There is one very important aspect of writing that students sometimes forget about when completing their writing assignments, and that is the reason for writing. When assigned an essay or a writing assignment, it’s crucial to understand the “why” of it all, so that you can write and communicate your ideas clearly and effectively.
When it comes to describing all things dealing with court rulings and law, students usually have to create a Case Brief to not only describe the details of the case, but the importance and the analysis of said case. The purpose of writing case briefs is to get a better understanding of the circumstances and the decision the court makes.
What is a Case Brief?
There are several kinds of case briefs you may have to write for class, but in general they display a court case and their main takeaways from the specific case. Usually students of law need to prepare a brief to show that you understand basic principles of law, and use these examples of cases to help you study for your exam – as they are a useful resource for information.
What does a Case Brief include?
Generally speaking, a brief is a short, usually one page paper, outlining specific points made on the case. It should include these key points of information
- The name of the case – who are the parties involved – (with the year of the decision)
- The Facts of the case – what are the important facts of the case (in your own words)
- The history of the case – a brief summary of what happened at the trial at each level
- The issue of the case – the legal question that is being answered and analyzed
- The Holding of the case – the majority ruling of the case and the answer to the issue
When describing the legal case, you must use facts, not opinions to avoid hearsay and directly state why the court made these decisions. Facts in law are more valuable than the opinions of others. You must also discuss the court’s reasoning and explain how they reached their decision based on facts, and facts alone.
So, how do I write a Case Brief?
Depending on your assignment and case, there may be several ways to go about this. But typically, you will need to start with the selection of the case. If your professor gives you a case, then there’s no need to go through with this step. But the following steps are a surefire way to include everything you need for your case brief
Captions for the the case
The brief should include the case name, the course that made a ruling, the year the ruling was made, and which page the case appears in the case book.
State the facts
The facts are important because the issues and rulings made in the case are followed according to legal principles. You should decide which facts are worth mentioning and relevant to your brief. Remember that your brief should be short and to the point. If the plaintiff and the defendant have conflicting facts, you should outline the main differences between both, but don’t make an assumption of which one of them is correct/incorrect. Take your time reading the case over and over until you can get a clear idea of the facts and how you can present them in your brief.
Outline the history of the case
Each case has a procedure that was followed, in which you must interpret and write in your own words what happened during the case. It begins at the point where the plaintiff filed the lawsuit and ends where the case is in court. It does not include the case itself or the holding.
Present the issues in question
This is where you present the factual question that the court had to decide, and your in-depth analysis of the case. You can incorporate your opinion here, but remember that this is a “brief” and should be short and sweet. Here is where you should also breakdown the case to different parts so it’s easier to digest for the reader and you can organize your thoughts better.
Present the holding
After you present the issues, you should outline the decision the court made. You are not exactly explaining it, rather just giving an answer for the issues you listed above. For example, if the court made a ruling on the case in favor of the plaintiff list the rights of the parties. This includes the Rule of Law or Legal Principle that was applied to determining the holding. It could come from a statue, case rule, regulation or some common law. Again, this part should be in your own words.
Explain the rationale
This is where you include more opinionated ideas, explaining the reasoning of the court decision. The analysis of the entire case comes into play here, as well as the facts and the rules and legal principles applied to the overall decision. It’s important to note the justification of such a decision – and why the decision was a desirable one. This part is crucial to the brief, as it presents new information for the reader and a deeper understanding of the case overall.
Summarize the decision of the case, whether in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant and whether the judge or the majority agrees with the decision made. If the majority and the judge disagree, explain why. Here you also input your own opinions about the decision and whether or not you think it was a good decision or not. Assess the reasoning and explain the political, economical and social impacts of the court’s decision overall.
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