Religion and Politics in the US: Religion and Laws

REL 224:  Religion and Politics in the US: Religion and Laws

WRITING A CASE BRIEF

The purpose of the case brief is to help you to work through a court opinion, putting aside what is background information and keeping only what is most important.  The whole point of a case brief is to help you to understand and remember the case.

The case brief helps you to remember the cases you read for in-class discussion of the case, for preparing for exams, and for becoming well-versed, fluent and confident in your ability to speak intelligently about contemporary issues involving religion and law.

The following are some of the typical features included in a case brief that you should include in your briefs.  Use these headings in your brief. Your case brief should be no longer than 1 page, single-spaced, 12 point font size.

CASE NAME

            Most cases have a name made up of the names of two (or more) parties.

ESSENTIAL FACTS

List in bullet-point format the essential facts of the case that are needed to understand the issues.  The opinion of the court will usually include more facts than are needed to understand the case.  Be selective and concise.  Include ONLY those facts that are needed to understanding the case.

LEGAL ISSUE

Present the specific legal issue that the court is trying to answer in the case. Construct the legal issue in the form of a question that blends the relevant constitutional provision or statute with the relevant facts, together in a coherent whole.

HOLDING

Give a “Yes” or “No” summary answer that the court gave to the legal issue?

REASONING OF THE COURT

The Legal Test or Framework:

Begin by telling what legal framework or test the court applied. Give the elements of the framework or test that the court is going to crank the facts through.

The Application of the Legal Test to the Facts:

Then tell how the court applied the legal test or framework to the facts of the case:  What facts did the court find important? How did the court interpret and construe the facts? What arguments did the court find important? How did the court interpret history?

RELIGIOUS STUDIES and PUBLIC POLICY QUESTIONS

            a) What unanswered question(s) concerning religion does this opinion raise for

you?

            b) What unanswered question(s) concerning public policy does this opinion raise

for you?

RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY DECIDED?

            State, in one sentence, whether you think the case was rightly or wrongly

decided, giving a legal reason for your decision.

CONCURRING OPINION(S)

A concurring opinion is an opinion written by one or more judges hearing a case that agrees with the decision or holding of the majority of the judges who heard the case, but offers different reasons for reaching the same decision.  Are there any concurring opinions?  If so, what different insights do they offer?

DISSENTING OPINION(S)

A dissenting opinion is an explicit disagreement with the decision or holding of the majority of the judges hearing a case. Therefore, it is the losing opinion. However, dissenting opinions can provide some insights into different points of view and trends in the law.  Are there any dissenting opinions?  If so, what different insights do they offer?  What different point of view do they express?

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