Students will be assigned cases (court opinions) which they are to brief (summarize)
in writing using their own words. Each brief should be 1 to 2 double-spaced pages in
length and no more than that, otherwise it would not be brief. 😉 Your work will be
graded primarily on the basis of its accuracy, thoughtfulness, conciseness, and
clarity of expression. Briefs should be prepared using the following sections:
Heading: The name of the case, the year it was decided, and the court that decided
it. Also put your name in the header on both pages of the brief.
Facts: A brief recounting of the essential facts of the case. To a certain extent, the
court already has done this in any opinion, but students should use their own words
as they further distill the court’s narration.
Issue: A statement, in the form of a question, of the question(s) the court must
answer in order to be able to decide the case. If the issue is not explicitly stated in
the court opinion, its identification can be tricky.
Outcome: Give the answer to the issue. What is the decision of this court? How
does the court dispose of the case (e.g., reversed and remanded to lower court)?
Reasoning: Explain how the court arrived at its decision. What are the logical
steps in the court’s reasoning (whether they in fact are logical or not)? What rule(s)
does this court apply?
Dissent: If there was any dissenting opinion in the case, summarize it here. A
dissenting opinion is a written explanation of why one or more appellate judges who
heard the case disagreed with the majority of judges whose opinion decides the
case. Most cases will not have a dissenting opinion. You will recognize the
dissenting opinion, if there is one, because it will appear at the end and be clearly
labeled as such.
Comments: Your chance to go beyond telling the story of the case, here you can
add your analysis of any weaknesses you detect in the court’s opinion. Examples of
questions to consider include the following: What public policies are evident in the
opinion? What are the practical implications of the case for people other than the
parties to the case? What could the losing party have done differently to avoid the
loss? What could the winning party have done differently to avoid this costly
litigation? These are not specific questions you are required to answer, but only
examples of the way you might think about the case.
So that the briefs are brief, stay within these limits:
o 2 pages
o Double-spaced, except the heading
o Minimum 12-point font
o Normal margins
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