Common Law Legal System Reading a Case &Introduction to Research
US: Elements of a Case CAPTION TYPE OF ACTION STATEMENT OF FACTS PROCEDURAL HISTORY CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES ISSUE(S) HOLDING/RULE(S) OF THE CASE RATIONALE RESULT
Caption: Trial Court, Federal United States District Court, D. New Jersey. ESTATE of Elvis PRESLEY, Plaintiff, v. Rob RUSSEN, d/b/a The Big El Show, Defendant. Civ. A. No. 80-0951. 513 F.Supp. 1339 April 16, 1981.---------------------BROTMAN, District Judge.
Caption: Appeals Court, State Supreme Court of CaliforniaCOMEDY III PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. GARY SADERUP, INC., et al., Defendants and NOTICE Appellants. No. S076061. April 30, 2001. Some appellate decision will report both current status, e.g. “Respondents,” as well as status in trial court, e.g. “Plaintiff”
Reading CasesA Quick Word About Case Citations in the United States
Typical U.S. Citation Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) Page NumberName of the Parties Name of the Parties Year Report Name Volume U.S. = United States Reports
U.S. Supreme Court Cases Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510 (1965). U.S. = U.S. Reports Official government reporter S.Ct. = Supreme Court Reporter West Publishing L.E.2d = United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers Edition Lexis/Nexis
Federal Appeal Court Cases United States court of appeals cases are published in the Federal Reporter (F., F.2d, or F.3d). Published by West No “official” reporter Smith v. Jones, 3 F.3d 111 (3d Cir. 1993) Name of Parties Volume Page Court Year Reporter Name
Federal District Court Cases United States district court cases and cases from some specialized courts are published in the Federal Supplement (F. Supp. or F. Supp. 2d). Smith v. Jones, 25 F. Supp. 2d, 444 (M.D. Ala. 2002) Parties volume reporter page court year
State Decisions Published in several places Many states have their own “official” reporters. West publishes “unofficial” reporters that are grouped by region: North Eastern Reporter, Atlantic Reporter, South Eastern Reporter, Southern Reporter, South Western Reporter, North Western Reporter, Pacific Reporter NOTE – NY, Cal, and Ill also have West reporter.
State v. Regional Reporter City of Troy v Ohlinger, 438 Mich 477 (1991) People v Ferency, 133 Mich App 526 (1984) or Court People v Ferency, 351 NW2d 225 (Mich. 1984). Parties Volume Reporter Page Year
The Full Citation People v Ferency, 133 Mich App 526; 351 NW2d 225 (1984). NOTE: the state reporters can easily be identified because they use an abbreviation related to the state itself: N.Y., Mich, Calif, Ill Many state court rules require both the official and “unofficial” citations for cases.
Examples Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co., 248 N.Y. 339 (1928) Glassroth v. Moore, 229 F. Supp. 2d 1290 (M.D. Ala. 2002) Geary v. Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Sch., 7 F.3d 324 (3d Cir. 1993) Jackson v. Commonwealth, 583 S.E.2d 780 (Va. Ct. App. 2003) State or Federal court? Specifically, what court?
Pinpoint Citations Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 158 (1973). What is this number?
Type of Action Usually found at the very beginning of the opinion. Although some opinions might begin with the facts. Purpose: explain what the general substantive and/or procedural issues are in the case. Procedural – the kind of relief the moving party is requesting. Substantive – the legal issues raised by the parties that will determine who wins the case.
Type of Action ExampleAs a general proposition, this case is concerned with the rights andlimitations of one who promotes and presents a theatrical productiondesigned to imitate or simulate a stage performance of Elvis Presley.This action is currently before the court on a motion by plaintiff, theEstate of Elvis Presley, for a preliminary injunction. It seeks apreliminary injunction restraining defendant, Rob Russen, d/b/a THEBIG EL SHOW (hereafter Russen), or anyone acting or purporting toact in his or its behalf or in collaboration with it from using the nameand service mark THE BIG EL SHOW and design, the image orlikeness or persona of Elvis Presley or any equivalent, the namesElvis, Elvis Presley, Elvis in Concert, The King, and TCB or anyequivalent or similar names on any goods, in any promotionalmaterials, in any advertising or in connection with the offering orrendering of any musical services.
Type of Action: ExampleA California statute grants the right of publicity tospecified successors in interest of deceased celebrities,prohibiting any other person from using a celebritysname, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness forcommercial purposes without the consent of suchsuccessors. (Former Civ.Code, § 990.) FN1 The UnitedStates Constitution prohibits the states from abridging,among other fundamental rights, freedom of speech.(U.S. Const., 1st and 14th Amends.) In the case at barwe resolve a conflict between these two provisions.
Procedural History/IssuesThe parties waived the right to jury trial and the right to put on evidence,and submitted the case for decision on the following stipulated facts:(the court then sets forth the facts) ********On these stipulated facts the court found for Comedy III and enteredjudgment against Saderup awarding damages of $75,000 and attorney’sfees of $150,000 plus costs. The court also issued a permanentinjunction . . . . ********The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment . . . upholding the award ofdamages, attorney fees, and costs. In so doing, it rejected Saderup’scontentions that his conduct (1) did not violate the terms of the statute,and (2) in any event was protected by the constitutional guaranty offreedom of speech.We granted review to address these two issues.
Reading CasesHow it is done in England: Reading Cases, Citations
“Caption” Coca-Cola Financial Corporation v Finsat International Ltd. and Others Court of Appeal Court L.JJ. Neill, Morritt, and HutchisonParties 1996 April 17, 18; 25 Date of Judgment Judges NOTE: L.JJ. = Lord JusticesParties
Catchwords words identifying legal issues addressed in the case. Practice—Set—off—Contract—Loan agreement and guarantee containing term excluding right of set —off—Demand for repayment under loan agreement and guarantee—No payment received —Plaintiff suing for amount due—Defendants claiming to set—off counterclaim—Whether term excluding set—off enforceable—Whether plaintiff entitled to summary judgment— Supreme Court Act 1981 (c. 54), s. 49(2)
HeadnotesIn 1987 the plaintiff lent the first defendant U.S.$5m. under a loan agreement guaranteed by the secondto eighth defendants. By the guarantee all the defendants agreed to make payment of all sums dueunder the loan agreement on written demand by the plaintiff. The guarantee further providedthat the guarantors would be liable as primary obligors, and that article 5.7 of the loan agreement should . . . .On the appeal:- Held,.dismissing the appeal, that the parties to a contract were not prevented by section 49(2)of the Supreme Court Act 1981 or any ground of public policy from including in it a term excluding the rightof set-off; that, in the circumstances, the defendants had no arguable counterclaim against the plaintiff,and even if they had, they were prevented by article 5.7 of the loan agreement . . . . Headnote, summarising the is- Headnote sues, and, after Held, summaris- ing the judgment
Citations Used in the Case Name of the lower court judge – NOTE – J. is for “judge”
SummaryBy writ dated 26 April 1994 the plaintiff, Coca-Cola Financial Corporation, claimed against the defendants, Finsat InternationalLtd. (formerly known as Satra International Ltd.), Satra Ltd., Satra Holdings Ltd., Satra Trading Ltd., Permalite Ltd., IONDeposition Ltd., U.S. Chrome Corporation and Lada Cars (Cayman) Ltd. the sum of U.S.$5m. and interest due under a loanagreement dated 19 October 1987 and a guarantee dated 15 October 1987 made in anticipation of the loan agreement. On 21October 1995 the judge gave summary judgment, under R.S.C., Ord. 14 , for the plaintiff in the sum of $5m. and interest of$996,234·49 against each of the defendants.By notice of appeal dated 9 February 1995 the defendants appealed on the grounds, inter alia, that (1)(a) the judge erred in failingto find that the defendants had an arguable ground of defence to the plaintiffs action; (b) he found or proceeded on the basis thatthe defendants had arguable substantial claims against the Coca-Cola Co. for sums exceeding by some millions of dollars theplaintiffs claim in the action, all concerning the Coca-Cola Co.s products and activities in the Soviet Union . . . .The facts are set out in the judgment of Neill L.J. A summary of the pleading & facts may be given NOTE: the drafter of the report is telling the reader to look for more facts in the opinion by Lord Justice Neill
Counsel Arguments Names of Counsel; the Law Reports also give their argumentMichael Beloff Q.C. and Timothy Wormington for the defendants. A party to court proceedings cannot waive or contractout of the right given to him by law to set off one debt or claim against another: Taylor v. Okey (1806) 13 Ves. 180 andLechmere v. Hawkins (1798) 2 Esp. 626 . Accordingly, . . .Kenneth Rokison Q.C. and Michael Pooles for the plaintiff. There is no principle of law which renders a provision suchas article 5.7 invalid or unenforceable: see Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation v. Kloeckner & Co. A.G. 2 Q.B. 514 . . . .
Decisions by the Judges Curia advisari vult is a Latin legal term meaning "the court wishes to consider the matter" The date the decisions were made publicCur. adv. vult.25 April. The following judgments were handed downNeill L.J. Opinion of Lord Justice Neill The plaintiff in these proceedings is Coca-Cola Financial Corporation ("C.C.F.C."). By an agreement in writing dated 19October 1987 ("the loan agreement") C.C.F.C. agreed to lend to the first defendant, Finsat International Ltd. ("Finsat")(then known as Satra International Ltd.), a sum not exceeding U.S.$5m. . . .I would dismiss the appeal Ends by clearly stating the outcome
The Opinions Morritt L.J. The opinion of Lord Justice Morritt I agree. Hutchison L.J. I also agree The opinion of Lord Justice HutchisonNOTE: If judges may agree with the outcome but give a differentreason OR disagree with the outcome and file a “dissenting” opinion.
Subsequent ActionsOne must petition the House of Lords (now Supreme Court)to hear an appeal from the Court of Appeal. This petitionwas denied.Petition: 25 July. The Appeal Committee of the House of Lords (Lord Browne-Wilkinson, LordMustill and Lord Hoffmann) dismissed a petition by the defendant for leave to appeal.
How To Cite Law ReportsRound brackets ( ) are used around the year in a legal citation when theseries has consecutive volume numbers and the year is not essential forfinding the case.Square brackets [ ] are used where the series has no consecutive volumenumbers and the year is essential for finding the correct volume.
Neutral Citations NOTE: Judgment Number NOT page number!!!
Complete Citations for Reports with Available Neutral Citations
The Meaning of Precedent Generally “precedent” literally means something that has happened before In ordinary English, “precedent” has come to mean an event which defines a standard “Unprecedented” is something that is uncommon or well beyond standard. “Spam levels run to unprecedented heights” recent headline from PC Magazine
Precedent The legal principle or rule created by a court which guides judges in subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. Sometimes called Authority To serve as precedent for a pending case, a prior decision must have a similar question of law and factual situation.
Holding Ratio decidendi is a Latin phrase meaning "the reason for the decision". Also known as rule(s) or holding(s). Characteristics: Rules necessary for final decision Rule without which decision would be different Rules grounded in specific facts Theory used to make decision based on specific facts.
How Do I Find the Holding? Look for the rule(s) of law used by the court to come to its decision(s). The rule must be necessary for the decision. the result would have been different but for the rule. In the end, there is no real “rule” for finding the rule. It takes practice and knowledge.
What is Dictum? Latin for "remark," a comment by a judge in a decision or ruling which is not required to reach the decision, but may state a related legal principle. Has no value as precedent. Often hear “it is only dictum (dicta).”
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