Reading lengthy judgements and preparing case summaries is a tedious but most important task for a law student. Since, there is no escape to it, you can either do it just for the reason of doing it or develop and hone a skill and enjoy doing it. The choice is yours!
Before you read this article, keep in mind you should not brief the case until you have read it through at least once.
Before I go on and help you out with case briefing, I want you to understand ‘how to read judgements’.
Moving on to how to write case briefs, I want you to understand what actually is case briefing.
Case briefing or summarising a case is a way of presenting it in a systematic manner which aids in determining the most relevant facts of the case and the decision made by the bench in a particular way. But, more often, we fail to include other important portions of a case.
I want you to read this article and know about the key points to include while you write case briefs.
Point No. 7 is often missed!
I hope this article will be helpful to write case briefs in your law school and definitely, in your internships.
1. Mention the proper case title and the citation in your case summary
A proper title is must when you write case summaries. The title of the case shows who is opposing whom. ‘v./vs’ should separate the 2 parties in a case.
Citation of the case helps the reader to find the full judgement. There are various ways to cite an article. You can read about them, here.
2. Name of the court, name of the judges and the parties to the case
Name of Court:
It can be Supreme Court, High Court, etc.
The ones who wrote the judgement.
The title of the case tells you the names of the parties to the case. The party that initiates a legal action is the plaintiff. The other party is ‘Defendant’. At times, they may be referred as ‘petitioners’ and ‘respondent’.
‘In case of appeal, the plaintiff is referred as ‘appellant’.
3. Brief Facts
What were the facts of the Case? Determine precisely which facts can be excluded from the case summary. Facts with unnecessary detail must be removed. Further, statement of facts should set out the nature of the litigation, parties involved, cause of action, relevant laws or key words involved and the course of decision through lower court/s to the present court.
The ‘fact section’ of a good case brief will include the following elements:
- A one-sentence description of the nature of the case, to serve as an introduction.
- A statement of the relevant law, with quotation marks or underlining to draw attention to the key words or phrases that are in dispute.
- A summary of the complaint (in a civil case) or the indictment (in a criminal case) plus relevant evidence and arguments presented in court to explain who did what to whom and why the case was thought to involve illegal conduct.
- A summary of actions taken by the lower courts, for example: defendant convicted; conviction upheld by appellate court; Supreme Court granted certiorari.
4. Issues involved
What were the important issues in the case? On what points a particular case came before the court to decide?
Try to identify the issues or questions judges explicitly set apart to discuss and decide upon.
5. Important Arguments
What were the contentions of Petitioners and Respondents? Here you list out all the contentions raised by both the parties to prove their points.
Based on the contentions, what did the bench decide? Give briefs points on the same. Did the court decide in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant? What remedy, if any, did the court grant? If it is an appellate court opinion, did the court affirm the lower court’s decision, reverse it in whole or in part, or remand the case for additional proceedings?
7. Present status of the judgment
Whether the judgement is still applicable or over-ruled?
8. Include other opinions
Concurring and dissenting opinions are included in a casebook when they present an interesting alternative analysis of the case. Therefore, you should describe the analysis in your case brief. It will help you see the case in a different light.
9. Conclusion, if any
Looking for samples?