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Case Briefs

Writing An Effective
Case Brief, Continued

5. History of the Litigation:

  • What are the prior proceedings? For each prior proceeding, briefly state the nature of the proceeding, the party initiating it, the name of the court or agency involved, and the result of the pleading. For the present proceeding, state who initiated it and the name of the court or agency involved.
    • Example: In this example I am referring to McGraw v. Maris, 828 S.W.2d 756 (Tex. 1992)
    • The Probate Court, Dallas County, Robert Price, J., excluded duplicate beneficiary designation form in deceased’s handwriting and determined that surviving spouse was entitled to proceeds. RESULT: Children Appealed
    • The Dallas Court of Appeals, Fifth Supreme Judicial District, Howell, J- Children applied for writ of error. RESULT: Affirmed
    • The Supreme Court, Hightower, J., held that: (1) duplicate beneficiary designation for was admissible to prove its existence, and (2) excluding form was reversible error in light of admitted evidence that decreased has habit of completing handwritten duplicate forms prior to typing and filing originals. RESULT: Reversed and remanded.

6. Key Facts:

  • What are the facts of the case? Specifically, state the facts that were important or key to the holding reached by the courts.
  • Key facts can also be known as essential facts, material facts, or operative facts. The definition of such a fact is as follows:
    • A key fact when a holding of the court would have been different if that fact has been presented differently or had not been in the opinion.
    • A fact is any information concerning, a person, thing, or occurrence that is obtained through the senses.

7. Issue(s):

  • What are the questions of law now before the court?
  • In the law, there are two main kinds of are:
    • Question of Fact- also called factual issues and factual questions. What happened? The answer is called a verdict if made by a jury, and a finding if made by a judge.
    • Question of Law- also called legal issue or legal questions. What is the law, and how does it apply to these facts? The kind of issue is resolved by applying one or more rules of law to the facts. The answer to this is called a holding and is always made by a judge. Legal issues raise four main kinds of questions.
      • What is the definition?
      • Do the facts fit?
      • Is there consistency?
      • Combination of questions.

    8. Holding(s)

    • What are this court’s answers to the issue? If you have stated each issue comprehensively, the holding can be a simple YES or NO response.

    9. Reasoning

    • Why did the court answer the issues the way it did? State the reasons for each holding.


    • What order did this court enter as a result of its holding(s)? Give the procedural consequences of the courts resolution of the issues.

    At the end of your brief, you should include a section called “Notes,” where you summarize any concurring or dissenting opinions. State what exactly has happened to the opinion since it was written. Example, has it been overruled? Give your personal view of the correctness or incorrectness of what the court did, etc.

    For a quick outline , called a thumbnail brief, click here to Learn More...

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