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Reading and Briefing a Case

 Title , Citation (court) at [parallel cite]

  • Facts:
    • This section contains a short statement summarizing what happened in the case being analyzed.  Focus on a general description of what happened in real life.  There is no need to include every single detail.  Even the names of the parties can be skipped unless it helps to clarify the events.
  • Procedural History:
    • This section contains a short statement describing how the case got to the court which decided the case being analyzed.  The procedural history is perhaps the least important part of the case brief your first year.  It doesn’t usually add much to the legal analysis so it can be skipped.  Write a Procedural history if it helps to explain the issue.
  • Issue on appeal:     
    • This section contains the question(s) of law or fact the court is asked to answer.  The issue may be express or implied in the case and is not always easy to discern from the court's opinion..  The idea is to describe the issue broadly enough so that it encompasses other factual scenarios and specifically enough so that it answers that case’s specific factual scenario.  Sometimes combining both into one issue is difficult.  Describing them separately may help.  The issue should be in the form of a question.  To focus the issue on the case at hand, it should contain a subject, verb, object, and relevant facts.
  • Holding:
    • Think of this as the conclusion in the IRAC scheme.  The holding contains the ruling of the court.  In other words, the holding is the complete answer to the issue(s).  This is, theoretically, the court's application of precedent to the facts of this specific case.
  • Rule:
    • This section contains the rule(s) of law the court used to reach solve the issue.  This is sometimes referred to as "what the case stands for" or the case's "bottom line."  In our precedent based system, the rule should provide a general principle that can be used to resolve other cases.  This is the most important part of the case brief and it can be express or implied.  The rule is usually a statement of the law regarding what a person can or cannot do under the circumstances.  You can paraphrase the rule, or you can quote it verbatim.  Courts sometimes mention a number of rules.  Focus on the rule that the court used to resolve the principal issue being resolved on appeal
  • Application/Analysis (AKA Discussion/Rationale/Reasoning)
    • This section contains the (1) court’s application of the rule(s) to the facts; and (2) the parties' arguments and the court's response.  Often includes the reasons for the holding and the policies underlying the decision. 

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