HOW TO BRIEF A CASE
To fully understand the law and its implications with respect to the media, it is necessary to be able to read and understand court decisions. A method of case analysis, often referred to as “briefing,” facilitates such an understanding of the law. First, read the case carefully until you understand it. Don’t expect to understand everything the first time you read a case! When you feel that you understand the case, you can begin preparing your brief. It’s a bad idea to try to brief a case while reading it for the first time.
Your brief should contain the following essentials – please use numbered subheads so I can find them in your brief:
Name of the case, the name of the court where the case was decided and the year it was decided.
A listing of the parties involved in the lawsuit, indicating which party was the plaintiff in the original trial and which was the defendant.
A listing of the important facts of the case. This should be written in your own words, and not copied from the court decision. Use your own judgment as to which facts are important; you need not repeat every fact mentioned by the court. On the other hand, be sure to include all facts that ultimately figure into the court’s decision.
The lower court holdings, giving the decisions of all the courts that have previously heard the case. This only applies if you are reading an appellate opinion; if the decision is from the trial court, there will not be any lower court holding.
The issue presented. What is the legal issue before the court? Phrase this as a question, and try to be as specific to this case as possible. Strive to write the issue presented so that it can stand alone. In other words, write it so someone who has not read the case will be able to understand what is going on by reading your question.
The holding of this court. What has this court decided? Who wins?
The legal principle for which this case stands. What rule of law has been established by this case? What rule does this case add to the law? This should answer the question you posed under “Issue Presented.”
The reasoning of the court. Why did the court come to this decision? If the court gives several reasons for its decision, be sure to list them all. This should be the longest section of your brief. Mention any previous cases upon which the court places significant reliance, or which the court distinguishes.
A listing of any concurring or dissenting opinions in the case, including a brief summary of the judges’ reasoning.
Hints: Avoid quoting (copying) extensively from the case – it just indicates that the case isn’t understand.
I have substantially edited each court opinion, so using the internet to cheat on your brief is extremely risky, focus on the case distributed.
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