Case briefs consist of an analysis and summary of an opinion given by a court. It is commonplace for students to study case briefs to better understand an important decision and to discuss the case and the issues involved in it.
Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Case Briefs
The usual advice for writing a case brief is to begin with the case’s citation: this involves adding the names of the parties in the case e.g. “Smith vs Jones.” This starting point also includes the source and publisher name. It also includes the name of the court that provided the decision and the year of publication of the final opinion.
The Case Facts
Next, the writer needs to set out each and every fact. It is important to search through the court opinion and properly discern those facts that absolutely matter, Irrelevant information should be disregarded. Examining the facts dealt with in a case is a way of eliminating those aspects that are irrelevant. When writing a case brief, you should aim to identify the facts that were established during trial.
History of the Proceedings
You need to answer the following questions to develop this part:
- What is the name of the court that issued the opinion?
- How did that court get this case? For example, is the case an appeal that came up from a trial court or some appellate court? The history of the case is not very important unless events have taken a turn during some part of its procedural history.
The Key Issue
The issue is the critical question a court must decide on as it relates to the relevant field of law. It should be noted this question is a legal one. Most courts are quite helpful towards people who read their cases because virtually every case begins with words that identify the key issue. The relevant court will say what the legal issue is. If the problem is a personal one, the court may struggle with it. The answer can be arrived at by determining the winner of the case. This part is quite concise and the key question should be answered in minimal words.
This is the principle or rule of law that a judge relies on when deciding a case. It may be that a case involves more than a single rule with much dependent on the complexity of the issue and/or the number of problems involved in it. This is so in the majority of cases. A great deal depends on the presented facts. The judge(s) will discuss all relevant rules. Therefore, it is essential to include all the critical points at the beginning of your paper.
Application of the Law
This is sometimes called reasoning or analysis. The writer should use this part to explain who the judges are and why they were chosen. Keep the facts in mind and try to piece them together in the context of the law that has been used.
The applicable court will have laid out what each of the parties in the case contends. This part should be read carefully; it will assist in identifying how the law has been applied to the issue by the court.
This is a brief statement that says whether the ruling court affirmed the case or reversed it and held for the appellee, appellant, or the defendant. It is here you state who the winner and loser is.
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Case briefs are a way to present information from a court case. They need to be correctly structured in accordance with a prescribed pattern. It is important to understand the rules for formatting and citing a case brief if you are to achieve the best possible results.
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