Case Brief Assignment
For your case brief assignment, you should first read the assigned Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education. The case “brief” should be written according to the following guidelines, using the bolded topics as section headings in the order specified. It should be no longer than two pages (typed, double-spaced, 12 font/Times New Roman).
Title and Citation: List the name of the case, the citation listed in text, and the year.
Background: You should provide a BRIEF contextual backstory to the case at hand. See my presentation/powerpoint presentation for an example.
Facts: You should present the relevant facts necessary to understand the “story line” and pertinent to the issue(s) raised. Make sure that you write it in such a way that not only you understand it, but that someone reading it without knowledge of the case can understand the case enough to discuss the issues. This can be difficult as everything seems important (it is not). You must paraphrase.
Issue(s): The only relevant issue(s) is/are the one(s) that result in a decision by the Court. Each issue should be ONE line. To be safe, you should (but are not required) to word the issue as, “whether…” (e.g., whether capital punishment is disproportionate to the crime of rape committed by an adult, thereby violating the 8th Amendment cruel and unusual punishment clause). You can frame the issue as a question if you choose (e.g., Is capital punishment disproportionate to the crime of rape committed by an adult, thereby violating the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the 8th Amendment?) Be sure to number the issues if there are more than one (and make sure the holding/s address each issue, respectively). Be specific in the issue.
Holding: The holding should be one word to one sentence and directly address the issue(s) you identified. The holding should reflect the majority opinion. Do not identify dissents or multiple opinions (sometimes justices agree on the outcome, but for multiple reasons, in which case more than one justice in the majority may write an opinion). Note: This is the DECISION.
Opinion/Reasoning: This may be the most difficult part of writing a case brief, as the reasoning in the court’s opinion will often go “back and forth” and refer to other cases. You should distill the reasoning down to key points that explain the court’s decision. You should summarize the key justification points in your own words. You can quote the Court briefly if you cannot find a better way to paraphrase the material—you must use quotations, and your use of quotations should be minimal (and appropriate). You can either number the key points (again, you can have more than one sentence for each line of reasoning, if it makes theoretical sense to do that), or you can write up the justification in a paragraph (definitely not more than two paragraphs and it only should exceed one paragraph if the case is complex).
Your Opinion: In this section, you are to critically analyze the opinion of the court and state your own conclusion as to how you would rule on the issue(s) raised in the case. You should state your own reasoning to support your conclusion. You are free to agree or disagree with the court’s opinion and/or dissent, and you should cite points that you found persuasive or non-persuasive/errant in those opinions. This section should be about a paragraph long and in your own words.
Questions: If you have any questions about the case, list them here. If you think of other issues the Court should have raised (or dealt with), but didn’t, identify them here. There are times the Court will take on a case, but only address a small part of it, which can have large ramifications for law, policy, the justice system, and other social and political issues. This section of the brief is optional.
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