How to write a case brief for law school: Excerpt reproduced from Introduction to the Study of Law:
Title and Citation The title of the case shows who is opposing whom. The name of the person who initiated legal action in that particular court will always appear first. Since the losers often appeal to a higher court, this can get confusing.
The first section of this guide shows you how to identify the players without a scorecard. The citation tells how to locate the reporter of the case in the appropriate case reporter. Facts of the Case A good student brief will include a summary of the pertinent facts and legal points raised in the case.
Sometimes, the best statement of the facts will be found in a dissenting or concurring opinion. Judges are not above being selective about the facts they emphasize. The fact section of a good student brief will include the following elements: A one-sentence description of the nature of the case, to serve as an introduction.
A statement of the relevant law, with quotation marks or underlining to draw attention to the key words or phrases that are in dispute. A summary of the complaint in a civil case or the indictment in a criminal case plus relevant evidence and arguments presented in court to explain who did what to whom and why the case was thought to involve illegal conduct.
A summary of actions taken by the lower courts, for example: Issues The issues or questions of law raised by the facts peculiar to the case are often stated explicitly by the court.
Constitutional cases frequently involve multiple issues, some of interest only to litigants and lawyers, others of broader and enduring significant to citizens and officials alike.
Be sure you have included both. With rare exceptions, the outcome of an appellate case will turn on the meaning of a provision of the Constitution, a law, or a judicial doctrine. Capture that provision or debated point in your restatement of the issue.
Set it off with quotation marks or underline it. This will help you later when you try to reconcile conflicting cases. Board of Education involved the applicability of a provision of the 14th Amendment to the U. Many students misread cases because they fail to see the issues in terms of the applicable law or judicial doctrine than for any other reason.
There is no substitute for taking the time to frame carefully the questions, so that they actually incorporate the key provisions of the law in terms capable of being given precise answers.
Remember too, that the same case may be used by instructors for different purposes, so part of the challenge of briefing is to identify those issues in the case which are of central importance to the topic under discussion in class.
Reasoning The reasoning, or rationale, is the chain of argument which led the judges in either a majority or a dissenting opinion to rule as they did. This should be outlined point by point in numbered sentences or paragraphs. Separate Opinions Both concurring and dissenting opinions should be subjected to the same depth of analysis to bring out the major points of agreement or disagreement with the majority opinion.
Make a note of how each justice voted and how they lined up. Knowledge of how judges of a particular court normally line up on particular issues is essential to anticipating how they will vote in future cases involving similar issues.
Analysis Here the student should evaluate the significance of the case, its relationship to other cases, its place in history, and what is shows about the Court, its members, its decision-making processes, or the impact it has on litigants, government, or society.
Look for unarticulated premises, logical fallacies, manipulation of the factual record, or distortions of precedent. Then ask, How does this case relate to other cases in the same general area of law?
What does it show about judicial policymaking? Does the result violate your sense of justice or fairness? How might it have been better decided?
Further information and sample briefs Many of the guides to legal research and writing include a discussion of student briefs, appellate briefs and other types of legal memoranda used by practicing attorneys.
The citation is basically the information which would state where the case was published and it should be included in your brief. This is added so that the reader/s of your brief would be able to easily find the original file for the case.
The precise format of a case citation depends on a number of factors, including the jurisdiction, court, and type of case. You should review the rest of this section on citing cases (and the relevant rules in The Bluebook) before trying to format a case citation for the first time.
Aug 23, · Title the brief. The name of the case (e.g., Roe v. Wade) and the full citation should be first in any case brief.
The citation includes the date, and information about the 91%(). If you are writing the citation by hand, underline the name in lieu of using italics. If the citation is for a trial court case, write the names using the format “petitioner v.
defendant” (if it’s a criminal case) or “plaintiff v. respondent” (if it’s a civil case). The precise format of a case citation depends on a number of factors, including the jurisdiction, court, and type of case.
You should review the rest of this section on citing cases (and the relevant rules in The Bluebook) before trying to format a case citation for the first time.