I. Definitions – Two Types of Briefs
A. A case brief (the form of the three written assignments on the syllabus) is a dissection of a judicial opinion – it is a written summary of the basic components of that opinion.
B. A persuasive brief (trial and appellate) is the set of formal documents a lawyer files with a court in support of his or her client’s position.
II. Functions of case briefing (of type to be done for class assignments)
A. Case briefing helps you acquire the skills of case analysis and legal reasoning. Briefing a case helps you understand it.
B. Case briefing aids your memory. Briefs help you remember the cases you read for (i) class discussion, (ii) review for midterm and final examinations, and (iii) writing about and/or analyzing legal problems.
Note: Do not try to memorize case briefs. Learning law is a process of problem solving through legal reasoning. Cases must be read in light of the series of cases with which they appear in your syllabus.
III. Briefing a case: The steps
Before you write a case brief, read the entire opinion first – several times could be necessary -- to understand and identify who are the parties, the important facts, what law(s) and/or constitutional questions are being considered by the court, what the parties are seeking, the court’s decision and the reasoning it used to reach that decision. Then as you write the case brief, go back to the case to identify the various elements to include in your case brief.
Although the exact form of your briefs may vary from case to case, the following parts should appear in each brief in a way that helps you understand the case and recall and describe all of its important aspects.
A. Case Name and Citation:
1. Includes, obviously, the case name
2. Citation (identifies the court which decided the case and the date of the decision)
1. Identify each of the parties to the case; state their names and whether they are plaintiff and defendant, or appellant and appellee, and/or petitioner and respondent.
C. Statement of Facts
1. Identify the relationship/status of the parties (note: do not merely refer to the parties as, for example, plaintiff/defendant or appellant/appellee; be sure to include more descriptive terms to identify the relationship/status of the parties to the case, e.g., employer/employee). 2. Identify the key facts of the case, e.g., that the plaintiff is suing under Statute “X” of the Kansas state laws (or under a particular constitutional provision) which requires whatever that statute or provision requires, then explain what it is the plaintiff did or did not get, and what s/he wants, including whether s/he wants the court to find the statute or challenged action of the other party to be in violation of the statute or constitution, or if instead the court should declare that the statute itself is unconstitutional (these are only some examples of the type of relief or aid the party going to court may be seeking).
3. Identify the legally relevant facts, that is, those facts that tend to prove or disprove an issue or issues before the court. The relevant facts tell what happened before the parties entered the judicial system, e.g., a woman claims she was fired solely for being a female, that she was the subject of various sexist remarks and that other, less capable men were not similarly treated or fired, that as such her firing violates a particular law, statute and/or constitutional provision, etc. Make sure to identify the law, statute and/or constitutional provision at issue. Alternately, a person may be challenging the constitutionality of a certain law or statute on any of a number of grounds, e.g., that it violates a constitutional protection. Include briefly whether the plaintiff or defendant was successful in an earlier trial or before a previous court (this information almost always appears in the case you are briefing as part of the court’s way of describing the