Case Brief Template

Case Brief: Definition and Explanation

A case brief can be defined as a summarized legal opinion, but in most cases, this explanation seems to be insufficient or even confusing. What do you think about when you hear a term ‘brief’? If you are a law student, you will definitely fancy a written argument known as ‘brief’ and submitted to court.

Still, a case brief is different from that as it is an effective study tool that the law students may need to get ready for the finals and classes where they want to shine. There is also a concept of case brief template that is considered to be of great use for the students. Are there any synonyms to the term ‘case brief’? Sure, sometimes it is possible to hear about ‘case summaries’ or ‘legal briefs’, and if it is easier for you to use those terms, it is also right.

Case Brief: Get Ready for Writing

Your task of writing a case brief at first seemed to be a pleasant challenge and a test of your abilities to write. Still, you have started and now you realize that this challenge does not bear any traces of pleasure at all. Moreover, you are getting more and more tired and bored and it seems that the task is still far from completion. You would like to take any drastic measure to get rid of your case brief assignment and feel free again.

Nevertheless, the deadline is tomorrow and you just have no other option than to keep working. Or do you? In any case, make sure you have read and understood an excerpt from your casebook? What have you got to know? You find out what an opinion is while you are “pretreating” or annotating, emphasizing the key ideas, underlining the concepts needed, and using all the margins for taking down the details you will later use in your writing. Your casebook margins should be full of details given in the court, for instance. Thus, you can collect the facts and make your case brief well grounded.

Case Brief Template: 6 Issues to Keep in Mind

1. Skeleton

There is no universal formatting standard for a case brief. It is you who decides on the suitability of a particular format and that gives you the freedom you will enjoy. In some cases, it is the professor who dictates the conditions and requests for reciting the procedural history, for instance. It means that your template should cover this particular section, for sure, in accordance with the provided instructions.

A case brief template with the main terms is great, but it requires content that you have to add to it.

What will you add? What are the minimum requirements for a case brief?

  • case facts
  • legal issues
  • majority – reasoning and holding
  • case legal principles
  • summarized dissents and concurrences

Have a look at the description of all sections below.

2. Case Facts

In numerous legal opinions, case facts are outlined clearly. Thus, working on a case brief, you will probably want to copy paste the facts into your paper; however, we would like to warn you against this. The wording of the court should be given in plain language; otherwise, it will be considered plagiarism. Your aim is to help the audience get an insight into the case, using clear language without too many complications.

Your case brief is expected to have a section of facts with the obligatory elements presented below:

  • cause of action, for instance a contract breach
  • specification of defendants and plaintiffs in a particular case
  • case operative facts which were the causes of disputes
  • holding of the jury / trial court
  • holding of an appellate court

When you ask our service, ‘Brief my case!’ you want us to specify the defendants and plaintiffs by the names, as mere reference without specifying the parties makes no sense. In some cases, there is a typical reference of the court to parties as respondent and petitioner or appellee and appellant. You have to get a clear identification of those parties and remember that the lawsuit is always initiated by a plaintiff.

Do not forget that a good case brief template starts with background explanations and a list of operative facts for the dispute. The next part should present the parties, specifying the party names of the defendant and plaintiff with further explanations of the cause of action. This template is typically concluded with the section of procedural history, if needed.

3. Legal Issues

A brief case always has a section of facts with the description of the cause of action along with the facts that built up the circumstances to provoke the cause of action, and case procedural history. It is logical to add the section of issues after that.

Use the casebook to focus on the needed legal issue. For instance, finding the case in one of the chapters of contracts casebook devoted to promissory estoppel, you make sure that there is direct relation of the issue to the same. Furthermore, it is important to make sure that there is no fact specific character of the issue, meaning that there should not be any case factual details in the issue section.

Note that the issue cannot be a procedural question, only a legal one. Therefore, it is incorrect to present the section of issues in the following manner: “Whether there is an error of the trial court in providing the plaintiff with a summary judgment.” It is clear that there is no substantive ground for the foregoing issue. Besides, there is no bearing on the issue legal question under those conditions.

Lastly, it is appropriate to present the section of issues in the form of a question that requires a general answer: yes or no. An issue which hints at getting ambiguous answers should not be chosen.

4. Rule of Law

What is a case brief? How is the rule of law presented in it? It is a legal principle used by the court for making a decision in a particular case. There can be plenty of legal principles or rules of law for one legal opinion as they produce their influence on the final decision of the court. However, if you do case briefing, you have to specify the rule of law in case discussions presented in the casebook as it is important to have a single clear sentence formulated as a rule.

Tip from a professional writer: It is recommended to view the headings of the chapter and the section where the case is presented in the casebook as it is a clear hint at the related topic to the chosen rule of law. In case there are more than one rules of law, it will be clear that the one found is the most important. Let us view the case available in the section entitled “Promissory Estoppel”. It means that the topic promissory estoppel in the contract casebook will be directly related to the presented rule of law.

If you have ever reviewed some guidelines on how to brief a case for dummies, you have noted that it is wrong to make the rule of law specific to facts. Instead, it is right to make sure that the case asks a dispositive legal question, and it is addressed. In other words, the case should contain a legal issue as a rule of law presented as a statement. For instance, the case contains the following issue: “Is it allowed for a party with continuous waives of contact provisions to seek for the same provision enforcement later on?” If you need to formulate this rule of law, the easiest way to do that is to paraphrase the question and present it as a statement. It will sound like this: “A party with continuous waives of contract provisions is not allowed to seek for this provision enforcement later on.”

5. Reasoning and Holding

Having differentiated between the salient legal issues and the facts, you can either decide on work on the paper yourself or send a message to us with a humble request that we will definitely accept, ‘Write my case brief and show me how to do everything right!’. Now it is time to give explanations of the court decisions. Start the section of reasoning and holding with the answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question from the previous section of issues.

The structure of this section is presented in a manner which corresponds to the principles of CREAC method. This abbreviation can be read as C for Conclusion, R for Rule, E for Explanation, A for Application, and C for Conclusion. It may happen that there is a somewhat different abbreviation of the same, for instance IRAC with I for Issue, R for Rule, A for Application, and C for Conclusion. There will be a powerful reinforcement of the case if the conclusion is repeated at the start and at the end. Besides, if CREAC contains an explicit section of explanations, that is a guarantee that the statement and interpretation of the case rule is done properly.

It is essential to articulate tests, legal frameworks, and principles to apply them to the case facts. Do not forget to give explanations of the rationale in the case behind legal principles. If you are not sure that you will do everything right, make the “do my case brief for me” request and we will help. We will assist you to avoid one of the typical errors that the students make in this section, i.e. to   forget about the rule explanation as CREAC has the shortening E for explanation. The final section of the paper should contain the case procedural disposition and conclusion.

This section of a case brief includes the following details, if they can be found in the casebook:

  1. answer to the question from the section of legal issues: “yes” or “no”
  2. legal rules and principles applicable for the case
  3. standards of applying the principles to the case facts
  4. conclusion of the court
  5. procedural disposition
  6. names of statutes and seminal cases

6. Section of Dissents and Concurrences

The case brief should mention all the dissents and concurrences of they are presented in the casebook. The summary of this will be rather short and there will be not much written in the casebook. The question should be addressed clearly and the answer should be specific. It may happen that the justice does partial dissents and concurrences. It should be mentioned in the case brief.

Length of a Case Brief

The name of the ‘brief’ speaks for itself – it should not be long. There should be a lot of limitations and restrictions not to make it excessively broad. It is a must to include the case operative facts and exclude all others. In the section of holding and reasoning, the emphasis is laid on CREAC with no mentioning of the opinions non-related to the casebook. We recommend an average length of a case brief of maximum 600 words, with the added word count for the dissents and concurrences.

Case Brief Example

Case Brief – Johnson vs. Texas

This case is a series among many other which have looked into the issue of discretion of American flag. There have been previous cases like Halter v. Nebraks (1907), Stromberg v. California (1931), Street v New York (1969), Spence v. Washington (1974) and Smith v. Goguen (1974) which all looked into the issue of discretion of American flags. It is due to series of such cases that the congress decided to pass the Federal Flag Desecration Law (1968) which mandates the congress to protect the any instances of desecration of American flag.

In a 1984 Republican National Convention, Johnson was one of the demonstrators who expressed their dissatisfaction with the Reagan administration policies and most of Dallas based corporations (Find Law, 2010).  After the demonstrators matched through the city stress, Johnson apparently expressed his anger and dissatisfaction by burning American flag while the rest of the protestors chanted their messages towards the convention. It is important to express that although there was no one who was injured by in the protest, most of  us who witnessed the incidence felt serious offended by burning of our national flag.  I want to state clearly before this court that this amounts to desecration of American flag and the accused must be judged in reference to Federal Flag Desecration Law (1968). The law clears states that the federal government has the power to protect any action that amounts to desecration of American flag and the action of the accused amounts to such an action.

In line with previous court rulings, this court should a precedent that will set forth the difference between individual expression and respect for national symbols. One of the provision cases that have come close to this case was Street v. New York (1969) where  the court showed  that though the government may not ban the use of words on flags, it was still not clear what the government  could do in case of an action involving American flag. The court did not rule whether the government had the power to criminalize any action that amounted to contempt or disrespect of American flag which acts as a symbol of national unity.  Therefore, the buck stops with the court to rule whether the action of the accused acted in violation and contempt of American flag. Although the government cannot ban words using in relation to American flag, I believe it the power to ban action on the flag in light of the Federal Flag Desecration Law (1968).

While this court clearly understands that the accused was doing the act in reference to the first amendment which advances the rights to freedom of speech and expression among the citizens, this court has previously ruled in number of cases which have shown that it really upholds the freedom of speech. In Texas court ruling of West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), the court showed that the right to different is a basic provision of the First Amendment. Therefore every individual in the country has the right to different from an opinion but it does not mean that in expression of provision of first amendment, individual has to hurt others.  Though Halter v. Nebraska (1907) court ruling did not directly relate to burning of American flag, it is evident that the court ruling gave the state the right to ban use of American flag not only in commercial ways but also in other ways that directly disrespected the flag (Head, 2010).

Our flag is a symbol of unity. The government cannot rally the support of citizens to unit behind the flags, as a symbol of unity, if it cannot rally the same citizens to respect the flag as a symbol of unity.  I would like this court to note that the act of accused to burn the American flag was not an essential part of expression and exposition of ideas (Cline, 2010). This act had a tendency to lower the significance of the flag to foster unity among the citizens but it incited a breach of peace.

While it was the right of the accused to express his dislike with the government policies, he could have used other means which could not have hurt the witnesses than burning an American flag. The act of burning the flag publicly with intention of conveying a message is guilty of desecration of the flag (Law, 2010). The accused may have used the act of burning the flag because he understood it was likely to cause more concern and therefore attention to his message. However, set a bad precedent among other citizens since many more people are likely to result to the same means to express their dissatisfaction. This will further lower the significance of the flag as more and more actors result to burning of flags to express their dissatisfaction.

While the conduct of the accused can be considered as an expressive conduct that was merely meant to express his dissatisfaction the government policies, the way it was expressed was contrary to provision of the constitution and infringed on the rights of the nation and of other Americans as well (Luckey, 2003).  It is the duty of the state to set forwards a precedent that protects the citizens from acts that are likely to breach their confidence of national symbols.

In light of the above facts it is therefore the discretion of this court to make ruling based on the facts given. The court should understand that the ruling on this case will be important as it will guide the state in such future case. It will also set a precedent on how the citizens should handle the handle such cases in the future.

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Effective Writing of Case Briefs

Summarizing legal opinions means writing case briefs. It will be an effective preparatory test for you before in-class activities. Read the excerpt from your casebook and pretreat it specifying the sections required for your further task of case brief writing. After annotating and making notes, start briefing the case.

There is no universal approach to a proper format of a case brief, but certain components are obligatory: case facts, legal issue, holding and reasoning, legal case principles, and concurrences and dissents summarized.

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