Olt v. State, 2006 Tenn. Crim. App. Lexis 107 (2006), 251
Need to Case Brief the above stated case. A well-prepared brief presents the elements of the case in a usable form and allows one to reacquaint ones self with the case without returning to the full Court opinion. These purposes are accomplished, in part, by following a standard, uniform format in writing briefs. All briefs must contain the following eight sections (or seven, if there are no concurring and/or dissenting opinions), in the order listed here:
1. The case CITATION
2. The FACTS of the case
3. The ISSUE or issues
4. A summary of the REASONING in the majority opinion
5. The DECISION
6. The RULE of the case
7. A summary of CONCURRING AND/OR DISSENTING OPINIONS, if any, and
8. The STUDENTS NOTE AND COMMENTS on the case (this portion is
The citation consists of the name of the case, appropriate references to the place where it is published and the date. Thus, Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137 (1803), or Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186; 82 S. Ct. 691; 7 L. Ed. 2d 663 (1962) constitutes a correct citation.
Every case arises out of some specific concrete situation–an actual controversy. These facts are usually provided early in the Courts majority opinion; but, sometimes the salient facts in the case are scattered throughout the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions. Sometimes they will be laid out for you; other times, you will have to dig for them. In a brief, one does not need to recount the whole story surrounding the case; rather, a brief should only include material facts. Material facts are those facts which if they had been different might have caused the case to be decided another way. This means that one cannot write the FACTS section of the brief without first understanding what the Court decided and why. The law, as it is interpreted and applied in the case, determines what facts are important or material. This section of the brief should summarize the material facts so that when a similar case arises, one could easily compare the facts in the two cases to see if the precedent set in the briefed case would apply.
This portion of the brief is a statement of the legal question decided by the Court in the case. The focus is on the broad legal/constitutional issue decided by the case rather
than on the resolution of the specific controversy between the plaintiff and the defendant The ISSUE should be framed as a single-sentence question and should
include (1) a statement of the government action that is being challenged and (2) the specific provision of the constitution claimed to be violated by the challenged government action. It is not useful to refer to the government action being challenged simply by naming a statute; rather, it will be more helpful to briefly state what the statute does.
This section is a summary of the majoritys reasoning in the case, condensed into a workable and recallable form. It should always begin with the name of the majority opinion writer. What one wants in this portion of the brief is the basic argument of the court–the major premises and lines of reasoning used by the Court, and the conclusions of the
Court on the issues raised. In other words, why did the Court accept one line of reasoning and reject others? How did the Courts reasoning lead to the result? The goal is to analyze the case so that the extraneous materials-those materials that are not absolutely fundamental to an understanding of the case-are left out while those points that are basic and essential to an understanding of how the Court justifies its decision are included.
This portion of the brief tells the reader what the Court decided in terms of the disposition of the specific case before it. It usually consists of one word or phrase: Affirmed,Reversed,or something along the lines of Reversed (or vacated) and remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.Usually, though not always, the Court opinion itself will end with such a word or phrase, sometimes printed in italics. Affirmedmeans that the lower courts decision stands and that the petitioner/appellant has lost. Reversedmeans that the lower courts decision is overturned and that the petitioner/appellant has won. Reversed and remandedmeans that the Supreme Court is reversing the lower courts specific ruling, but it is sending the case back to the lower court so that the lower court can re-decide the case in light of the guidance provided in the Supreme Courts opinion. Vacated and remandedmeans basically
the same thing except that technically the lower courts decision has been set aside as void rather than overturned.
DISSENTING AND/OR CONCURRING OPINIONS (IF ANY)
In addition to the opinion of the Court, the reasoning of the Justices writing concurring and/or dissenting opinions must be condensed and summarized. Each concurring and/or dissenting opinion should begin with the authoring Justices name.
STUDENTS NOTES AND COMMENTS ON THE CASE
This may be the second most important section of a brief. It is here that you should present your own views on the case, raise any questions about the Courts reasoning, and place the case in a historical, political, and doctrinal context.