The way to Read Cases In Laws School


Each case or perhaps written opinion is composed of different sections and parts.

A well-written opinion typically begins by outlining the particular legal issue(s) followed by the setting facts pertaining to the situation inside controversy. After these two portions comes the procedural pose of the case, which simply implies the case’s history in phrases of how the courts have dictated the matter. Then, often the court delves into the “discussion” or legal analysis of the issues. Last, there is a small conclusion followed by the court’s ultimate ruling.


Well-written ideas will have headings for each of several sections. Unfortunately, however, many cases are not structured as beautifully and require the reader to help delineate each section with his/her own. Initially, it isn’t really as simple as it sounds although over time it becomes second nature.

Finally, the reader will recognize everywhere one section ends along with the next begins. For example, 100 % of legal issue sentences usually get started with the word “whether. ” So, when the word “whether” presents itself, you should ask yourself if it is forming the legal issue for any opinion. If so, you should symbolise it. You should also realize that as the legal issue has been explained, a different section should adhere to it. Continue this practice before you have reached the end of the thoughts and opinions.

Sections (usually in this order):

(1) Legal issue: typically begins with the word “weather” and is only a couple of content or a short paragraph
(2) Background facts: self-explanatory
(3) Procedural posture/history: how the circumstance has progressed through the tennis courts (i. e. how tennis courts have ruled on the legalities in the case)
(4) Discussion/legal analysis: where the court includes the legal issue(s)
(5) Conclusion/ultimate ruling: is the circumstance vacated, reversed, affirmed, or perhaps remanded


Found within the various portions are different parts or pieces of opinion. Generally, these are generally more difficult to identify. As with the particular sections noted above, still locating such components, in addition, becomes second nature over time.

The recognized components of each case usually are:
(1) Legal issue (falls under both section and also component)
(2) Rule: specifications or principles established by the particular court
(3) Policy: the particular reason(s) underlying the court’s ruling
(4) Dictum: an argument, comment, or observation inside a judicial opinion that is unwanted to the decision in the case (USlegal. com)
(5) Holding/Ruling: the particular court’s “determination of a couple of laws pivotal to it is a decision” (Black’s Law Dictionary)


I am collapsing the 2 into one component here. Anybody can argue that the “ruling” needs to be the final conclusion reached by the court, but I have found the fact that terms are used interchangeably on occasion so I have chosen to merge them. Either way, if you recognize one, you will understand both.

Not only is being able to distinguish each section and portion of a case good for comprehension, but nevertheless, it is also key to getting through often the Socratic method. Usually, often the professor’s initial Socratic pondering takes on a form similar to this: understand the facts of the case, what are the legalities, what did the lower judge hold, how did often the court analyze the issue, and what exactly did the court have. If you locate each element prior to class, you are in a better position to get through a round of Socratic questioning.


Seeing that noted above, the authorized issue usually begins while using the word “whether. “It’s basically what the whole event is about; it is the question typically the court is trying to answer. With luck, this will not be too tough to locate.

On the other hand, rules are definitely not always that easy to spot. Often a rule is published down as clear while day, especially when the court docket begins the sentence using “the general rule is usually. ” This is not always the lens case though.


There will be rules which look like holdings and almost are. Basically, you are looking for some form of standard or principle that the court establishes in the judgment. Sometimes the rule in the form of a conclusive declaration in the legal analysis area lays out such a party can or are not able to do.

If you are the type that will not mind writing in the margins of your book, a bracket from the rule with a highlighter or even nonblack pen (makes this easier to see) and write down the letter “R” next to this.


When it comes to policy, you want to concentrate on major reasons or ideas as to why a court might rule the way that it does. Like a court may decide to restrict the personal injury liability associated with major utility companies if they are amenable to suing then prices for these amenities will increase, the companies will go bankrupt, or the number of lawsuits can flood the court technique. As you can note, these are not necessarily pure legal reasons. Alternatively, they are based more on an underlying cause and effect rationale which involves social constructs within our community.

FYI, the “floodgates” plan argument came up quite often in my first yr of law school. Maintain your eye out for it. In case you see it, put a “P” in the margins next to this.


Dictum can be a little tricky to recognize. Essentially, you are looking for some kind of lawful reasoning in the case that does not make the court’s final ruling. Basically, the court is articulating its view on something nevertheless does not require that reasons to reach its conclusion.

For instance, let us say that a rule requires a party to file some sort of motion to reopen his or her case within 90 days of the court’s final order and the party must be physically seen in the United States when he/she techniques to reopen. Now, think the case before the court consists of a party who was outside of the Us when he filed his movement 120 days after the preliminary order. Any statement or even observation the court can make with regards to the party not being in the USA may be considered dicta since the court need not use it to achieve its conclusion. If the courtroom simply relies on the breach of the temporal limitation, after that anything regarding the geographical location is actually unnecessary to the ultimate keeping.


Holdings/rulings are the “meat as well as potatoes” of each case. They are the major points you want to retain from any opinion anyone read because they are what the judgment stands for. When you hear an individual say that case “A sixth v. B” stands for “XYZ, very well it is the holding that you are reading; the legal principle/precedent influenced by the court.

Some cases get several minor holdings interspersed throughout the opinion. Initially, maybe you have difficulty locating each possessing. Do not worry yourself regarding this. In time, you will be able to identify a coalition more easily. Also, from the things I can recall, most very first-year course Socratic teachers really went for the major loge of each case. Secondary or even tangential holdings were possibly follow-up questions after a college student had gotten through the primary part of the Socratic method or even were brought up by the teacher him/herself.


Here, you are looking for the sentence that basically lets you know that the court is using this particular statement (i. e. reasoning) to reach its conclusion. As noted above, it is “pivotal” to the court’s ultimate judgement.

Oftentimes, the court will become the sentence with “we hold. ” When you see this kind of, highlight it or draw it and put an “H” beside it in the markup. You want to make sure you head into the category knowing exactly where the major holding(s) is/are.


The conclusion is self-explanatory. A well-written opinion should have a separate heading for the conclusion. No matter what, the conclusion will simply restate typically the law/holding and end by simply stating whether the court vacates, reverses, affirms, or remands the case.

It is kind of a great deal to look for when you first start studying cases, but within a fortnight you will be coasting through views and mentally making notice of where each section or even component is. Some college students prefer jotting down paperwork in the margins and others easily remember where everything is definitely. Eventually, you will learn what works effective for you, but make sure you keep in mind actually is you should be looking for.

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