HOW TO BRIEF A CASE
A case brief is a dissection of a judicial opinion -- it contains a written
summary of the basic components of that decision.
Persuasive briefs (trial and appellate) are the formal documents a lawyer
files with a court in support of his or her client’s position.
Functions of case briefing
Case briefing helps you acquire the skills of case analysis and legal
reasoning. Briefing a case helps you understand it.
Case briefing aids your memory. Briefs help you remember the cases you
read (1) for class discussion, (2) for end-of-semester review for final
examinations, and (3) for writing and analyzing legal ...view middle of the document...
employer/employee, landlord/tenant, etc.)
Identify procedurally significant facts. You should set out (1) the
cause of action (C/A) (the law the plaintiff claimed was broken), (2)
relief the plaintiff requested, (3) defenses, if any, the defendant
Procedural History (PH): This is the disposition of the case in the lower
court(s) that explains how the case got to the court whose opinion you are
reading. Include the following:
The decision(s) of the lower court(s).
If the case was decided by a trial court and reviewed
by an intermediate appellate court before reaching the
court whose decision you are now reading, be sure to
note what each court decided.
The damages awarded, if relevant.
Who appealed and why.
Substantive issue: A substantive statement of the issue consists of
two parts -i.
the point of law in dispute
the key facts of the case relating to that point of law in
dispute (legally relevant facts)
You must include the key facts from the case so that the
issue is specific to that case. Typically, the disputed issue
involves how the court applied some element of the pertinent
rule to the facts of the specific case. Resolving the issue will
determine the court’s disposition of the case.
Procedural issue: What is the appealing party claiming the lower
court did wrong (e.g., ruling on evidence, jury instructions, granting
of summary judgment, etc.)?
Judgment: This is the court’s final decision as to the rights of the parties,
the court’s response to a party’s request for relief. Generally, the
appellate court will either affirm, reverse, or reverse with instructions. The
judgment is usually found at the end of the opinion.