Understanding How to Brief a Case

To begin this post focused on how to brief a case, it is important to realize that there is no perfect case brief.  How to brief a case, is structured and formulated, but the final result will often vary from one case brief to another.  The case brief is an organized and written/typed summary that are gleaned from a court opinion.  The case brief includes such information as a case heading, the question before the court, the material fact, procedural history, and more.  In learning how to brief a case, it is necessary to realize that each case brief is created to be used as a tool to recall information and relevant material facts and holdings.

How to Brief a Case:  Where to Begin

It is recommended that before you begin briefing a case, you read through the case first.  At first glance, a reader will have no way of knowing or understanding what facts and findings are material to the case, and what is dicta.  Hence, take the extra time to read the case, discern material facts and holdings, and then begin to create the case brief.  The structure and format of the case brief are generally structured, but remember that the case brief is a tool to be used to recall the case.

How to Brief a Case: Case Brief Sections

The example below provides an example structure and explanation for each part of the case brief.  While you learn how to brief a case, keep these structures in mind as you read the case to effectuate your time and attention.

  1. Case Brief Heading:  The case brief heading will often include the name of the case, and the official citation as well.  It is important to note, if only to yourself, where this case is being decided and the year of the decision.  This will help to contextualize the case and will allow you to contemplate societal pressures and norms at the time of the decision.
  2. Case Brief Facts:  The facts that are included within this section are the relevant and material facts of the case.  The case before the court has be appealed for a particular reason, and based upon a specific set of material facts.  Novices often include additional facts that are not relevant or material to the case before the court.
  3. Case Brief Procedural History:  The case is offered before the court on appeal.  In this section it is important to note and trace the stages of litigation that preceded the case.  In addition, it is important to note the reasons for holding of the previous courts.
  4. Case Brief Issue/Question:  The case is brought before the court on appeal.  It is important that you identify the issue or question that is being presented before the court in this particular case.  This is the issue or reason that the court will be deciding upon.
  5. Case Brief Holding and Rules:  This section of the case brief is often a Yes or No.  This is the response to the issue or question that was identified in the previous section.  In addition, you might find it useful to incorporate the key facts that the holding is based upon.
  6. Disposition:    At the conclusion of the case, the court present the holding of the case.  Identify what happens to the plaintiff and defendant.  Is the case affirmed, remanded, awarded damages, or any other orders from the court in response to the final holding a rules.
  7. Reasoning:  In this section of how to brief a case, you will want to summarize the reasoning of the court.  Identify the justification and explanations provided by the court and make note of references to previous cases or holdings.

In conclusion, in learning how to brief a case it is important that these elements are included in every case brief.  Format the brief as you like, but identify these key aspects of every case to create the perfect case brief.  While not always included in the case brief, it is important to note that some will include references to separate opinions and dissents from the other judges.