Assignment B: Legal Brief University of Regina Educational Administration 310
Due Date: February 24, 2009
Means of Submission: Electronically to email@example.com or in paper form during class
Format: APA style, 5 pages
Case briefs are documents prepared by students as a study aid when trying to capture the essence
and importance of court decisions. A case brief summarizes a court decision by outlining, at a
minimum, the facts of the case, the legal issues raised, and the rationale for the court’s decision.
The underlying purpose of a legal brief is to incisively cut to the essentials. It therefore develops
skills in identifying, clearly stating and succinctly summarizing issues—skills which are
important for professionals in their workplace.
Generally, a legal brief will have five sections:
PART I: Summary of the facts.
Include answers to the questions: Who, What, When, Why and Where about the issue. You
should also indicate the location and name of the court and the date in which the decision was
rendered, and the names of the plaintiffs and the defendant(s).
In one or two paragraphs, provide a concise summary of the incident that brought the case before
the court. This will include a description of the crime or complaint and the circumstances causing
the original issue. This is actually one of the more difficult parts of the brief since it requires you
to clearly identify and concisely state only that information needed to understand the case. The
legal record itself usually includes a lot more information than is needed for your brief.
The issues being addressed in the case (see the following section) will help you determine what
facts are especially important for your brief.
Note that the case name will typically show two parties. In a criminal case the first party is
invariably the government (probably The Queen versus…and the second party is the defendant)
However, a case before an appellate court may result in a switch when a defendant (now the
appellant or petitioner) seeks action against the Crown (now the appellee or respondent).
PART II: Summary of the legal issues.
Phrase, in your own words, the legal question the court has tried to answer in this case. State the
issue as a question (e.g., “Can a police officer. . .?”). Sometimes the issue is made very clear in
the opinion (e.g., “This case presents the question. . .”, “The issue in this case is . . .”) but in
others, it is not quite so “in your face.” Even when the issue is blatantly presented in the opinion,
you should still phrase it in your own words, for several reasons. First, court opinions often
address several legal issues. Second, court opinions are often long, wordy, and filled with
unfamiliar terms. As a result, putting the issue in your own words will help you understand it
PART III: Description of the claimants and their position
Describe the background of the claimant(s), petitioner or sometimes the defendant by giving a
brief background about them and their position. Describe why they think they have a claim (their
argument). This section may be several paragraphs long. Their position often includes preceding
cases that they believe establish legal rules or points relevant to their argument.
PART IV: The court’s decision.
How has this court resolved the issue? What was the outcome? What action did the court take?
Explain the court’s decision on one or two sentences, focusing instead on the reasons for the
decision (rations decidendi) and describing other comments that may not be central to the
decision but nevertheless relevant (obiter dicta).
Why did the court reach the decision it did? What arguments justify the decision? Because judges
often write many pages when justifying and explaining their decisions, this can be a difficult
section for students to write. In their reasoning, courts will often point to the preceding cases that
set out legal rules or precedents that may be the same or different than those of the complainants
(plaintiffs). The doctrine of stare decisis requires judges to align their decision with legal
principles established in previously decided cases. As a result, court opinions take considerable
space to show how the current decision is consistent with the established principles. Your job is
to state, as succinctly as possible, the rationale provided by the court’s majority decision.
PART V: Your opinions on the case
Provide your own views on the arguments made and of the court’s decision, explaining its
pertinence for this course. This section should be several paragraphs long, and might keep the
following questions in mind:
1. What familiar situations in Saskatchewan schools would this case apply to?
2. What important principles are set out in this case that might serve as guidelines for
teachers or individuals when in schools?
3. What are the implications for my conduct when teaching or interacting with students,
parents, administrators and/or officials outside the school?
4. In what ways does the case seem to overlook important aspects of schooling?
R UBRIC F OR E VALUATING L EGAL B RIEFS
4 3 2 1
Positions and arguments Positions and arguments Positions and arguments Unclear & disjointed
Accuracy of Content
succinctly but thoroughly clearly but not concisely outlined but not precisely nor presentation of legal
developed described in some ways thoroughly set out positions and arguments
Relevant details supported Relevant details supported Lack of relevant supporting Absence of critical insight
by well-chosen, pertinent by pertinent quotes in most details from the case into pertinent or central
quotes from the case areas positions and arguments in
the legal case
Integration of ideas Integration of ideas through Ideas summarized
through analysis, analysis, synthesis, or without analysis, synthesis, Ideas summarized without
synthesis, or evaluation as evaluation in most areas or evaluation in some areas analysis, synthesis, or
Clearly stated focus on General purpose clear but Unclear purpose in some Missing or unclear purpose
central purpose of the case may be implied areas
Succinct introduction that General introduction that Introduction may not be Absence of introduction to
skillfully addresses covers the overall case concise or fully relate to the case or one that does not
purpose, audience, & cases’ basic relevance tie it to course
Conclusion that sparks Conclusion provides closure Conclusion may only Missing or irrelevant
insight, reflection, or and does more than summarize opinions but does concluding section which
action summarize not apply to Saskatchewan describes case’s applicability
context to Saskatchewan context
Clear sense of audience General sense of audience Unclear sense of audience in No sense of audience
Maintains personal voice; Consistent personal voice Inconsistent personal voice Inconsistent personal voice
Adopts appropriate tone, with appropriate tone, level and/or inappropriate tone, and/or inappropriate tone,
level of formality, & style of formality, & style in most level of formality, & style in level of formality, & style in
areas some areas several areas
Clear, concise, accurate Use of accurate and succinct Uses more words than Inaccurate, imprecise or
description of legal case words in most areas necessary to summarize the unclear wording in several
essentials text. areas
Sentence structure Sentence structure varied and Sentence structure lacking Incorrect or awkward
effective and varied effective in most areas variety and effectiveness in sentence structure so that it
some areas interferes with the clarity of
Appropriate grammar & Minor errors of grammar & Grammar & mechanical Errors of grammar &
mechanics & proofreading mechanics that are not errors may at times distract or mechanics interfere with the
necessarily distracting or confuse the reader clarity of ideas
confusing to the reader
Correct citation & Citation & documentation Citation & documentation Extensive and major
documentation with only minor errors with frequent minor errors citations & documentation
or occasional major errors errors