Essentials of How to Read and Brief a Case

Name of the Case:  Who are the parties involved in this dispute? Who (plaintiff) is suing whom (defendant)?





Procedural Posture: How did the case get to the court?  Where is this case being heard? 

Case History:  What happened at the trial court level?

Case Description: What type of case is it?  A contract dispute?  A negligence claim?


Facts of the Case These are the underlying facts — not who sued whom or what the trial court did, but what happened to create the dispute in the first place.     What do the plaintiffs or defendants want?




Issues:  The issue should state the question before the court in a manner that captures the procedural posture, but also reflects the facts of the case. For example: “Did the trial court err by refusing to give the defendant’s proposed jury instruction on comparative fault where the evidence showed the plaintiff had been drinking before taking the boat out on the lake?”





Decision and Analysis:  The holding or decision is the answer to the question posed in the “Issue” statement. It is the reason, or the justification, for the court’s conclusion that the plaintiff or defendant ought to prevail on appeal. It is, more generally, a rule that explains how a case with similar facts should be decided. A court may answer the issue presented above in the following way: “If the defendant produces evidence that the plaintiff had been drinking before the accident, the trial court must instruct the jury on comparative fault.” What did the court hold and why?  Is there a dissent?  





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