For your first brief assignment, read and brief the following case:
For a more detailed explanation of what a case brief is, consult this excerpt from “How to Brief a Case” by Dana L. Blatt, Esq. (You don’t have to read the sample case, but the sample brief will give you an idea of what a brief should generally look like. You can find the original document here):
If you have questions about the assignment before class Thursday, email or give me a call in my office.
Here is our third assignment: the draft is due Thursday, October 27, and the final version is due Thursday, November 3.
Don’t forget that the second brief assignment is due this Thursday, October 13. If you didn’t turn in a draft, make sure that you’re briefing McMillan v McMillan, 51 So.3d 367(Ala. Civ. App. 2010) and that you understand that the issue we’re concerned with is “Whether ‘sole property’ in a postnuptial agreement includes a residence owned by one spouse before marriage when both spouses lived together in the house before signing the agreement.”
Because the United States uses a common law legal system, an important part of legal research is reading cases to find out what the relevant rule of law is. One tool in understanding judicial decisions is the case brief. A case brief is an organized, written summary of the essential elements of a judicial opinion. Case briefs serve several functions: they help the researcher to understand the case, they provide a short summary of the case for the supervising attorney (allowing him or her to decide which cases to read in their entirety), and they also summarize the case law for future reference, so the researcher doesn’t have to start from scratch the next time a similar question arises.
To brief a case, you must first carefully read the assigned cases to gain an overall understanding of the facts of the case, the decision rendered by the court, and the reasoning behind the court’s decision. After you have read a case once for understanding, go back and read it a second time, identifying different parts of the case that will be the subject of discussion in your classes. Then write those parts down in summary fashion – your case brief – in order to assist you in your class discussions. Be sure when reading a case to look up any terms you do not understand in a legal dictionary such as Black’s Law Dictionary.
A competent case brief contains at least four parts: Facts, Issue, Holding, and Reasoning:
FACTS: Here, state only the facts that are essential to the decision. The case may state that “a thirty-five-year-old woman slipped and fell on the wet floor in the Safeway grocery store on Fifth Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona.” However, your case brief need only describe the incident as “a woman fell on a wet floor in a grocery store.”
ISSUE: Formulating the issue is one of the hardest tasks in briefing a case. You must identify exactly what legal question the court was being asked to decide. This will often require understanding of what was going on procedurally in the case or what type of motion a court was being asked to decide. State the issue in the form of a yes or no question.
HOLDING: Answer “yes” or “no” to the question posed in your statement of the issue.
REASONING: Professors will spend most of each class discussing the reasoning of the cases you have read. This portion of your case brief should include the rule of law the court relied on or developed to answer the question raised by the issue. You should also note the logic the court followed in applying that rule to the facts as well as which facts the court relied on in reaching its decision. If the court interpreted a statute, applied existing case law, or cited policy
considerations in deciding the case, note that as well.
(These instructions adapted from Case Briefing Assignment–Orientation 2011.)
See also Briefing Cases from Westlaw for a detailed explanation of how and why to brief cases. Be sure to follow the Standard Classroom Format and not the bullet brief or book brief format.
With these instructions in mind, read the following case, Brown v Parnell et al., and prepare a 1-page case brief. Be sure to include the case name and citation, the Facts, the Issue, the Holding, and the court’s Reasoning. A draft of your brief is due Thursday, September 1, 2011, and the final brief is due Thursday, September 8.