A case brief mentions a written memorial (a statement of facts, usually for a petition, etc.), which is most often presented on appeal to a higher court, the purpose of which is to argue for possible agreement or disagreement with the decision of the trial or first-instance judge. A case brief is also assigned as a task in juridical institutes to analyze and define court cases discussed the same way it happens in Court. The following material provides a step-by-step guide to help you write a good case brief. Should you require more information on the definition, types, and technical requirements for writing a case brief, we advise you to see this article first.
How to Write a Case Brief Step-by-Step
Step 1 – Prepare the case brief.
- Investigate the case. Before you start writing your case brief, read the judge’s opinion carefully to determine what happened, how the case got to a particular court, and the Court’s verdict. Pay attention to the actor or actors (the pretendant) and the defendant or defendants (the respondents) and whether it is a criminal or civil case. If a person sues someone else in Court, then it is a civil case. If the government has filed a lawsuit, it is a criminal case.
- Make short notes. The case name (for example, Roe v. Wade) and the full quote should be the first thing to mention in any case brief. The quote must include the date and information about the judge (or judges) through whom the case went. Let us have a look at an example how a title in quotation should look like:
Franks v. Delaware
Supreme Court of the United States, 1974, 434 U.S. 154, 98
- Ct. 2674, 57 L. ed. 667.
You need to make sure your quote includes the sentence’s year and the Court that passed it.
- Determine whether the case brief assignment is for an appeal or a certiorari petition (a copy for receiving the transfer of the Order of Certiorari). After sentencing, those who have lost the case often have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court, that is, the Court of appeal. If this happens, the person who lost in the first trial and asked for an appeal will be listed in the case brief as the appellant or the applicant, while the winner will be named the appellee or the respondent.
Suppose the person who lost is not eligible to appeal because the appeal is not recognized in Court and the Supreme Court denies the appeal request. In that case, the appeal is filed as an order of Court (it is an order to cancel a decision due to lack of jurisdiction or error of law). In this case, a hearing is appointed, where lawyers can present their arguments as to why the case should be reopened. In such circumstances, whoever applied the scripture is designated as the petitioner (also called applicant), while the person who must answer this request is the respondent.
- Study the procedural history of the court case. Which Court decided what? Determine which part has appealed against the verdict. For instance, the Supreme Court of New York confirmed the search of the defendant’s car, and when the latter went to Court, which, in turn, upheld the decision of the first instance. The prosecution then went to the Minnesota Supreme Court, where the case is partially pending in the dispute presented in your brief.
Step 2 – Write the case brief.
- Summarize all gathered facts. The first section is usually called “Facts of the Case.” Here it would be best if you described what happened briefly and prompted the parties to stand trial. To be short, you will need to decide which facts are of legal significance and not.
Think about who, what, and how. Who did something, what did this person do, and how did he end up in Court? These questions should be answered in a summary of the facts of the case. “The alleged offender entered a liquor store on 29th Street, aimed a gun at the cash register, and asked for money. He was arrested three blocks from the store with cash in his pocket.” Consider the case, this time looking for facts mentioned explicitly by the Court. If the Court notes them, they are essential and should be included in the case’s facts. Don’t take into account unimportant dates and conflicting tests. For example, the criminal defendant who committed a robbery at a liquor store on July 17 is irrelevant. You can omit the date.
- Identify the problem or problems. What issue should be brought to Court? It must be stated in a short form as a question. Returning to our case, the question may sound like this: “Do the police have the right to search the offender?”
A statement on this matter should also include specific facts related to the same issue, for example: “Does the police have the right to search the offender when he has not been arrested and has not given his consent?”. If there is more than one question, they should be listed separately in the case’s facts.
Also include the constitutional principle reference. What rule, law, or regulation should the judge interpret to make his decision? For instance, in the case of a search of an accused, regardless of whether they are legal or not, the legal rules of conduct are consistent with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. If more than one principle of law has been used, declare them separately.
- Mention the determination. Also called the implementation (decision), the Court’s response to a question concerning a case. The answer should be listed as a yes or no, together with one or two additional sentences, to explain the legal principle on which the Court was based in making this decision.
For example, if the issue revolves around this point: “Did the police have the right to search the accused when he was not in a state of arrest and did not give his consent?” doing this could be: “Yes. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution does not guarantee a vehicle the same protection as a home, so a search without a warrant was vindicable.”
Step 3 – Analyze the case brief.
- Describe how the Court came to its decision. What facts did you consider, and how did you apply the law to these facts? Explain to the reader the reasoning of the Court, step by step.
Arrange a brief by providing the logical course of the Court on a systematic basis. It would be best if you organized the analysis so that the reader can follow the Court’s arguments from beginning till the end. An essential part of the case brief is why the Court has decided in a certain way, so the reader will need to find out by reading your resume rather than examining the reason, especially in the case of an appeal.
- Describe dissenting or conflicting opinions. When the judge disagrees with the majority, he often writes one dissenting opinion (opinion in dissent) or an analysis of the case (analysis of a court case). Sometimes, when a judge agrees with a majority, he writes his analysis of the case. When there appears a concurring or dissenting opinion, you must include it in the case brief.
- Always try to write the case brief in your own words. Your analysis should avoid merely repeating the Court’s words, unless it is essential to use precise terms. In these cases, use quotation marks and make it clear that you are quoting the Court.
Use quotes. Your analysis should include all quotes related to other cases, laws, principles that the Court considered for its own decisions. All quotes contained in the opinion are relevant and should be used in a case brief.
- Consider the alternatives. It is your chance to present a different way of interpreting the case, whether you follow a course of law or a court case of the U.S. legal system. Is there another way of interpreting constitutional principles, and what is it? What conclusions can the Court come to in this case?
If you need to complete an old court case course assignment, ask yourself how the case might end today. What are the most recent measures that could prevent the defendant from searching? Do they exist? The key to writing a good case brief is to present an alternative method of interpretation.
Other Helpful Tips While Writing a Case Brief
- Be concise and practical. A case brief should not take more than one or one and a half pages.
- Never use names. The parties must be referred to as Complainant and Appellant (Applicant and Appellant), Petitioner and Respondent (Complainant and Respondent), or Claimant and Respondent (actor and civil defendant/criminal defendant).
- If you need tips or examples of a case brief, do not hesitate to visit wr1ter.com for further details.