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How to Brief a Case

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HOW TO BRIEF A CASE
I.

Distinctions
A.
B.

II.

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
A.

Case briefing helps you acquire the skills of case analysis and legal reasoning. Briefing a case helps you understand it.

B.

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 problems.

Do not try to memorize case briefs. Learning law is a process of problem solving through legal reasoning. Cases must be read in light of the series of cases with which they appear in your casebook or on the class syllabus.
III.

Briefing a case: The steps

Although the exact form of your briefs may and can vary from case to case, the following parts should appear somewhere in your brief in a way that helps you understand the case and recall the needed information.
1.

Read through the opinion first so you will understand the overall story and identify important facts, etc., before beginning to brief the case on paper.

2.

Heading:
a.
b.
c.
d.

Case name (to identify the parties)
Court name
Date of the decision
Page number where the case appears in the textbook

3.

Statement of Facts
a.

b.

Identify legally relevant facts, that is, those facts that tend to prove or disprove an issue before the court. The relevant facts tell what happened before the parties entered the judicial system.

c.

4.

Identify the relationship/status of the parties (Note: Do not merely refer to the parties as the plaintiff/defendant or...

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