How To Brief A Case

Title (e.g. Roe v. Wade)
Citation (e.g. 410 U.S. 113 (1973))

Facts: Summarize the facts of the case. List only the essential facts that you need to understand the holding and reasoning of the case.

Procedure: Most of the cases that you’ll read in law school will be appellate court decisions. In this section, you want to list what happened in the lower court(s). Do not go into too much detail. One or two sentences are sufficient for this section.

Issue(s): What is/are the question(s) facing the court? Form the issue questions in a way that they can be answered by yes or no.

Holding: How did the court answer the issue question(s)? YES/NO?

Reasoning: This is the most important section of your case brief. Here you want to list the reasoning of the majority in reaching its decision. You can actually be quite detailed in this section. List what the law was before this case was decided and how the law has changed after this decision. Law professors love to discuss the reasoning of a case in class discussions.

Concurring/dissenting opinions: Even though I read the concurring and dissenting opinions, I rarely brief them. However, there are some cases (e.g. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer) where the concurring or dissenting opinions end up becoming more important than the majority’s opinions. In such cases, you should add this section to your case brief.

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