Presentation on theme: "How Do You Brief A Case? Mingchao Fan (SHUPL) -All rights reserved."— Presentation transcript:
How Do You Brief A Case? Mingchao Fan (SHUPL) -All rights reserved
FACTS Pinpoint the determinative facts of a case, i.e., those that make a difference in the outcome. Your goal here is to be able to tell the story of the case without missing any pertinent information but also not including too many extraneous facts either; it takes some practice to pick out the determinative facts, so don’t get discouraged if you miss the mark the first few times. Above all, make sure you have clearly marked the parties’ names and positions in the case (Plaintiff/Defendant or Appellee/Appellant).
Procedural History Record what has happened procedurally in the case up until this point. The dates of case filings, motions of summary judgment, court rulings, trials, and verdicts or judgments should be noted, but usually this isn’t an extremely important part of a case brief unless the court decision is heavily based in procedural rules— or unless you note that your professor loves to focus on procedural history.
Issue Presented Formulate the main issue or issues in the case in the form of questions, preferably with a yes or no answer, which will help you more clearly state the holding in the next section of the case brief.
Holding The holding should directly respond to the question in the Issue Presented, begin with “yes” or “no,” and elaborate with “because…” from there. If the opinion says “We hold…” that’s the holding; some holdings aren’t so easy to pinpoint, though, so look for the lines in the opinion that answer your Issue Presented question.
Rule of Law In some cases this will be clearer than others, but basically you want to identify the principle of law on which the judge or justice is basing the resolution of the case. This is what you’ll often hear called “black letter law.”
Application This is the most important part of your brief as it describes why the court ruled the way it did; some law professors dwell on facts more than others, some more on procedural history, but all spend the most time on the court’s reasoning as it combines all parts of the case rolled in one, describing the application of the rule of law to the facts of the case, often citing other court’s opinions and reasoning or public policy considerations in order to answer the issue presented. This part of your brief traces the court’s reasoning step by step, so be sure that you record it without gaps in logic as well.
Concurring/Dissenting Opinion You don’t need to spend too much time on this part other than the pinpoint the concurring or dissenting judge’s main point of contention with the majority opinion and rationale. Concurring and dissenting opinions hold lots of law professor Socratic Method fodder, and you can be ready by including this part in your case brief.
What You Need Case book Paper and pen or computer Attention to details
A Sample Case Brief Students of GVPT 439A v. McIntosh 0 U.S. 0 2004 PARTIES: A group of University of Maryland college students (appellants) filed suit against their instructor, McIntosh (appellee). LEGAL PROCEEDINGS: This is a civil case. Appellants are seeking relief in the form of revised grades and positive law school evaluations. The courts below issued conflicting rulings. The U.S. District Court (MD) ruled in favor of the appellants, but refused to reach the constitutional issue. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed the District Court, ruling that appellee McIntosh was endowed with special rights that outweighed the First Amendment rights of petitioner students. The students appealed, and the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.
A Sample Case Brief (continued) FACTS: The facts apparently are not in dispute. Students were asked to read and discuss several Court cases over two class periods. They refused, instead engaging in a dialogue over some unrelated political/legal phenomena. McIntosh subsequently issued failing grades for the entire class and refused to write any professional letters of reference.
A Sample Case Brief (continued) LEGAL PROVISIONS: The students claim that McIntosh abridged their First Amendment right to engage in meaningful dissent and to discuss political issues of their own choosing. McIntosh counter-claims that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, as applied to him, outweigh the students' speech rights. In addition, he argues that the weight of locational analysis in the Court's First Amendment jurisprudence is in his favor -- classroom restrictions on speech are entirely reasonable time, place and manner limitations. A literal reading of the amendment's language would also mean that free speech is not relevant to a university classroom unless it involves an act of Congress. Finally, McIntosh cites a recently discovered (an never published) Federalist paper (#86), allegedly authored by James Madison, that addresses specifically the question of classroom speech, concluding that university instructors should be considered unquestioned masters of their respective houses.
A Sample Case Brief (continued) ISSUE: To what extent may a government-employed educator prevent students from speaking about issues unrelated to the subject matter of a particular course? DECISION: Affirming the Appellate Court ruling, the Supreme Court (8-1) ruled in favor of appellee McIntosh.
A Sample Case Brief (continued) REASONS: Chief Justice Katz wrote for the majority. Though somewhat vague, the Court seems to rely on several sources of rationale for its decision. Toward the specific issue of the case, classroom speech, the court relies on precedent suggesting that student speech may be restricted, as censorship by an instructor constitutes a reasonable time, place and manner restriction. On the broader matter, the Court's new sweeping powers under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the justices appear to hinge their decision on the following: First, a statement attributed to Chief Justice Katz, "The Constitution is what the judges say it is," which suggests broad interpretive powers for the Supreme Court. Second, the Court employs a strict textual construction of the First Amendment which mentions only a limitation on Congress. Finally, in its reference to the mysterious Federalist 86, the Court appears to place some reliance on the original intent of the framers.
A Sample Case Brief (continued) RULE OF THE CASE: On the matter at issue, the Court, citing Pontifical v. Twenty Unnamed Graduating Seniors (450 US 29, 2000), ruled that students' speech may be restricted to the content of a course. The Court, however, took the opportunity of this case to go considerably further. It ruled, in essence, that the Supreme Court may restrict and even coerce speech and that only Congress is subject to the limitations of the First Amendment. In so doing, the Court has, apparently, in one fell swoop, overturned most of its First and Fourteenth Amendment precedents.
A Sample Case Brief (continued) CONCURRING AND DISSENTING OPINIONS: There were no concurrences. Dissenter Evans seemed somewhat confused.