Common Law Legal System Reading Cases & Finding/Citing Cases
By the End of This Lecture We Should Have a basic understanding of how to find and cite cases Be generally familiar with how cases can be broken down into parts Understand why breaking cases into parts is helpful Be aware that facts shape the issue the court must address, which in turn shapes the law Have the tools to start discussing how precedent is used
Legal Writing: The “Brief” and Its Various Forms Brief (UK) / Trial Brief (US) case file prepared by solicitor for barrister setting forth facts, evidence, strategy in the U.S. the lawyer might prepare something similar for himself to use at trial. Appellate Brief referred to as Skeleton Arguments in UK. sets forth legal arguments to be made on appeal. cites all relevant statutory and case law. Amicus Brief filed by interested third parties upon permission of the court, setting forth legal arguments for the court to consider.
Legal Writing: The “Brief” and Its Various Forms The Office Memo used by lawyers in the U.S. to predict the outcome of their clients case. sets forth all possible legal arguments. NOTE – the goal here is not to persuade, as is the case with the appellate brief, rather to analyze must cite all relevant statutory and case law. The Case Brief used by students and professionals to break down a case into parts. students use this for class discussion. professionals use this to assist with the aforementioned legal writings.
The Importance of Citation and Reading Skills One must understand the citation system in order to find cases and statutes. In most legal writing, correctly “citing” a case is required. this allows reader to find the case being discussed in the legal writing. Because case law is a primary source of law, one must understand how to find precedent, which involves reading prior cases and finding: legal issue, material facts, holding of the case and rationale.
The Parts 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
Typical Caption (U.S. - Westlaw) case citationParties headnotesSummary
Caption: Party Names (U.S.) Supreme Court of Kentucky. Gary VITALE, M.D., Appellant, v.Maurice HENCHEY, Administrator of the Estate of Helen Hite Sallee, Appellee.Nos. 1998–SC–1035–DG, 1998–SC–1077–DG. April 20, 2000. Rehearing Denied Aug. 24, 2000.
Caption: Why Different Party Labels? 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 California COMEDY 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”
Case Summary: Vitale v. HencheyAdministrator of estate filed complaint against three physicians alleging that onesurgeon, at the request of the other two physicians, performed surgeries onadministrators mother without administrators consent. The trial court directedverdict dismissing administrators complaint. On appeal, the Court of Appealsreversed and remanded the case for trial on the claim for battery. Physiciansappealed. The Supreme Court, Keller, J., held that: (1) Kentucky InformedConsent Statute did not require attorney-in-fact to prove that physiciansbreached applicable standard of care by substituting surgeon without hisconsent; (2) surgeons lack of intent to harm patient was no bar to action forbattery; (3) surgeon was not entitled to rely upon consents allegedly obtainedby other two physicians who had no independent capacity to consent tosurgeries; (4) whether patient endured conscious pain and suffering at timesafter her surgeries and before her death was issue for jury; and (5) patientsestate was entitled to recover for any conscious pain and suffering regardlessof fact that she may have endured same or similar pain and suffering ifsurgeries had been performed by authorized physicians.Affirmed and remanded.Cooper, J., dissented with separate opinion, in which Johnstone, J., joined.
Case Structure: Introduction Introduction might contain type of action Substantive - general legal claims Procedural – ruling on motion, after trial, etc. claims of the parties although this might also be found in the discussion section of the case Procedural History – what happened in the court(s) below. Issue(s) – the specific legal question(s) the court is being asked to decide. will often be shaped by the facts.
Introduction Example Vitale v. Henchey[after setting forth the facts, the court says] At the close ofHencheys proof, the trial court directed a verdict dismissing thecomplaint against the physicians based upon either of twogrounds: (1) Henchey had not shown that Dr. Vitales performanceof the surgeries without Hencheys consent violated acceptedstandards of medical care, or (2) Henchey had failed to showSallee endured conscious pain and suffering as a result of thesurgeries. Disagreeing with the trial court, the Court of Appealsheld that a physician who fails to obtain a patients consent tosurgery commits battery and that the evidence regarding Salleesconsciousness sufficiently presented a jury issue as to damagesfor pain and suffering. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversedand remanded the case for trial on the claim for battery. Thephysicians sought review by this Court. We agree with the Court ofAppeals and, therefore, affirm.
Type of Action: Example (Comedy III Case)A 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/Issues (Comedy III Case)The 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.
Case Structure: Discussion This part will likely be broken into parts depending upon how many issues are present. The discussion of each issue usually begins with the court setting forth sources of law: statutes, precedent (case law) The Court then applies the law to the material facts. Here you might also find the rationale (why the Court applied the rule the way they did). Finally, the Court makes a “holding” concerning the issue. this is where you MIGHT find PRECEDENT.
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).”
A Simple Illustration The very foundation, in my opinion, of every rule which has been applied to insurance law is this, namely, that the contract of insurance contained in a marine or fire policy is a contract of indemnity, and of indemnity only, and that this contract means that the insured, in case of a loss against which the policy has been made, shall be fully indemnified, but shall never be more than fully indemnified. Castellain v. Preston (1883)
Importance of the Holding Every Court Decision Must Contain: (1) Findings of material facts (2) Statements of principles of law applicable to the legal issues raised by the facts AND (3) A judgment (or judgments) based upon the application of the legal principles to the facts. The parties care about #3 Future parties in lower courts will care about #2 And this is the only part that is binding on future parties, the only part as researchers that we care about!
Reading With a Purpose Remember . . . we dont read cases just to read them. we read them for a purpose! We already have a legal question that needs to be answered. our goal is to answer our legal question. Thus . . . we only read cases that might answer our legal question. we only read the parts of each case that might answer our question. Remember . . . cases usually have multiple issues.
Finding “our” Narrow Issue Vitale v. Henchey Our Question – what kind of intent is necessary for a claim of battery? Use the headnotes to help you find the pertinent discussion. Pay attention to the claims made by the defendant regarding intent and how the Court addresses them. How might we construct “the” issue of the case to meet our purposes? NOTE – dont be satisfied with how the court frames the issue. It is narrower then that at least for our purposes!
Rationale & Result Rationale: Why did the court decide the way they did? What reasons did they use. This may include precedent (i.e. they ruled the way they did because they had to). Result: what was the disposition of the case Affirmed, Reversed, Modified, Remanded
The Case Brief Facts Procedural History Issue Rule Rationale Outcome Try to brief the Carbolic Smokeball Case for next session. (can be found on class website)
Finding & Citing 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) NOTE – this is the official Michigan Reports because “Mich” is part of the citation, we dont need to cite the court in parenthesis.COMPARE: People v Ferency, 133 Mich App 526 (1984) vs. Court People v Ferency, 351 NW2d 225 (Mi. App. 1984).
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?
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 Reports Thus, if one wishes to find the El Ajou case in Westlaw, one must use the citation  3 All ER 717 to find it. Here the year is part of the citation needed to find a case, whereas in the United States it is not. NOTE - Round brackets ( ) are used around the year in a legal citation when the series has consecutive volume numbers and the year is not essential for finding the case (similar to U.S.).
Neutral Citations NOTE: Judgment Number NOT page number!!!
Complete Citations for Reports with Available Neutral Citations Same idea as the “full citation” in the U.S. context