Lesson 22 of 21
In Progress

3.2: Noticing Sections of a Case Brief

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Goal

  • To become familiar with  different case brief sections
  • Recognize different terms used in each section
  • Understand that there is no “right” way to write a case brief and there can be different styles of case briefs

Instructions

  1. In this activity, you will review 8 different case briefs and notice some things they all do the same, and some things they do differently from each other.
  2. Answer the questions below regarding the 8 different case briefs. (You can write your answers on a piece of paper if it’s helpful, or just keep the answers in your mind.)
  3. Suggestion: Scroll down and review the questions first before you start looking at the case briefs.

Click the case brief image below to view the 8 case briefs

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Questions

 1. Of the 8 case briefs, how many have a “Facts” section? Are there any other terms used other than just “Facts”?

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All 8 case briefs have a Facts section.

The word “Facts” is used in all 8, but there are some variations:

  • “Brief Fact Summary” and “Facts” are used in #1
  • In #2 it’s “Facts & Procedural History” – The two sections are combined
  • In #7 it’s written “The Facts”
  • In the remaining 5 it’s just “Facts”

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2. How many of the “Facts” sections are just one paragraph? How many are more than one paragraph or in a different format?

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  • 6 of the case briefs have a “Facts” section with just one paragraph.
  • One case brief has a “Facts” section with 3 paragraphs
  • One case brief has a “Facts” section with 3 bullet point sentences (which is kind of like one paragraph.)

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    3. How many of the case briefs have “Procedural History”? Are there any other terms used for the same section?

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    • 3 case briefs include procedural history.
    • In #2, it’s combined as “Facts & Procedural History”

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      4. How many of the case briefs have a “Rule” section?

      Do any of the case briefs use a different term for the same section?

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      1. 7 out of 8 of the cases have a “Rule” section.
      2. Yes, some use a different term:
      • 5 of the cases combine the rule with the holding (“Holding & Rule”)
      • One has “Synopsis of Rule of Law”
      • One has “The Rule”
      • And one has a section called “Elements of the Tort of Battery” which is a kind of rule. (Although the same case brief also has a “Holding and Rule” section.)

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        5. How many of the case briefs have an “Issue” section? Do any of the case briefs use a different term for the same section?

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          • All 8 of the case briefs have an “Issue” section.
          • Two of the briefs have “Issues” instead of “Issue.” and one of the case briefs calls it “The Issue.”

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            6. In the “Issue” section of each of the case briefs, what is/are the word(s) or verb(s) that indicates a question? For example, in Case Brief #1, the question word is “Is….”

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              1. Is …
              2. Is …
              3. is & can …
              4. Must …
              5. How …
              6. Whether …
              7. How, did, & did …
              8. Is …

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                7. Which issue sections end with a question mark? Which end with a period?

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                Brief #6 is the only issue section that ends with a period [.] rather than a question mark [?].

                “Whether” is a commonly used word when describing an issue. Use of “whether” in a sentence usually raises a question. However, grammatically, it generally indicates a statement (ending with a period) rather than a question (ending with a question mark).

                For example:

                • Is the dog friendly?
                • The issue is whether the dog is friendly.

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                  8. How many of the case briefs have a “Holding” section? Do any of the case briefs use a different term for the Holding section?

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                    • All 8 of the case briefs have a holding section.
                    • Case brief #1 says “Held” instead of “Holding.” Also, 5 of the case briefs combine Holding with “Rule.” One of them combines Holding with “Analysis.” And one combines Holding with “Disposition.”

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                      9. How many of the case briefs have a “Reasoning” section? Do any of the case briefs use a different term for the “Reasoning” section?

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                      • Only 5 of the 8 case briefs seem to have a Reasoning section.
                      • Other terms used are “Discussion” in case brief #1 and “Analysis” in case brief #6. Also, case brief #7 calls it “Court’s Reasoning.”

                      Note: Why it’s a good idea to include a Reasoning or Rationale section in a case brief:

                      • The Reasoning section of a case brief (“Rationale” is another term sometimes used by students) is important because it explains how and why the court reached its decision. And a court’s reasoning establishes a precedent or rule that future courts may be required to follow.
                      • Because the reasoning leads to the holding and the two are related, some case briefs combine the two sections.
                      • There’s no absolute right or wrong in case briefing, because it is a document that lawyers and law students write for themselves to help analyze and better understand the case for their own purposes. That purpose could be to prepare for a professor’s in-class questions. Or it could be for a lawyer to better understand the cases she will use in writing a legal memo or an appellate brief. And you may brief a case very differently in these different situations.
                      • But it’s helpful to be aware of the fact that you may sometimes feel like certain sections overlap with other sections. Or you’re not sure where exactly to draw the line between them. Just be reassured that if you feel that way at times, many other law students before you have also felt similarly.

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                        10. How many of the case briefs have a “Disposition” section? Do any of the case briefs use a different term for the “Disposition” section?

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                        • 4 of the case briefs have a Disposition section.
                        • There are no other terms used, although case brief #7 combines Holding with Disposition. This is another example of how sometimes two sections might feel connected and students aren’t sure how to divide them. Or a student may just prefer to combine them.

                        Usually, it’s better to divide the information into separate sections if you can. The analysis and struggle you go through to try and figure out how to separate and categorize the information is an important part of learning to “think like a lawyer” in the context of US legal culture.

                        If you decide to combine two sections, make sure there is a reason for doing so.

                        For example, an attorney might be short on time and need to prepare for an argument. The attorney could combine the disposition, holding, and reasoning for convenience but should still understand the difference.

                        For example, the attorney might write: “Appellate Court affirmed [<—disposition] because the defendant was a minor and a minor cannot be bound by this type of contract [<—reasoning] so even though this plaintiff had no way of knowing defendant was a minor he cannot enforce the contract [<—holding].”

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                          11. Do any of the case briefs have any other sections or categories in addition to the ones named above?

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                          Yes.

                          • Case brief #3 has “Elements of the Tort of Battery.” This is not typically a category in a case brief as it’s very specific to the case. But in this case brief, the writer decided it would be helpful to have this information.
                          • Case brief #5 has a “Notes” section. The writer seems to include information that is interesting or helpful to her.
                          • Case brief #8 has a “Dissent” section (though there is no actual dissent in the case) and also a “Notes” section.

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                          12. Which section in each case brief is the longest section?

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                          • Discussion/Reasoning/Analysis/Holding+Analysis 
                            • Case briefs #1, #2, #6, #8
                          • Facts
                            • Case briefs #4, #5
                          • The Rule
                            • Case brief #7
                          • Elements of  the Tort of  Battery
                            • Case brief #3

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