How to Brief a Case. Common Elements of Case Briefs. Name of case Citations (including date) – from what specific source is the case taken? Procedural history – from what legal circumstances did the case originate? Statement of facts – what materially happened?.
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Common Elements of Case Briefs • Name of case • Citations (including date)– from what specific source is the case taken? • Procedural history – from what legal circumstances did the case originate? • Statement of facts– what materially happened?
Common Elements of Case Briefs • Issue(s) – what specific legal issues does the case raise? • Answer(s) • Reasoning - • What legal reasoning informed the court's decision? • What rules of law, for example, did it apply? • How did it interpret legal principles, documents? • How did it construe the facts? • Holding - what decision was made? (i.e., In support of which side did the court hold?)
Example of a Case Brief • Case Name: Minnesota v. Dickerson • Citation: 508 U.S. 366 (1993) • Procedural History: Defendant Dickerson was convicted of the crime of possession of a controlled substance. Upon appeal, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the conviction. The Minnesota Attorney General appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed.
Example of a Case Brief(cont’d) • Facts:During routine patrol, two police officers spotted Dickerson leaving an apartment building that one of the officers knew was a “crack house.” Dickerson began walking toward the police but, upon making eye contact with them, reversed direction and walked into an alley. Because of his evasive actions, the police became suspicious and decided to investigate. They pulled into the alley and ordered Dickerson to stop and submit to a pat-down search. The search revealed no weapons, but one officer found a small lump in Dickerson’s pocket, which he examined with his fingers and determined, after the examination, that it felt like a lump of cocaine in cellophane. The officer then reached into Dickerson’s pocket and retrieved the lump, which turned out to be a small plastic bag of crack cocaine. Dickerson was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Example of a Case Brief(cont’d) • Issue(s): Was the seizure of the crack cocaine valid under stop and frisk? • Answer: No. A frisk that goes beyond that allowed in Terry v. Ohio in stop and frisk cases is not valid.
Example of a Case Brief(cont’d) • Reasoning: In this case, the search went beyond the pat-down search allowed by Terry because the officer “squeezed, slid, and otherwise manipulated the packet’s content” before knowing it was cocaine. The evidence obtained is not admissible in court. • Holding: The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court that held the seizure to be invalid.
Elements of Good Case Briefs • They use complete sentences. • They do not overquote from the opinion. • They do not include unnecessary, distracting citations. • They are brief, ideally one or two pages in length.
Tips on Briefing Cases • Before you brief a case, read the entire case all the way through. • During your first reading, skim the headnotes and the case, and focus on the parties and the relief sought. • Figure out what happened in the lower courts and what the reviewing court’s decision is. • Look for clues in the court’s opinion. • Look up any words that you don’t understand.
Tips on Briefing Cases • Use a Case Brief Form
Tips on Briefing Cases • Try to summarize cases using the following guidelines: Part Maximum Number of Words 1. Case Name and Citation +/- 25 2. Procedural History of the case +/- 50 3. Statement of Facts in the case +/- 125 4. The Issues presented by the case, +/- 25 each each stated as a one-sentence question answerable only by yes or no 5. Answers to the Issues +/- 25 each 6. Summary of the court’s Reasoning on the Issues +/- 200 each 7. Holding - The court’s resolution of the case +/- 25
Tips on Briefing Cases • Develop your own shorthand to lessen the burden of writing. Some tried and true shorthand symbols include the following: π Plaintiff KContract ΔDefendant P Property T Torts DR Family Law CC Commerce Clause EP Equal Protection DP Due Process A1 First Amendment C Complaint x,xc Cross, cross-complaint App Appeal Atty Attorney c/a Cause of Action Cert Certiorari w/ With w/o Without re: Regarding v,vs. Versus, as opposed to
Tips on Briefing Cases • Shorthand symbols (cont’d): Dep Deposition, deponent J, J’ment Judgment JNOV Judgment notwithstanding the verdict SJ Summary judgment S/F Statute of frauds S/L Statute of Limitations SDP Substantive Due Process SCt Supreme Court (of the United States) DCt (#) District Court (What # Court) CtApp (#) Court of Appeals (What # Court)
Tips on Briefing Cases • Summarize only the Issues, Answers, and Reasonings that are relevant to your Research Problem.
Types of Cases • Smith v. Jones– Plaintiff v. Defendant. • In re Smith– not adversarial in nature (e.g., bankruptcy, probate, etc.). • State (or United States) v. Smith – criminal proceeding. • In re Johnny S.– (i.e., no complete name) – matters involving minors.
Types of Cases • Ex rel. Smith– a case instituted by the government on behalf of a state but instigated by a private party in interest. • Ex parte Smith – “one side only”; without contest. • Complaint of M.V. Vulcan– maritime case. • United States v. (identification of property)– forfeiture action seeking title to property.
Types of Judicial Opinions • Majority opinions – more than half the judges or justices agree. • Dissenting opinions – opinions of the minority who disagree with the result. • Concurring opinions – opinions that agree with the result of the case, but not with the reasoning. • Plurality opinions – result reached, but no common legal reasoning.
Treatment of Precedents • Overruled – expressly overrules all or part of the cited case • Limited – restricts application of cited case • Criticized – disagrees with reasoning/result of cited case • Questioned – questions the continuing precedential value of cited case • Distinguished – differs from cited case, usually because of different facts
A Rule of Law • A statement that explains the test for deciding a particular legal issue.
Common Rule Structures 1. A conjunctive test; 2. A disjunctive test; 3. A factors test; 4. A balancing test; 5. A rule with exceptions; 6. A rule with no subparts.
A Conjunctive Test • A test with mandatory elements • “To prove a burglary, the state must prove all of the following elements: - Breaking - Entering - A dwelling - Of another - In the nighttime - With the intent to commit a felony therein.”
A Disjunctive Test • A test that sets out alternative grounds, either of which would establish a particular result. • “A lawyer shall not collect a contingent fee in either of the following kinds of cases: - a criminal matter - a divorce”
A Factors Test • A test that sets out a flexible standard guided by identified criteria (factors), no one of which would be dispositive alone. • “Child custody shall be decided according to the best interests of the child, considering the following factors: - the fitness of each parent - the placement of the child’s siblings - the degree of disruption that would result - any other relevant factors”
A Balancing Test • A test that balances countervailing considerations against each other. • “A party must respond to interrogatories unless the burden of responding substantially outweighs the requesting party’s need for the information.”
A Balancing Test With Factors • “A party must answer interrogatories unless the burden substantially outweighs the need. • The burden is measured by: • time & effort • cost • privacy concerns • The need is measured by: • importance • availability from other sources”
A Rule With Exceptions • “A lawyer shall not prepare any document giving the lawyer a gift from a client except in situations where: - the gift is insubstantial, or - the client is related to the lawyer.”
A Rule With No Subparts • “To be valid, a will must be signed.”
And Or Either Include Limited to except Unless Outweighs All Other Shall may Signals of Structural Information
Follow traditional principles of outlining; Read word-by-word and phase-by-phrase; Notice whether the subparts are exclusive; Paraphrase except for the key terms; Ask what a party would have to prove to show that the rule’s requirements are met or not met; Don’t be chained to the rule’s articulated lettering or numbering scheme Convert layered negatives Hints For Outlining Rules
Types of Judicial Decisions • Affirmed – affirms the lower court’s decision of the case • Reversed – reverses the lower court’s decision • Modified – modifies or changes the lower court’s decision • Remanded – sends the case back to the lower court for action • Vacated – vacates or withdraws the lower court’s decision