Practice Exercise – Repositories of Case law

A. Nominative Reports. Using early volumes of the United States Reports, give the official U.S. volume number citation for each of the following: (a) 1 Cranch; (b) 7 Wheaton. B. United States Reports – Parallel Citations; Using either the print parallel citations tables accompanying the West’s Supreme Court Reporter or the United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers’ Edition, OR Westlaw/Lexis, find the parallel citations for both…

Finding cases by party names

You will never be able to find a case by party names, unless you know some more information about it, such as its jurisdiction or the year it was decided. However, the steps are as easy as the process is unlikely to bring you case you need fast. But, if you need to find a…

Separate (Dissenting) Opinions

In Brown, there are no separate opinions; which means there was no majority but a unanimity of votes behind the holding that segregation cannot equate equality. Chief Justice Warren delivered the unanimous decision of the Court. Of course, sometimes you may read a case without needing to focus on all of the aspects mentioned above. Keep…

Exercises on how to search /use digital databases

Finding cases on a specific topic limited by jurisdiction. The steps to find cases on a specific topic vary with the degree of knowledge the researcher has about the topic. Both Lexis and Westlaw offer intuitive ways to start with an area of practice or a topic identified by a “key number.” More recently, both…

Reasoning (or Dicta)

If the holding usually takes a few lines, aside from the summary of the facts, the reasoning makes up the largest party of any opinion. Reasoning consists of the reasons a judge used in reaching their holding, in deciding the particular controversy in a certain way. In the example provided by Brown, you would have…

Legal Issue(s)

The legal issues are the questions of law that the court is asked to decide. In Brown, the court was asked to find whether segregated public schools violated the plaintiffs’ their 14th Amendment rights. Sometime, like in Brown, the court labels the legal issue as such: The plaintiffs contend that segregated public schools are not…

Holding(s) or Decision(s)

The holding is usually described as the answer the court gives to the legal issues it analyzed in the opinion. For example, in Brown the legal issue is: Legal Issue: Did the Court find that segregated public education violate the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights? Then, the holding becomes the answer to that question. Holding: Yes.…

The Heading

Each opinion has a title. It is usually identified by the reporter where it is reported. For example, Brown v. Board of Education (I) is the title of the Supreme Court case that covered ten appeals, one of which being the Kansas case against the Board of Education of Topeka. In the Kansas case, Brown v. Board…

Procedural History

Summarizing the procedural record of the case, such as the decisions rendered by the lower court or courts, helps you understand the authority of the opinion you are reading. It streamlines your analysis and thus understanding. Additionally, it helps you focus on the issues raised on appeal. In the example used here the procedural history…

Facts

The facts – or the fact pattern of the case — will help you understand the case. The facts are the elements of the dispute that each case needs to address and then solve when it decides the legal question the facts support. For example, in each of the cases combined under the heading Brown v.…