You’ve heard a lot about a case brief in your class at law school. What is it? And why do students hate this case brief so much? We are going to come through the process of writing together to help you deliver excellent content. How to write a case brief?
Actually, the word “brief” serves different purposes in law. Now we are talking about a case brief that prepared typically by law paralegal students and other people studying law; it's a summary of the key points in a court decision. Usually, that's going to be in an appellate court decision; this paper is really short and typically takes a page or less. Why do we need briefing? The main point in learning it is to understand some basic principles of law, how it is being applied to a particular set of facts. The second reason for any student is preparing for finals; you will apply this experience as a template to your final exam. What should you write about in your casebook notes?
Standard Case Brief: Its Structure
- Reporter Publisher
- Court & Year
- Procedural posture (how it got to the court of appeal)
- Statement of facts (narrative story)
- Issues of appeal (issues that were decided on appeal)
- Arguments (arguments on each side)
- Policy implications (different ways that the judged could have gone)
- Black letter law (rule of law)
- Rationale (appellate that judges used to make a decision)
- Dissents (any particular dissenting or concurring opinions)
How to Write a Case Brief: Step By Step Guide
Standard advice says you should open such paper with the case citation: put the name of both parties, which is usually something like “Jones versus Smith”. The opening lines include publisher, source. Write a related court that made the decision and the year when final opinion was published.
- Statement Facts
The first part is going to be setting out each fact. You must search for and distinguish what facts really matter for the court decision. Here we disregard information that doesn’t have any bearing of a court decision. Reading the facts that case is dealing with helps to eliminate elements that are not relevant to the court’s decision. Identify facts established at trial.
- Procedural History
In order to develop this section, answer the key questions:
- What court issued this opinion?
- How did the case get there?
Find out, whether the case comes up from the trial court on appeal or it comes from another appellate court. The procedural history doesn’t matter unless the case turns on something that happened in procedural history.
It is the key question the court has to decide in a field of law. Note that it is a legal question. You must spot the issue and articulate the jest in a question. Now, fortunately for any student and people reading these cases, the courts usually are very helpful as all cases start with the words identifying the related issue. For example, “the business issue we face today is whether...” Frequently, the court will state that legal issue. It is a personal problem presented to the trial, and the court is going to be struggling with. The answer is to determinate who wins the case. In some briefs, we might put the holding. It’s a concise part, consists of 1-2 words to answer fundamental question.
It is a set of law that judges use to decide a particular case; it may include more than one rule depending on how complicated is the issue or how many problems it involves. In most situations, judges must consider and follow a couple of different rules: it depends on the facts; the judges will discuss these rules; including all the important points in the front of your paper is crucial.
Sometimes people call it analysis or reasoning. In this section, you should explain the choice of judges. Keep in mind the facts and feel free to put them together with the law they have used. The court will state what each party contends. Read the parts attentively; it helps to identify how the court applies the law to the issue.
It is a short statement saying the court affirmed or reversed the case and held for the appellant, appellee or defendant. However, the parties are designated. It’s time to say who won and who lost.
Brief in 11 Steps
- Read the case carefully. Do it twice.
- Identify facts (and make notes).
- Choose the best brief format. Find a proper form.
- Create an outline. It’s your plan to stick for not being lost in writing.
- Elaborate every part of your paper. Describe rational, explain disposition in your own words.
- Find another opinion to include in your casebook.
- Remember that your paper must respond to a particular style format!
- Check the grammar.
- Re-read the paper in 1-2 days. Look with a fresh eye.
- Find out how the case relates to other similar cases.
- Give the answer whether you agree or disagree with the court? And how might it have been decided?
By using the case brief, we have better understanding of law principles. Standard thinking says the more cases you read, the more you will be able to think like a lawyer. And it's certainly true! You will read lots and lots of cases, and the practice makes things simple. It's a good idea to get what goes into specific case, why a judge decided the particular way. You may learn how to use cases in your practice as both a sword and shield when you're litigating a particular idea. It can be even a different way for you to study.
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