Briefing a Case Timothy Rosen Plaintiff v James P Robinson Defendant Paper

“Briefing a case” means taking notes of the most important parts of a case so that you can later refer to your “case brief” to quickly refresh your memory rather than to have to read the case over again. Refer to the PDF file in this week’s materials for a detailed explanation on how to brief a case.

Location of Cases

Cases are generally found in the law library in reporters, advance sheets, or loose-leaf publications. Cases can also be found through online research services such as Lexis-Nexis, Westlaw Loislaw, and on the web by linking to various sites including the courts themselves. Libraries designated as government depositories may also have cases in slip opinion form.

Case Citation

A citation is an abbreviation used to refer to a legal authority that allows the reader to find the legal authority in the law library or in electronic form. When you answer a research question or perform legal analysis, it is expected that your answer or analysis be backed up by a citation to your legal authority. It is important that you learn correct citation form, because that form allows legal professionals to speak the same language. More importantly, it allows others reading your work to find the cases or other authority that you used to make a legal arguement so that they can read the material themselves. Correctly citing cases and other authority is a sign of careful attention to detail and strengthens your written arguments by validating your work and allowing the reader to quickly find those authorities upon which you relied and see that they say what you claim they say.

Reported judicial decisions have a style and format all their own. While judges have considerable freedom in how they write opinions, some uniformity of pattern comes from the similarity of purpose for decisions. This is especially true for decisions of appellate courts, which frequently serve as authority for later cases. Judges write decisions for two reasons. The first is to inform the parties to the dispute who won and who lost, giving the rules and reasoning the judge applied to the facts. The second is to inform the legal profession, attorneys and judges, and the public of the rules applied to a given set of facts and the reasons for the decision so that decision can be used as a precedent in the future. As we learned last week, the doctrine of stare decisis states that when a court has set forth such a legal principle, that court and all lower courts under it must apply that principle in future cases where the facts are substantially the same.