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Reading Case Law. What is Case Law? What Does a Decision Contain? What is Precedent and Court Hierarchy?. Overview. What is Case Law?. Case Law. Decisions made by the courts It is law “judge -made law” It serves 2 functions: Interpret primary law

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Presentation Transcript
What is Case Law?

What Does a Decision Contain?

What is Precedent and Court Hierarchy?

case law
Case Law
  • Decisions made by the courts
    • It is law
    • “judge-made law”
  • It serves 2 functions:
    • Interpret primary law
    • Apply Law to particular facts (legal analysis)
case law1
Case Law
  • Under Penal Law § 10.00, in order to satisfy the element of physical injury there must be an impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.
  • What does it mean to have a substantial pain?
  • You must find the answer in case law.
not all decisions are written the same way
Not All Decisions are Written the Same Way
  • Decisions are written by judges.
  • The judges are required to have certain things in them (such as whether the application is granted or denied)
  • BUT they are not always required to have other things.
  • For example many decisions from intermediate courts, do not always contain:
    • Facts
    • Reasoning
decisions and issues
Decisions and Issues
  • Decisions can have one issue or they can have many decisions.
  • Your goal is to find the answer to your legal question.
    • Not necessarily understand the entire case.
decisions and issues1
Decisions and Issues
    • People v Berkowitz, has two issues:
      • Collateral Estoppel; and
      • Speedy trial
    • If your research is about speedy trial, do you need to understand the collateral estoppel issue?
the dirty dark little secret
The Dirty, Dark Little Secret
  • Therefore, it may not be necessary to read the entire case to decide whether it is relevant.
  • Use headnotes to guide you.
parts of a decision
Parts of a Decision
  • Caption
  • Summary
  • Headnotes
  • Decision
    • Introduction
    • Issue
    • Facts
    • Reasoning
    • Holding
parts of a decision caption
Parts of a Decision: Caption
  • Caption
    • Name of case (names of parties and titles [e.g., plaintiff])
    • Cite (including court and year)
parts of a decision caption1
Parts of a Decision: Caption

93 A.D.3d 467, 939 N.Y.S.2d 460, 2012 N.Y. Slip Op. 01754Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York.

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Appellant,v.Terrence McFARLANE, Defendant–Respondent.March 13, 2012.

parts of a decision summary
Parts of a Decision: Summary
  • Background
    • Appellate Court: what is being appealed from the court below
    • Trial Court: what the case is all about
  • Holding
    • What this court is holding in this decision
parts of a decision summary1
Parts of a Decision: Summary

Background: People appealed from an order of the Supreme Court, Bronx County, Nicholas Iocovetta, J., which granted defendant's suppression motion.Holding: The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that consent to allow search of vehicle did not include consent to search locked glove compartment.


parts of a decision headnotes
Parts of a Decision: Headnotes

This gives the reader a summary of a rule used in the case.

It allowed the reader to find it through numbers

It is to be used with New York Digests to find more cases

parts of a decision headnotes1
Parts of a Decision: Headnotes

West Headnotes

KeyCite Citing References for this Headnote349 Searches and Seizures349V Waiver and Consent349k186 k. Scope and duration of consent; withdrawal. Most Cited CasesDefendant's consent to allow search of his vehicle did not permit officer to, without asking, take the keys from the ignition and unlock the glove compartment; officer's request to “take a look” into the car or “check” it for contraband did not reasonably imply a request for permission to open the locked glove compartment. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 4.

parts of a decision1
Parts of a Decision
  • Decision
    • Introduction
    • Issue
    • Facts
    • Reasoning
    • Holding
opinion type
Opinion Type
  • Opinion of the Court (Majority)
  • Concurrence
  • Dissent
  • Plurality
opinion type1
Opinion Type
  • Opinion of the Court (Majority)
    • This is the law.
    • This is the court’s opinion
    • The holding and rationale for the court
opinion type2
Opinion Type
  • Concurring Opinion
    • Agrees with ultimate outcome, but for different reasons
    • Written by one or more judges
    • Judge in the majority will be in concurrence
opinion type3
Opinion Type
  • Dissenting Opinion
    • Disagrees with ultimate outcome
    • Written by one or more judges
    • Dissenting judge is not part of majority
opinion type4
Opinion Type
  • Plurality
    • No majority
    • Fractured opinion with multiple judges going different ways for different reasons
    • Avoid them.
parts of a decision2
Parts of a Decision
  • Decision
    • Introduction
    • Issue
    • Facts
    • Reasoning
    • Holding
parts of a decision introduction
Parts of a Decision: Introduction
  • What the case is about
    • Sometimes a sentence
    • Sometimes a paragraph
    • Sometimes a few pages
parts of a decision issue
Parts of a Decision: Issue
  • What the court is about to determine
    • What do the police need in order to enter a house?
    • What is the definition of a clergy member?
parts of a decision facts
Parts of a Decision: Facts
  • Sometimes they are detailed; sometimes they are almost non-existent.
  • There are two types of facts
    • Facts that tell the story
      • The police received a radio call to go to 123 East 45th Street.
    • Facts that are relevant to the issue
      • The office saw a bulge in the right side of the defendant’s body and decided to frisk him.
parts of a decision reasoning
Parts of a Decision: Reasoning
  • What is the reason why the court is going to rule the way it is going to rule.
    • You will find here the use of precedent, facts and anything else the judge (author) wants to throw in.
    • Application of law to facts with decision on issue and explanation of reasons for decision
    • The court will use relevant legal principles, analysis, and phrases
parts of a decision holding
Parts of a Decision: Holding
  • What the decision is: who wins
    • Therefore, the lower court is affirmed
    • Accordingly….