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2 Criminal Law Statues (written by Legislature) Offense Reports (written by Police) Briefs, Motions, etc. (written by Lawyers) Opinions (written by Judges) Case Briefs (Students, Lawyers) This presentation focuses on how to write Case Briefs of Legal Opinions.

3 It s NOT the decision of the trial court or jury. It only addresses the issues raised by the lawyer appealing. It often does not address whether the defendant is guilty or not. It does not always tell you what happened in the end. So why do we care? Because it decides an important issue of law.

4 To organize how to look at legal opinions. To summarize the important points of a case. To be able to spot issues. To be able to explain a case to others.

5 Title and citation Facts of case and procedure Issue Holding Rationale The vote, dissenting, and concurring opinions

6 The title tells you who the parties are. This is usually the defendant against the state in which they committed the crime. The citation tells how to locate the case in the appropriate case reporter. In your case brief of Supreme Court decisions please list all the major court reporters where the decision can be found (usually U.S. Reports (the official court reporter),west s Supreme Court Reporter, and United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers' Edition.

7 Bumper v. North Carolina, 391 U.S. 543, 88 S. Ct. 1788, 20 L. Ed. 2d 797 (1968).

8 Facts of the Case: A summary of the pertinent facts and legal points raised in the case. Do not get caught up in details that are not important to the legal issue raised. In fact, sometimes the issue may be what happened at trial and not about the facts of the crime at all! Also, include what procedurally happened in the lower courts prior to it reaching the Supreme Court (Was the case affirmed, reversed, remanded? Was the evidence suppressed, or the conviction reversed?)

9 The police went to Bumper s home where he lived with his grandmother. They told the grandmother that they had a warrant to search the house (although they did not). The grandmother then responded go ahead to their request to search. The officers searched the house and found a rifle in the kitchen that was seized and used as evidence in Bumpers trial. Bumper was subsequently convicted of rape.

10 The issue is the question of law raised by the facts peculiar to the case and is often stated explicitly by the court. This should be phrased as a question. Again, this is often about a procedural or substantive right instead of whether the defendant committed the crime. There can be more than one issue in a case.

11 Is a search justified based on consent when the alleged consent is given only after the official conducting the search tells the person they have a warrant?

12 The decision, or holding, is the court s answer to a question presented to it for answer by the parties involved or raised by the court itself in its own reading of the case. This is also an appropriate place to include what Justice wrote the opinion and what the vote was.

13 In a 6-3 opinion, Justice Stewart held that the consent in this case was not voluntary because it was obtained by deception on the part of the police in stating that they had a valid warrant.

14 The rationale is the chain of argument which led the judges to rule as they did. It often relies on prior case law. This is really the meat of your brief, because the reasoning will help you or the court see how this case applies to other, slightly differing situations.

15 When a prosecutor relies on consent to justify a search, he has the burden to prove that the consent was freely given. An officer stating that they have a warrant announces that the person has no right to resist the search. There cannot be free consent in this situation.

16 Most cases in the Supreme Court are not unanimous. Often in these situations the judges who disagree will write a dissent and those who agree with the result but for differing reasons or who wish to point out additional issues will write a concurrence. A case brief should mention these opinions and if it is still a developing area of law, point out the areas of dispute between the majority opinion and the dissent or concurrence. However, since dissents and concurrences are often longer than the majority opinion, discussion of these points should be kept brief (pun intended ).

17 Justice Douglas joined the opinion in part II and concurred in part, finding additional reasons to reverse. Justice Harlan concurred, and wrote to say that the admission of the gun was not harmless error. Justice Black dissented, and would have found that since the evidence against the defendant was overwhelming the Court should not adopt a per se rule requiring reversal and exclusion of the evidence. Justice White dissented, and would have vacated the decision to have the lower court determine if there actually was a valid warrant upon which the state could rely.

18 Spotting the issue is key. Do not get lost in the facts. Try to think about how this case fits in with other cases. Did it expand or restrict a right? Did it define a term? Did it overturn previous case law?

19 GOOGLE SCHOLAR scholar.google.com U.S. SUPREME COURT supremecourt.gov The OYEZ Project oyez.org FINDLAW findlaw.com

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