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CRM 123: Case Law: Home

Just for fun: Jeopardy

Definitions

Case Reports

  • "Case Reports are official explanations of a court's decision-making process." - Schubert, Intro to Law, p18

Brief

  • A written summary of a case written thus:Parts of the case [are] selected [by the writing of the brief] as important, organized for the purpose at hand, rather than the haphazard order in which they may be reported. (Schubert, p 25)

  • Briefs are not an exercise in copying -- but rather a method of organization and clarification for a specific purpose. Pages 25 (bottom) - 28 (middle) is the BRIEF.

Case Analysis

  • An evaluation of "the significance of the case, its relationship to other cases, its place in history, and what is shows about the Court, its members, its decision-making processes, or the impact it has on litigants, government, or society". Lloyd Sealey Library, CUNY
  • Pages 28(bottom) through page 33 (top) is the CASE ANALYSIS.

Purpose of this Guide

Your syllabus states:

"Students should be able to demonstrate that they can brief and understand appellate court decisions".

There are other requirements for this course as well, but this guide focuses on helping you:

  • Understand how to locate a court case in Westlaw
  • How to review  the case for the facts needed to write a brief or a case analysis
  • How to locate background information from news sources about the case
  • Provides you with some information to help you understand how to write a case analysis and a legal brief

In The Beginning...

 In 1870 at Harvard University Professor Christopher Columbus Langdell decided that the best way to teach law students was to have them read cases rather than textbooks. Textbooks explicitly state the rule of law and explain why it exists. Cases, however, are the stuff of real life. Cases contain the rule and also illustrate how the rule applies to different sets of facts.

After reading the cases, Langdell engaged his students in a Socratic dialogue where he grilled the students on what the cases meant. The idea behind the case method is that each case illustrates one tiny rule out of an entire body of law. By synthesizing each rule into a larger body of law, the student progressively learns not only the rules but also the process of legal reasoning.