These can be extensive or short, depending on the depth of analysis required and the demands of the… – NO PLAGIARISM
I found a description online that may help you understand how to complete a
case brief. Please read carefully because you will be completing at least 2 case
briefs this semester.
These can be extensive or short, depending on the depth of analysis required and the
demands of the instructor. A comprehensive brief includes the following elements:
1. Title and Citation
2. Facts of the Case
4. Decisions (Holdings)
5. Reasoning (Rationale)
6. Separate Opinions
1. Title and Citation
The title of the case shows who is opposing whom. The name of the person who
initiated legal action in that particular court will always appear first. Since the losers
often appeal to a higher court, this can get confusing. The first section of this guide
shows you how to identify the players without a scorecard.
The citation tells how to locate the reporter of the case in the appropriate case reporter.
If you know only the title of the case, the citation to it can be found using the case
digest covering that court, through Google Scholar, or one of the electronic legal
databases subscribed to by the library (Westlaw or LEXIS-NEXIS).
2. Facts of the Case
A good student brief will include a summary of the pertinent facts and legal points raised
in the case. It will show the nature of the litigation, who sued whom, based on what
occurrences, and what happened in the lower court/s.
http://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/research/brief.html#TitleandCitationhttp://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/research/brief.html#FactsoftheCasehttp://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/research/brief.html#Issueshttp://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/research/brief.html#Decisionshttp://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/research/brief.html#Reasoninghttp://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/research/brief.html#SeparateOpinionshttp://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/research/brief.html#AnalysisThe facts are often conveniently summarized at the beginning of the court’s published
opinion. Sometimes, the best statement of the facts will be found in a dissenting or
concurring opinion. WARNING! Judges are not above being selective about the facts
they emphasize. This can become of crucial importance when you try to reconcile
apparently inconsistent cases, because the way a judge chooses to characterize and
“edit” the facts often determines which way he or she will vote and, as a result, which
rule of law will be applied.
The fact section of a good student brief will include the following elements:
A one-sentence description of the nature of the case, to serve as an introduction.
A statement of the relevant law, with quotation marks or underlining to draw
attention to the key words or phrases that are in dispute.
A summary of the complaint (in a civil case) or the indictment (in a criminal case)
plus relevant evidence and arguments presented in court to explain who did what
to whom and why the case was thought to involve illegal conduct.
A summary of actions taken by the lower courts, for example: defendant
convicted; conviction upheld by appellate court; Supreme Court granted certiorari.
The issues or questions of law raised by the facts peculiar to the case are often stated
explicitly by the court. Again, watch out for the occasional judge who misstates the
questions raised by the lower court’s opinion, by the parties on appeal, or by the nature
of the case.
Constitutional cases frequently involve multiple issues, some of interest only to litigants
and lawyers, others of broader and enduring significant to citizens and officials alike. Be
sure you have included both.
With rare exceptions, the outcome of an appellate case will turn on the meaning of a
provision of the Constitution, a law, or a judicial doctrine. Capture that provision or
debated point in your restatement of the issue. Set it off with quotation marks or
underline it. This will help you later when you try to reconcile conflicting cases.
When noting issues, it may help to phrase them in terms of questions that can be
answered with a precise “yes” or “no.”
For example, the famous case of Brown v. Board of Education involved the applicability
of a provision of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to a school board’s
practice of excluding black pupils from certain public schools solely due to their race.
The precise wording of the Amendment is “no state shall… deny to any person within its
jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The careful student would begin by
identifying the key phrases from this amendment and deciding which of them were
really at issue in this case. Assuming that there was no doubt that the school board was
acting as the State, and that Miss Brown was a “person within its jurisdiction,” then the
key issue would be “Does the exclusion of students from a public school solely on the
basis of race amount to a denial of ‘equal protection of the laws’?”
Of course the implications of this case went far beyond the situation of Miss Brown, the
Topeka School Board, or even public education. They cast doubt on the continuing
validity of prior decisions in which the Supreme Court had held that restriction of Black
Americans to “separate but equal” facilities did not deny them “equal protection of the
laws.” Make note of any such implications in your statement of issues at the end of the
brief, in which you set out your observations and comments.
NOTE: Many students misread cases because they fail to see the issues in terms of the
applicable law or judicial doctrine than for any other reason. There is no substitute for
taking the time to frame carefully the questions, so that they actually incorporate the key
provisions of the law in terms capable of being given precise answers. It may also help
to label the issues, for example, “procedural issues,” “substantive issues,” “legal issue,”
and so on. Remember too, that the same case may be used by instructors for different
purposes, so part of the challenge of briefing is to identify those issues in the case
which are of central importance to the topic under discussion in class.
The decision, or holding, is the court’s answer to a question presented to it for answer
by the parties involved or raised by the court itself in its own reading of the case. There
are narrow procedural holdings, for example, “case reversed and remanded,” broader
substantive holdings which deal with the interpretation of the Constitution, statutes, or
judicial doctrines. If the issues have been drawn precisely, the holdings can be stated in
simple “yes” or “no” answers or in short statements taken from the language used by
The reasoning, or rationale, is the chain of argument which led the judges in either a
majority or a dissenting opinion to rule as they did. This should be outlined point by
point in numbered sentences or paragraphs.
6. Separate Opinions
Both concurring and dissenting opinions should be subjected to the same depth of
analysis to bring out the major points of agreement or disagreement with the majority
opinion. Make a note of how each justice voted and how they lined up. Knowledge of
how judges of a particular court normally line up on particular issues is essential to
anticipating how they will vote in future cases involving similar issues.
Here the student should evaluate the significance of the case, its relationship to other
cases, its place in history, and what is shows about the Court, its members, its decision-
making processes, or the impact it has on litigants, government, or society. It is here
that the implicit assumptions and values of the Justices should be probed, the
“rightness” of the decision debated, and the logic of the reasoning considered.
A cautionary note
Don’t brief the case until you have read it through at least once. Don’t think that
because you have found the judge’s best prose you have necessarily extracted the
essence of the decision. Look for unarticulated premises, logical fallacies, manipulation
of the factual record, or distortions of precedent. Then ask, How does this case relate to
other cases in the same general area of law? What does it show about judicial
policymaking? Does the result violate your sense of justice or fairness? How might it
have been better decided?
Created by C. Pyle, 1982. Revised by K. Killoran, 1999 and by M. Richards, 2017.
Directions: Use Times New Roman or Courier New size 12 Font. The information in all
areas are single spaced. Double space between the headings.
Draper v. United States
358 U.S. 307 (1959)
FACTS: (Do not bold the information). A narcotics agent received information from an
informant who had previously proven himself reliable, that Draper had gone to Chicago to bring
three ounces of heroin back to Denver by train either the morning of September 8 or 9. The
informant also gave a detailed physical description of Draper, the clothes he would be wearing
and that he habitually “walked real fast.” Based on this information, police officers set up
surveillance of all trains coming from Chicago. The morning of September 8 produced no one
fitting the informant’s description. On the morning of September 9, officers observed an
individual, who matched the exact description the informant had supplied, get off of a train from
Chicago and begin to walk quickly toward the exit. Officers overtook the suspect and arrested
him. Heroin and a syringe were seized in a search incident to the arrest. The informant died prior
to the trial and was therefore
ISSUES: Can information provided by an informant, which is subsequently corroborated by an
officer, provide probable cause for an arrest without a warrant? YES.
DECISIONS (HOLDINGS): Information received from an informant, which is corroborated by
an officer, may be sufficient to provide probable cause for an arrest even though such
information is hearsay and would not otherwise be admissible in a criminal trial.
REASONING (RATIONALE): The informant who provided information to the agent had
provided reliable information in the past. When the agent personally verified each element of the
informant’s detailed description, except the part involving the possession of drugs, he developed
probable cause to believe that the rest of the informant’s description was true.
SEPARATE OPINIONS: The various opinions of the various judges goes here.
ANALYSIS: The evidence from the informant in this case could be considered hearsay, which
ordinarily is inadmissible in a criminal trial. The Court said, however, that it could be used to
show probable cause for purposes of a search; this, evidence that may not be admissible in a trial
may be used by the police to establish probable cause. This is important because all information
from an informant is considered hearsay as the basis for police action, but the police can act on
such information as long as it is good enough to establish probable cause. The Court held that
there was probable cause in the case because the information came from “one employed for that
purpose and whose information had always been found accurate and reliable.” The Court added
that “it is clear that [the police officer] would have been derelict in his duties had he not pursued
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