This Comment contends that the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in Pimentel v. Dreyfus employed a legal formalist approach and that by applying this framework, the court prevented legal immigrants, who were caught between the strict eligibility restrictions of welfare reform, from asserting their rights through the justice system. The legal formalist approach “treats the law as a set of scientific formulae or principles that are derived from the study of case law. These principles create an internal analytical framework which, when applied to a set of facts, leads the decision maker, through logical deduction, to the correct outcome in a case.” On the other hand, legal realism includes the use of social conditions as another variable in reaching a decision “in lieu of mere reliance on legal rules [that] may advance outdated or dysfunctional policies.” This Comment asserts that the Pimental court missed an opportunity to promote greater access to the justice system for the immigrant community when it used legal formalism to deny Ms. Pimentel’s Fourteenth Amendment claims and to reject alternative bases for her discrimination and property interest claims.
Hannah Zommick, Closing the Doors to Justice: A Critique of Pimentel v. Dreyfus and the Application of Legal Formalism to the Elimination of Food Assistance Benefits for Legal Immigrants, 37 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 1405 (2014).