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Answered By: Suzanne Schriefer, Criminal Justice & Paralegal Librarian
Last Updated: Mar 07, 2016     Views: 486

A case brief is a summary and analysis of a court opinion.  Often, students will brief cases to develop a better understanding of a significant decision and to examine and discuss the issues involved in the case. 

Student Brief Components

Name of Case, and citation including year of decision
Facts of the case: This is the Who (parties in the case) and the what (important facts) of the case. This should be written in your own words.
History:  State briefly what happened at trial and at each level before the case reached the court whose opinion you are briefing.

Issue: What is the legal question? It is framed with a sentence starting with “whether;”
Holding: This is the majority ruling/holding of the case - the answer to the legal question.  It starts with a simple yes or no answer to the Legal Issue as stated in the previous section.

  • This is the black letter law – this should usually be the actual words taken from the case in the form of a quotation and should be cited.

Court’s Reasoning:

  1. Rule: What is the rule of law?
  • Discuss the court’s reasoning and explain how it arrived at its holding.
  • This will be a principle of law – for example, once a suspect invokes his right to counsel, the police may not question the suspect further without his attorney present.
  1. Application: Go through how the rule is applied to the set of facts in the case.

Concurring and Dissenting Opinion(s) Reasoning:
What are the different concurring and/or dissenting opinions? What are the differences from the majority opinion?