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GBA 335 Case Brief 2 Guidelines and Rubric
How and Why to Brief a Law Case
Prof. Joseph Little, Jr., Saint Leo University
The purpose of reading in the practice of law is different from the purpose of reading in many other
disciplines. In law, you read not just to familiarize yourself with someone else’s ideas but to be able to use
the information to answer a question. This requires understanding judicial opinions in depth and being
able to use the information in a number of cases to formulate an answer to a new question. Therefore,
passively reading cases is not sufficient; you must deconstruct the opinion into its component parts and
state those components in your own words and in an easily accessible format. Then the information is at
hand for you to apply to a new set of facts.
Briefing a case requires you to put the material into your own words. To do this, you have to understand
it. Underlining text does not require you to understand it. Moreover, briefing a case reduces the volume of
material so you can find what you need. Underlining does not accomplish this goal either.
You will complete a brief on the following case and submit it to the Dropbox no later than Sunday 11:59
PM EST/EDT of Module 8:
****Jakubowicz v. Dittemore, (W.D. MO.2006)*****
Every lawyer briefs cases differently. A case brief generally consists of a series of topic headings with the
specific information from the case under each heading. Most case briefs contain similar information but
the headings and their sequence may be different. Some professors have a preferred briefing format. You
are only required to follow the general format as set forth below.
The following is adapted from A Practical Guide to Legal Writing and Legal Method (Dernbach, et al.,
1. Case name: Include the full citation, including the date of the opinion, for future reference and
citation. An example would be as follows: State v. Holloran, 140 NH 563 (1995). Refer to Bluebook to
determine the correct name for the case.
2. Pincites: Include pinpoint cites (cites to a particular page in the case) throughout the case brief so
you can find material again quickly within a case.
3. Procedural History: What happened to the case before it arrived in this court? If it is an appellate
case, list the decisions made by the lower court(s) and note what decision is being reviewed (e.g.,
jury verdict, summary judgment). You may need to look up procedural phrases with which you are
4. Facts: Include only the facts that were relevant to the court’s decision. You are unlikely to know what
these are until you have read the entire opinion. Many cases may include procedural facts that are
relevant to the decision in addition to the facts that happened before litigation.
5. Issue: The particular question the court had to decide in this case. It usually includes specific facts as
well as a legal question. It may be expressed or implied in the decision. Cases may have more than
6. Holding/Decision: The legal answer to the issue. If the issue is clearly written, then the holding can
be expressed as “yes” or “no.” (Be careful not to confuse the holding with implicit reasoning. See # 8
7. Rule: The general legal principle(s) relevant to the particular factual situation presented in the case.
8. Reasoning: The logical steps the court takes to arrive at the holding. It can be straightforward and
obvious, or you may have to extrapolate it from the holding. Some reasoning is based on social
policy, which tells you why the holding is socially desirable. Understanding the reasoning behind a
decision is essential.
Additionally, considering the Saint Leo University core value of integrity, specifically comment on
whether voluntarily agreeing to submit to a non-mandatory drug test constitutes an opportunity to
demonstrate personal integrity or whether asserting the right to refuse to submit to a drug test might
also constitute a demonstration of integrity. Provide rationale for your position.
9. Disposition: A statement of what the court actually did in the case (affirmed, overruled, etc.)
10. Dissent/Concurrence: Although this part of the opinion is not considered law, it may help you better
understand some information about the legal reasoning in the case. Not all cases have a dissent or
concurrence, while some may have more than one.
11. Comments: Include your own responses to the case here. For example, does the reasoning make
sense? Is the holding consistent with other cases you have read? Is the case relevant to the question
you are trying to answer? This is a good place to note connections between the case you are briefing
and other cases you have read.
Sample Case Brief
Remember, most case briefs contain similar information but the headings and their sequence may be
different than what is outlined above. You should include in your brief all elements that you deem
necessary whether or not they are included in the sample below.
Luke Records, Inc. v. Navarro, 960 F.2d 134 (11th Cir. 1992)
Appealed from the trial court decision.
Luke Records, Inc., a recording label, held a contract with the musical group 2 Live Crew. This group
was well known in the genre of “Rap” music, which has repeatedly been accused of incorporating
“obscene” lyrics into the music. Obscene, in this sense, pertains only to the legal definition of
obscenity, not what any particular person or moral code may deem obscene. Luke Records, Inc. was
a Florida Corporation and Nick Navarro was the sheriff of Broward County at the time. The sheriff
obtained an ex-parte injunction (this means an injunction without both parties being present at the
initial hearing) granting the sheriff an injunction (a court order to “stop” doing a particular act). This
injunction was served on local record stores in an effort to have the music removed from Florida retail
sale. After the local Florida Circuit Court in Broward County issued the injunction, the decision was
appealed to the United States District Court for Southern Florida where the Court ordered the sheriff
to stop enforcing the injunction, but did, in fact, rule that the music was obscene, especially the song
“As Nasty As They Wanna Be.” The sheriff appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals,
11th Circuit, in Atlanta.
Is this music obscene under Florida state law and/or federal Constitution?
Obscenity must meet three part rule. Based on Supreme Court case Miller v. CA. All three parts must
(a) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that
the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct
specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
The burden of proof could be clear and convincing or preponderance of the evidence test: however,
at the time the sheriff was granted the music, he offered nothing into evidence except a tape of the
music played before the court. There was no additional evidence presented that showed an average
person applying contemporary community standards would find the song appealing only to a prurient
interest. Further, the sheriff failed to prove part (b) and (c) of the test as well simply because he made
no attempt to enter any other testimony or evidence into consideration before the court. The sheriff
failed to meet his burden, although it is well possible that had he submitted all evidence as required,
he could possibly have met the test.
Case really determined by the sheriff’s failure of proof. No discussion of nature of music. No
discussion of rule. No proper evidence submitted to the court.
To complete the assignment, you will need to first locate the case in the WestLaw database through the
Saint Leo University Online Library. Follow the steps below and contact the university library directly if you
have any technical difficulty (see the syllabus for contact info). Do not contact the eCollege Help Desk. If
you have access to a local law library, feel free to obtain copies of the assigned cases there instead.
1. Log on to the Saint Leo Portal at http://my.saintleo.edu.
2. Click Library at the top of My Saint Leo Home page.
3. Click Databases under FIND INFO.
4. A new browser window will open. Click WestLaw from the list of databases (you may need to scroll
down). Note: As long as you are logged on to My Saint Leo, you will not need to enter a separate
password for WestLaw. If you are not logged on to the portal, you will be prompted to logon (use your
portal UD and password).
5. Search for the case by entering the case name as your search terms. You can use any of the search
tools available, though the simplest may be “Find a document by title” under Shortcuts. This allows
you to enter the names of the parties in the case. For example, to search for Brown v. Board of
Education, you would type “Brown” in the first text box and “Board of Education” in the second text
6. Click Go after entering the names of the parties.
7. The case documentation will display once the search completes. If the search is unsuccessful, check
that you entered the names of the parties correctly. You are encouraged to print a copy of the case to
better assist you in completing the assignment.
Students will complete the assignment with attention to the following criteria:
Rating Scale Exemplary: Corresponds to an A- to A (90-100%)