciuing any case to say what the iules mean.
Law" wb¢n pr¢c¢d¢d by tb¢ ind¢finit¢ articl¢:
A luw oiuinaiily means a statute passeu by the
legislatuie of s state.
Law" wb¢n pr¢c¢d¢d by tb¢ d¢finit¢ articl¢:
W Iuw is the whole system of iules applieu by the
couits.
S¢paration of tb¢ Law from its Sourc¢s
e stateu "that the law of the state oi of any
oiganizeu bouy of men is composeu of the rul¢s
wbicb tb¢ courts lay down foi the ueteimination
of legal iights anu uuties."
The point, accoiuing to uiay, is wbicb body can
say witb autbority and finality wbat tb¢ law is.
Thus, statutes, iules anu iegulations, like customs
anu usages, ar¢ no mor¢ tban tb¢ sourc¢s of tb¢
law.
It is foi the couits to say what the woius in a
statute mean: it is foi the couits to inteipiet
legislative acts.
The couits put life into the ueau woius of the
statute.

' A m e r i c a n L e g a l R e a l i s m

II. Sk¢ptics
Realism is chaiacteiizeu by a healthy scepticism
on the following, in the legal oiueiing of society:
i. Role of Rules
ii. Role of Facts
iii. Role of Iuuicial 0pinions
A. Rul¢ Sk¢ptics
uestion the notion that legal iules aie piecise
anu can be applieu easily in any given case anu
that legal iules by themselves uictate the iesult of
the uecision of a case
Rules aie not infallible¡omnipotent. They shoulu
not contiol us out of chiluish feai oi of iespect foi
the law
Auministiation of justice shoulu ueal with the
complex anu changing human expeiiences
Nan is not maue foi law, but law is maue foi man
. Fact Sk¢ptics
isappiove of the emphasis given to appellate
couit uecisions anu the lack of attention to the
actualities in the tiial couits
Couit exeicises fact-uiscietion in sifting mateiial
facts fiom the iaw facts
Appaient uifficulty in the fact-finuing piocess.
Theie is no available means to ueteimine whethei
oi not the mateiial facts chosen aie accuiate
Aftei the couit exeicises fact-uiscietion, the
objective facts now become subjective facts
0nce the facts aie ievieweu by highei couits,
these facts become nothing moie than a colu,
impeisonal tiansciipt of stenogiaphic notes
Rule x Facts = ecision (If facts aie inaccuiate,
then uecision maue is immeuiately eiioneous)
Theiefoie, couits shoulu assume a moie
impoitant iesponsibility in fact-finuing
C. Upinion Sk¢ptics
Couit opinion¡iatio ueciuenui is a basis foi
unueistanuing how a uecision was aiiiveu at anu
evaluating its significance as a juuicial guiueline in
futuie similai, oi neaily similai case
Nistake comes into play
olmes: Couit opinion TEN to become the law,
meaning only the pait of the opinion which
auuiesses uiiectly the facts anu the legal iule, to
the actual issue involveu in the case becomes the
law.

III. Rol¢ of Mat¢rial Facts
oes not iefei to ALL past facts anu events
Facts which juuges chooses in its uiscietion
Nay be that which cannot be founu in the juuicial
iecoiu. Eg: Assumption of goou behavioi of an
innmate set to be ieleaseu upon the expiiation of
his minimum peiiou of jail because of absence of
infoimation to the contiaiy
Iuuge is a fallible witness of the witnesses calleu to
the stanu
In oiuei foi the law to exist, the couits shoulu
have fiist applieu the legal iule to the mateiial
facts (sepaiateu fiom the iaw facts)
IV. Rol¢ of Exp¢ri¢nc¢s and Social Advantag¢
It is unavoiuable that human factois aie involveu
in the legal oiueiing of society
Tiue giounu of uecision: consiueiations of social
auvantage, not meiely on the giounus of logic oi
ieason
uieatest numbei foi the gieatest goou
aU vx. Wll
4 Nanuatoiy steiilization on imbeciles is bettei
foi the woilu, so that society can pievent
those who aie manifestly unfit fiom
continuing theii kinu. Auvantageous to society
to enu human miseiy
IoUZW^ vx. NWw Yo^
4 Theie was a statute piohibiting bakeiy
employees fiom woiking moie than ŵŴ
houis¡uay. Two consiueiations piesent:
ŵ. Right of the goveinment to enact statutes
piotecting the health, safety anu welfaie
of the people
Ŷ. Fieeuom of inuiviuual peisons to entei
into contiacts conceining theii own laboi
4 Lawmaking bouy shoulu be fiee to choose -
between the competing piinciples
4 Constitution is not intenueu to embouy a
paiticulai economic theoiy.
4 Constitution is maue foi uiffeiing views.
V. Rol¢ of M¢tal¢gal Stimuli
`al Sometbinq cousinq or reqorJeJ os cousinq o
response.
ecause the uecisions of the juuge aie moie impoitant
than the enactments of the legislatuie, legal iealism
placeu a heavy emphasis on aujuuication.
AJjaJUu`oZ Tbe leqol process of resolvinq o Jispute.
Tbe formol qivinq or pronouncinq of o iuJqment or
' A m e r i c a n L e g a l R e a l i s m

Jecree in o court proceeJinq; olso tbe iuJqment or
Jecision qiven.
Concept of law as the piophesies of what the couits
will uo in fact anu nothing moie pietentious - ustice
Eolmes
The law is the whole system of iules applieu by the
couits anu that a law oi a statute is only a souice of
the law - Professor 6rov
Iustice olmes anu Piofessoi uiay posit¢d tb¢ id¢a
tbat ratb¢r tban ¢xamin¢ wbat tb¢ courts say it is
b¢tt¢r to inv¢stigat¢ wbat tb¢y r¢ally do or wbat
tb¢y will do in fact. Thus attention is focuseu on the
¢mpirical factors wbicb und¢rli¢ tb¢ judicial
proc¢ss.
Formalist Conc¢pt
In this iigiu mouel, the uecisive legal iule seives as
the majoi piemise, the mateiial facts constitute a
minoi piemise, anu the uecision is ieacheu stiictly
by ueuuctive ieasoning.
ecisions aie baseu on store Jecisis.
R¢alist Conc¢pt
The law is moie iational anu moie civilizeu when
eveiy iule it contains is iefeiieu aiticulately anu
uefinitely to an enu which it seives, anu when the
giounus foi uesiiing that enu ie stateu oi aie
ieauy to be stateu in woius.
olmes was positing the view that theie aie
ceitain metalegal stimuli at woik in the
aujuuicative piocess.
The application of iules on the mateiial facts of a
case is but one of two quantities in the equation of
legal iealism. The othei pait is the metalegal
stimuli in the aujuuicative piocess.
)ustic¢ Holm¢s' cieuo emphasize the iole of metalegal
stimuli in the juuicial piocess:
Tbe life of tbe low bos not been loqic. it bos been
experience".
The iole of metalegal stimuli is especially tiue in the
aujuuication of the haiu cases, e.g.:
ŵ. Wheie the applicable iule¡s appeai
inueteiminate:
Ŷ. Wheie piioi uecision is to be ieveiseu,
mouifieu, oi uiscaiueu:
ŷ. Wheie a piioi uecision is likely to be
establisheu apait fiom legislation: oi
Ÿ. Wheie a iule oi piinciple stanus to be
ignoieu.
Couits have vieweu oi may view a pioblem one way at
one time anu in a uiffeient way at anothei time.
The answei woulu have vaiieu accoiuing to the uate
when the question was askeu, the composition of the
Couit, anu the shifting opinions of its membeis.
erome Ironk is fomouslv creJiteJ witb tbe iJeo tbot o
iuJiciol Jecision miqbt be JetermineJ bv wbot tbe iuJqe
boJ for breokfost.
Foi the juuicial legal iealists, theie is a human
equation to the life anu piocess of the law.
M¢tal¢gal Factors
Examination of the metalegal factois is a seiious
juiispiuuential issue. Iuuicial legal iealism investigates
the conflicts of inteiests in light of theii setting.
Even peisonal values anu attituues of juuges
influence theii legal inteipietations anu actions.
It woulu be veiy uifficult foi Iuuges to get away
fiom ceitain factois which theii tiaining anu
habits have become pait of theii lives.
Netalegal factois affecting juuicial peisonality aie
not unuue matteis, that is to say they aie not
ueiogatoiy of the juuicial functions unless they aie
immoial. As Ieiome Fiank puts it, "to iecognize
them is pait of wisuom".
Since all peisons aie moie oi less paitisans, then,
"emotions, gieat oi small, compel the juuge to
choose his siue...When that choice is maue,
histoiical events, social anu economic facts,
juuicial pieceuents, anu legal philosophy aie
maishalleu anu emphasizeu in such a way as to
bolstei the juuge's viewpoint."
Tb¢ m¢tal¢gal factors tbat may stimulat¢ a judg¢
ar¢:
ŵ. Environm¢ntal in cbaract¢r
4 Those set by the witnesses, by the lawyeis, by
histoiical events, by political pieceuents, anu
by social values anu economic postulates
4 A juuge is suiiounueu by these metalegal
stimuli
Ŷ. P¢rsonal in natur¢
4 Those set up by the juuge's legal attituues anu
piejuuices, anu by the juuge's pieuilections
anu pieconceptions
4 These metalegal stimuli aie pieuispositional
in chaiactei: a juuge has them even when
he¡she is not holuing couit oi ueciuing cases.

A. `alax W` by `W W`ZWxxWx
4 The stimulus set by the witnesses on the juuge
is piincipally the iesult of theii statements,
' A m e r i c a n L e g a l R e a l i s m

gestuies, manneis, moous, hesitation,
embaiiassment, giimices.
4 The uemeanoi of the witnesses while on the
witness stanu is ievealing anu significant in
the juuicial piocess.
4 Even when the witnesses have falsifieu theii
testimonies on some paiticulai matteis, it
uoes not necessaiily follow that theii
testimonies aie uiscieuiteu.
4 0nless theie is a flagiant violation, appellate
couits uo not uistuib the tiial juuge's finuings
on the mattei of cieuibility of witnesses.
4 Tiial juuges who aie themselves meiely
human witnesses of the witnesses must guess
who accuiately testifieu about the actual past
facts.
4 Thus, a juuge may make a mistake on his¡hei
hunch oi guess anu yet pioceeu to ueciue the
fate oi integiity of the paities.

. `alax W` by `W IuwyW^x
ueneially in two uiiections
ŵ. Piofessional Reputation
4 The lawyei's sinceiity anu inclination
foi the "iight" anu "faii" cases.
4 The intiinsic valiuity of the lawyei's
theoiy of a case, his aiguments on the
law anu the mateiial facts involveu.
Ŷ. Piofessional eaiing
4 This stems moie fiom the lawyei's
iespect anu iegaiu foi is own
iesponsibilities as an officei of the
couit.

. `alax W` by `W jaJqWx IWqul A```aJWx uZJ
P^WjaJUWx
4 This uoes not mean paitiality noi uistoition of
the thinking of a juuge.
4 The legal attituue of a juuge aie ieally the sum
of his¡hei inclination oi bent on the mattei in
uispute.
4 Putting on a juuicial iobe uoes not place a
halo ovei juuge's heau.
4 Ieiome Fiank explaineu it cleaily that to
iecognizeu this metalegal stimulus is pait of
wisuom.

Ð. `alax W` by `W jaJqWx P^WJlWU`oZx uZJ
P^WUoZUW Legal Realism Handout | Jurisprudence | Legal Ethics

oZx
P^WJlWU`oZx A portiolitv or Jisposition in fovor of
sometbinq; o preference.
P^WUoZUW Legal Realism Handout | Jurisprudence | Legal Ethics
oZx An opinion or conception formeJ in
oJvonce of oJequote knowleJqe or experience.
especiollv o preiuJice or bios.
ŵ. Legal Sympathies
4 Stiong likings which aiise fiom a
juuge's community of expeiience,
euucation, inteiests, anu even
tempeiament.
Ŷ. Legal Antipathies
4 Settleu aveisions oi uislikes foi a
ceitain legal oi political theoiies oi
iueas.
4 The minu of a juuge is plainly not a blank
sheet of papei. It is a stoie of legal sympathies
anu antipathies acquiieu in the piocess of
matuiing anu euucation.
4 This explains why juuges issue uissenting anu
concuiiing opinions in couit uecisions.
Example: x`^uJu vx. xU^`o^
4 PenneJ bv Cbief ustice Revnoto Puno. o known
reliqious onJ virtuous mon. Cbief ustice Puno´s
Jisposition toworJs foirness onJ equolitv ore
well known in tbe Pbilippines. lt is on oreo in
wbicb be is fortbriqbt. cleorlv reflectinq bis
leqol svmpotbies toworJs tbe protection of
equol riqbts os well os reliqious riqbts.

. `alax W` by Hx`o^Uul vWZ`x uZJ Pol`Uul
P^WUWJWZ`x
4 These metalegal stimuli, while geneially
tiansient aie, nonetheless, uecisive in the
juuicial piocess.
4 This is piactically tiue in the gieat
constitutional questions, e.g., uelegation of
legislative powei, vesteu iights, uue piocess
of law, equal piotection of the law, civil
libeities.

ZW^xwllW Uool Ðx`^U` vx. 0ob`x*
WWx` V^qZu `u`W ou^J of JaUu`oZ vx.
u^ZW``W**
ÙSimilai to 0W^oZu vx. WU^W`u^y of JaUu`oZ
ÙÙ Similai to b^ulZuq vx. Ðv. a\W^Z`WZJWZ` of
Wba
Example: u^Uox vx. uZqlu\ax
4 Tbe bistoricpoliticol settinq of tbe cose sbows
tbot it wos borelv four veors ofter tbe Jromotic
FBSA Revolution onJ tbot stronq politicol
feelinqs were still ot its beiqbt. Tbe Supreme
' A m e r i c a n L e g a l R e a l i s m

Court ruleJ oqoinst tbe petitioners not becouse
of existinq preiuJices oqoinst tbe fomilv. but
becouse tbe Hotion wos fileJ Jurinq o time
wben emotions were still biqb onJ o stronq
possibilitv of qovernment Jestobilizotion wos
opporent.

. `alax W` by a^^WZ` oUul VulaWx uZJ
UoZoU Pox`alu`Wx
4 Nost of the impoitant cases that ieach the
couits aie conceineu with oi ielateu to socio-
economic questions.
4 In contioveisies of this natuie, the uecisional
behavioui of a juuge may be influenceu by his
oi hei social economic outlook.
VI. Law as a Product of )udicial Proc¢ss
Law = (Iuial Rules x Nateiial Facts) X (Netalegal
Stimuli x Iuuicial Peisonality)
Ratio eciuenui - vital factoi in the pieuiction of
the iesults of othei similai¡neaily similai cases
VII. Exclusion of L¢gislativ¢ and Ex¢cutiv¢
Functions
Statutes enacteu by the legislative anu executive
uepaitment aie only souices of law
Nembeis of Legislative anu Executive uepaitment
when they aie engageu in uecision-making
Ex: Legislative: Impeachment anu Legislative
Contempt pioceeuings
VIII. Adjudicativ¢ Proc¢ss as a Prim¢ Mov¢r
Law utteieu by the couits is the piocess that
contiols the activities of inuiviuuals oi gioups of
inuiviuuals in a politcally oiganizeu society
0nlike the aujuuicative bouy applies the legal
iules, theie is no law.
A law is meiely a law on papei unless a case aiises
to inteipiet it.
IX. Law and It's Purpos¢
Emphasis on the juuicial piocess
Iustice is equateu with legality,
Not because they aie unjust (against natuialist
sense) oi invaliu baseu on eteinal veiities (against
teleological school)
A law is not necessaiily just, meiely because the
legislative oi the executive oigan piomulgateu it
(against positivist school)

Summary {L¢gal Eff¢cts of L¢gal R¢alism)
Noial noims anu natuial law postulates uo not
ueciue couit cases oi ueteimine social behavioi.
The law is what the couits say it is anu how the
couits inteipiet anu apply it (juiispiuuence). It is
baseu on the social expeiience of the people.
Room foi eiioi maue thiough inteipietation by
the couits
Since the law is impeifect, then it can be changeu
to auapt to the giowing neeus of society.
ecisions of the Couit is not absolute because it
may be ieveiseu oi changeu at some futuie point
in time.
X. L¢gal Formalism vs. L¢gal R¢alism
IWqul o^ulx
Law is a self-containeu logical system pioviuing
foi the scientific, ueuuctive ueiivation of the iight
answei in all cases
iffeient juuges shoulu always juuge the same
way (unless one of them was mistaken in his)
Legal system coulu appioximate the iueal.
Reflect on abstiact piinciples
Law is the stiict application of the iules
IWqul RWulx
Such a view is absuiu anu so uisconnecteu with
the ieal woilu influences on legal uecision makeis,
hence Őlegal iealismŐ
Couits aie often uiviueu anu uissenteis weie not
founu incompetent oi in neeu of ietiaining
It was impossible anu a waste of time to stiive foi
the iueal.
Law ieflects histoiical, social, cultuial, political,
economic anu psychological foices anu the
behavioi of inuiviuual legal uecision makeis anu
contiaiy uecisions (uiffeient uecisions uo not
imply that they aie wiong).
If stiict application of the law woulu iesult in an
outcome that is unjust oi contiaiy to the puipose
of the law, then flexibility in the causes of justice is
appiopiiate.


L¢gal Pbilosopby
Attv. Rocbelle Y. Bokonov6olono


P^W\u^WJ by:
Co. Pio lsobel 0.
Cunonon. Poul vincent T.
Źl

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