Purpose The purpose of reading in the practice of law is different from the purpose of reading in many other disciplines. In law, you read not just to familiarize yourself with someone else’s ideas but to be able to use the information to answer a question. This requires understanding judicial opinions in depth and being able to use the information in a number of cases to formulate an answer to a new question. Therefore, passively reading cases is not sufficient; you must deconstruct the opinion into its component parts and state those components in your own words and in an easily accessible format. Then the information is at hand for you to apply to a new set of facts. Briefing a case requires you to put the material into your own words. To do this, you have to understand it. Underlining text does not require you to understand it. Moreover, briefing a case reduces the volume of material so you can find what you need. Underlining does not accomplish this goal either. Assignment You will complete two case briefs as follows and submit each to the Dropbox and Turnitin.com no later than Sunday 11:59 PM EST/EDT of the module in which it is due:
Module 4: Dementas v. Estate of Tallas Module 8: Geringer v. Wildhorn Ranch, Inc. Instructions Every lawyer briefs cases differently. A case brief generally consists of a series of topic headings with the specific information from the case under each heading. Most case briefs contain similar information but the headings and their sequence may be different. Some professors have a preferred briefing format. You are only required to follow the general format as set forth below. The following is adapted from A Practical Guide to Legal Writing and Legal Method (Dernbach, et al., 2007). 1. Case name: Include the full citation, including the date of the opinion, for future reference and
citation. An example would be as follows: State v. Holloran, 140 NH 563 (1995). Refer to Bluebook to determine the correct name for the case.
2. Pincites: Include pinpoint cites (cites to a particular page in the case) throughout the case brief so
you can find material again quickly within a case. 3. Procedural History: What happened to the case before it arrived in this court? If it is an appellate
case, list the decisions made by the lower court(s) and note what decision is being reviewed (e.g., jury verdict, summary judgment). You may need to look up procedural phrases with which you are unfamiliar.
4. Facts: Include only the facts that were relevant to the court’s decision. You are unlikely to know what
these are until you have read the entire opinion. Many cases may include procedural facts that are relevant to the decision in addition to the facts that happened before litigation.
5. Issue: The particular question the court had to decide in this case. It usually includes specific facts as
well as a legal question. It may be expressed or implied in the decision. Cases may have more than one issue.
6. Holding/Decision: The legal answer to the issue. If the issue is clearly written, then the holding can be expressed as “yes” or “no.” (Be careful not to confuse the holding with implicit reasoning. See # 8 below.)
7. Rule: The general legal principle(s) relevant to the particular factual situation presented in the case. 8. Reasoning: The logical steps the court takes to arrive at the holding. It can be straightforward and
obvious, or you may have to extrapolate it from the holding. Some reasoning is based on social policy, which tells you why the holding is socially desirable. Understanding the reasoning behind a decision is essential.
9. Disposition: A statement of what the court actually did in the case (affirmed, overruled, etc.) 10. Dissent/Concurrence: Although this part of the opinion is not considered law, it may help you better
understand some information about the legal reasoning in the case. Not all cases have a dissent or concurrence, while some may have more than one.
11. Comments: Include your own responses to the case here. For example, does the reasoning make
sense? Is the holding consistent with other cases you have read? Is the case relevant to the question you are trying to answer?