Case Brief. Case Study.

Katie Miller, Reference Librarian Florida State University College of Law

How to brief a case

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why do I have to do this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re not in law school so you normally just show up to class, do some reading, take some notes during your professors lectures. Why would you have to brief a case? (1) Prof. Prum is requiring it, and (2) it is a good sneak peak into law school. Law school has a different format. Usually your entire grade is based off of one exam and your professors don’t just stand at the front of the class to give you the answers to questions that will appear on the exam.

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In law school Professors expect that you read a case and create a brief. They don’t collect the briefs, but it is expected that the students are using them during class.

 

You used to the briefs to gain an understanding of the case and it helps you prepare to discuss the case. The professor may use the Socratic Method where a student is called upon to answer questions and make the student think critically about the case. Not opinions or argument or things found directly in the case but a critical analysis or changing hypotheticals about the case. To have this type of discussion you must really understand the case and the briefs help you reach that point.

 

Reading and highlighting isn’t enough. Briefing slows you down and makes your read slower, think about the materials. Then you use your briefs to create outlines which you use to study for your exam.

3

Professors expect it

 

 

Socratic Method

 

 

Active Learning & outlines

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO DO THIS?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You start to figure out the important information and how in-depth you need to go to understand the case. Some people brief all the way through law school. Some may be able to create shorter briefs or highlight and write in the margins. So the process gets quicker and briefs may be shorter.

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It is an evolutionary process

 

 

It gets easier

 

 

Briefs get shorter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What am I looking at?

 

Background info (don’t worry about all of it yet)

 

Opinion from the court

One judge or a panel of judges

Trial court or appellate court

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re given a case name by Professor Prum, you look it up, but what are you actually looking at?

 

What you see on TV is usually a trial. At the conclusion of a trial the judge may provide a written opinion. OR if the trial court’s decision is appealed then there is another opinion from an appellate court. Typically the cases you read in law school are appellate court opinions. It’s the judges words telling you who won and why. Could be one judge or a panel of judges. Supreme Court of the US is an appellate court, with a panel of judges.

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An example from LexisNexis Academic.

Caption or case name – could be last names or names of a corporation or state or people if it is a criminal case

Court – trial/appellate/location

Citation – is where to find it

Date

Other stuff – don’t worry about the other stuff. It is helpful for doing legal research, not needed for this brief.

 

 

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England v. S & M Foods, Inc., 511 So. 2d 1313 (La. Ct. App. 1987)

Volume #

Southern Reporter 2nd ed.

Page #

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a closer look at the citation, just these random numbers and letters are enough to find any case. The first numbers are telling you which volume the case is in. The strange letters are an abbreviation of the title of the book. We call books that contain opinions reporters. So the Southern Reporter 2nd edition. Then the last number is the page number. So if you walked in the library with just this info we could walk directly to the books and find this case. But you won’t have to look in the books, you will use the citation to find the cases on LexisNexis Academic.

 

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Another confusing aspect about the law- the publishers of the reporters aren’t very good at geography. You can’t necessarily tell the area of a case from the reporter. Kansas is in the pacific? GA not in Southern, NY, OH, IL in north east?

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To get an idea of what the books look like in the library, these are some of the Southern Reporters. They wrap around to the other side. There are 999 volumes in the second edition, then they moved to the 3rd edition.

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* Indicates the page number

If you ever see * * * it means the case was edited and part of the opinion was removed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are reading a case on LexisNexis Academic and you see symbols within the text, like a star it is just telling you the page number that you would be on if you were reading it in the book. *** means that part of the case was removed.

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Ignore all this until you get to the word “opinion”.

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Briefing a case

Reading a case

VS.

A brief is a

 

Organized summary of the important elements of a written opinion

Summarize the parts to understand the whole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You all know how to read, but what is a brief? It is a summary of the important parts of an opinion. You summarize the parts to understand the whole. Have you ever heard on the news that the president is getting briefed on an issue? Someone is just telling him the important things he needs to know. A case brief is just the important parts of a case.

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Before you brief a case

 

Read the case carefully

Use a legal dictionary

Keep track of the parties

Take minimal notes (in pencil)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does a brief include?

Rule

Holding

Facts

Analysis or application

Issue

Identification

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people do them differently, different order or condense areas, but generally they have the following headings:

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NAME – parties, who’s who, (buyer, employer, etc.)

CITATION

YEAR

COURT

JUDGE

PAGE/SECTION OF BOOK

IDENTIFICATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This seems like a lot of information but everything except the judge is included within the full citation. For names you may want to include their role in the lawsuit, so leasor, leasee, defendant, plaintiff, husband, wife, etc.

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FACTS

FOCUS ON MATERIAL FACTS (FACTS WITH LEGAL SIGNIFICANCE WHICH INFLUENCE A COURT’S REASONING)

 

A FACT IS LEGALLY SIGNIFICANT IF ALTERING OR ELIMINATING THAT FACT WOULD CHANGE THE LEGAL CONCLUSION OR RESULT OF THE CASE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the biggest differences between lawyers and non-lawyers is the ability to determine facts from material facts. So something like the color of a car might not matter if the issue is just whether someone ran a red light. So instead of dwelling on things that don’t matter, you need to try and figure out the facts that make a difference in the case. When you read the case, the court has already gotten rid of a lot of the extra stuff, but still contains things that are not legally significant.

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PROCEDURAL HISTORY (Part of facts)

ALL THESE FACTS OCCUR AFTER THE LAWSUIT IS FILED

PARTY WHO BROUGHT ACTION

CLAIMS, DEFENSES, AND RELIEF SOUGHT

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION

DISPOSITION OF INTERMEDIATE COURTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the facts is procedural history. Instead of the facts that describe what happened that led to litigation, the procedural history explains what has already happened in the court. So who won or lost below if the opinion you are reading is an appeal. Has the case gone up or down multiple times? The facts are everything that led up to the litigation, the procedural history is the history of the legal case.

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ISSUE

MATERIAL QUESTION OF FACT AND/OR LAW THAT ARISES IN A CASE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is it that the parties want the court to answer? Why have they entered into litigation?

Was the grocery store negligent in not cleaning up a spill that resulted in an injury when the employee caused the spill? Does the mother owe additional alimony if …

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ISSUE

MUST BE STATED NARROWLY SO IT IDENTIFIES THE LEGAL QUESTION THAT DISTINGUISHES THIS CASE FROM OTHERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ISSUE FORMATING

UNDER/DOES/WHEN FORMAT

UNDER [the law]

DOES [the legal question]

WHEN [important facts exist]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under tort law of negligence is a grocery story liable when a customer falls on a spill? Under criminal law does evidence get excluded if police perform an illegal search and seizure?

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RULE

THE LOGIC THAT SUPPORTS THE COURT’S DECISION

THE RULE OF LAW THAT THE COURT APPLIES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If premises are open to the public and owner has notice of a spill it is negligent if the spill is not cleaned up.

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RULE

ALLOWS YOU TO PREDICT HOW THE HOLDING MIGHT BE INFLUENCED BY DIFFERENT FACTS

 

THE RULE OF LAW CAN COME FROM A STATUTE, CASE RULE, REGULATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More of a general statement that is applied to various facts.

RULE

IS THE “WHY” OF THE RESULT OF THE CASE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The issue is “what” the parties want the court to answer, the rule is why the court answered it this way. There is a trick to finding the rule in a case which we will go over in an example.

ANALYSIS or APPLICATION

 

APPLY THESE FACTS TO THIS LAW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This facts of this specific case applied to the general rule is the analysis.

 

So for the tort case of a grocery store injury, if the case involved an employee causing a spill and the rule required that the store knew of the spill but didn’t clean it up, the analysis would discuss the store’s liability based on the employee’s knowledge.

THE HOLDING

ANSWER TO THE ISSUE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE HOLDING

IDENTIFY THE CONSIDERATIONS THAT WERE ESSENTIAL TO THE DECISION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE HOLDING

WHEN THESE FACTS AND THIS LAW MEET, THEN THIS RESULT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The result of the analysis. The answer to the issue. The store is negligent and liable for the injury because it had notice and the store must pay damages.

D.A.B.E., Inc. v. City of Toledo

Citation:

393 F.3d 692 (6th Cir. 2005).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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D.A.B.E., Inc. v. City of Toledo

Facts

City of Toledo passed an ordinance banning smoking in public places including bars, restaurants, bowling alleys. A group of restaurant and bar owners filed suit claiming that the ordinance constituted a regulatory taking of their property in violation of the U.S. Constitution and that the ordinance was in violation of Ohio law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Notice how extraneous facts are missing. It doesn’t talk about whether the places are all ages or the operating hours because those things are not legally significant.

D.A.B.E., Inc. v. City of Toledo

Procedural History

Restaurant and bar owners preliminary and permanent injunction was denied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If you don’t know what an injunction is look it up! An official legal dictionary is Black’s legal dictionary but there are plenty of free legal dictionaries online if you just google legal terms.

D.A.B.E., Inc, v. City of Toledo

Issue (s)

Issue 1: Does the ordinance constitute a regulatory taking in that it denies the property owner “economically viable use of his land” in violation of the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Look up regulatory taking or 5th amendment if you didn’t know what they mean. 5th amendment protects against government interference so no taking of private property for public use without just compensation.

D.A.B.E., Inc. v. City of Toledo

Rule (1)

An economic taking must almost completely deny a property owner economic use of their land, losing customers or profit is not enough.

 

It is a taking if it on its face, prevents beneficial use of the land, categorically prohibits rather than merely regulate the conditions under which operations may be conducted, and purports to regulate alternative uses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the test to determine whether something is a taking.

D.A.B.E., Inc. v. City of Toledo

Application or Analysis

 

The plaintiffs have only provided allegations of loss or fear that they will lose customers which is not enough to demonstrate a taking.

 

A smoking room might require a financial investment but that is not enough to constitute a taking. The owners could make other use of their property.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apply the facts to the rule.

D.A.B.E., Inc. v. City of Toledo

Holding: AFFIRMED

 

The ordinance did not constitute a regulatory taking because it only limited smoking, not prohibited it and plaintiffs may have other economic uses for the property.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Agree with the result below. Reversed would mean the court disagrees with the trial court and a different outcome then below.

How do I find cases?

http://www.lib.fsu.edu/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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