Caption: Court, Names of Parties, Citation, Date, Author of opinion, etc. Type of Action: Usually the opinion says what type of action it is. It may appear before the facts or after. Usually involves the law of the case Constitution, statute, common law, etc. Facts : Every opinion contains a summary of the facts Procedural History: If the opinion is from an appellate court, then it will tell where the case was before it got to the appellate court and how the lower court(s) ruled. Contentions of the Parties : This is not always easy to find, however it is sometimes obvious. It may be part of the facts or part of the discussion concerning the type of action. Issue(s) : Usually, the court will specifically say what the issue is by saying something like, “at issue in the case” “the issue to be decided in this case” “the question in this case” There can be multiple issues which would mean multiple contentions and types of action HOLDING: the core legal principle that the case represents. It is the conclusion that the case stands for, the court’s resolution of the key legal dispute that it faced. At the opposite end of the spectrum from the holding is DICTA 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 NOTE: there can be concurring and dissenting opinions.
There is an enormous amount of information in the caption of a case: The name of the court Why is the name of the court important? Tells you state or federal Tells you at what level the case was heard. The name and litigation status of the parties What do we mean by litigation status? Trial Court = Plaintiff, Defendant Appellate Court = appellant, appellee, or Petitioner and Repondent The date of the decision
What does this language tell us? The case concerns the unauthorized use of the name Elvis Presley The Plaintiffs, Elvis' estate, are trying to stop the use. The case if before the court on a motion for preliminary injunction Preliminary Injunction - court order made in the early stages of a lawsuit or petition which prohibits the parties from doing an act which is in dispute, thereby maintaining the status quo until there is a final judgment after trial.
The procedural history is commonly set forth as part of the facts, although sometimes it is set forth separately before or after the facts. There is no hard and fast rule to this. All decisions published by West's will have a summary of the case and headnotes (we will discuss this later) Sometimes the court states this issue this clearly. Sometimes it does not.
Generally - Judges typically have to make difficult and/or important decisions, impacting on the lives of the parties - natural to consider views of other judges and to see what others have thought on same/similar issues As a practical matter: When a court is faced with a legal question, one of the first points it considers is whether it has addressed a similar issue in the past. If so, the court will usually follow one of two paths: It will either adhere to the prior decision and apply it to the current dispute or distinguish the two cases and adopt a new rule. The court will rarely overrule the earlier decision, and then only if there are exceptional reasons for doing so. This practice of deciding cases by reference and adherence to the past is one of the defining characteristics of Anglo-American jurisprudence.
Ratio decidendi is a Latin phrase meaning &quot;the reason for the decision&quot;. the legal principles used by a court to compose the rationale of a particular judgment. Also known as rule(s) or holding(s). potentially binding precedent, through the principle of stare decisis. Thus, it is both: reason used by court to come particular decision rule that is binding on other courts Unique Proposition of Law - A unique proposition of law without which the case must have been decided otherwise.
Rules Necessary - Judicial decisions almost invariably have written justifications containing propositions of law that judges purport to apply to resolve the issues before them. BUT not every part of a written justification is authoritative. written decisions frequently contain language unnecessary for the resolution of the issues before the court. This unnecessary language is NOT part of the ratio decidendi of the case. Test A widely accepted test for determining whether a given proposition is the ratio of a precedent was proposed by Eugene Wambaugh if the deciding court could have believed the opposite of the proposition without changing the outcome of the case the proposition is dictum rather than ratio.
Although numerous legal scholars have emphasized that speci c facts are essential to any model of ratio decidendi, specific facts are not alone sufficient to represent ratio.
07 reading cases
Common Law Legal System Reading a Case & Introduction to Research
Caption 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.
A Quick Word About Case Citations Reading Cases
State v. Regional Reporter <ul><li>City of Troy v Ohlinger, 438 Mich 477 (1991)
People v Ferency, 133 Mich App 526 (1984) </li></ul>or <ul><li>People v Ferency, 351 NW2d 225 (Mich. 1984). </li></ul>Parties Volume Reporter Page Year Court
The Full Citation <ul><li>People v Ferency, 133 Mich App 526; 351 NW2d 225 (1984).
NOTE: </li><ul><li>the state reporters can easily be identified because they use an abbreviation related to the state itself: </li><ul><li>N.Y., Mich, Calif, Ill </li></ul><li>Many state court rules require both the official and “unofficial” citations for cases. </li></ul></ul>
Examples <ul><li>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) </li><ul><li>State or Federal court?
Pinpoint Citations <ul><li>Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 158 (1973). </li></ul>What is this number?
Type of Action As a general proposition, this case is concerned with the rights and limitations of one who promotes and presents a theatrical production designed to imitate or simulate a stage performance of Elvis Presley. This action is currently before the court on a motion by plaintiff, the Estate of Elvis Presley, for a preliminary injunction . It seeks a preliminary injunction restraining defendant, Rob Russen, d/b/a THE BIG EL SHOW (hereafter Russen), or anyone acting or purporting to act in his or its behalf or in collaboration with it from using the name and service mark THE BIG EL SHOW and design, the image or likeness or persona of Elvis Presley or any equivalent, the names Elvis, Elvis Presley, Elvis in Concert, The King, and TCB or any equivalent or similar names on any goods, in any promotional materials, in any advertising or in connection with the offering or rendering of any musical services.
Procedural History/Issues 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 entered judgment against Saderup awarding damages of $75,000 and attorney’s fees of $150,000 plus costs. The court also issued a permanent injunction . . . . ******** The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment . . . upholding the award of damages, attorney fees, and costs. In so doing, it rejected Saderup’s contentions that his conduct (1) did not violate the terms of the statute, and (2) in any event was protected by the constitutional guaranty of freedom of speech. We granted review to address these two issues .
The Meaning of Precedent Generally <ul><li>“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. </li><ul><li>“Spam levels run to unprecedented heights” </li><ul><li>recent headline from PC Magazine </li></ul></ul></ul>
Precedent <ul><li>The legal principle or rule created by a court which guides judges in subsequent cases with similar issues or facts.
To serve as precedent for a pending case, a prior decision must have a similar question of law and factual situation. </li></ul>
Holding <ul><li>Ratio decidendi is a Latin phrase meaning "the reason for the decision". </li><ul><li>Also known as rule(s) or holding(s). </li></ul><li>Characteristics: </li><ul><li>Rules necessary for final decision
Rule without which decision would be different
Theory used to make decision based on specific facts. </li></ul></ul>
Rules Necessary for Decision <ul><li>The ratio of a precedent consists of propositions of law in the opinion that are necessary to the decision.
This must be distinguished from dicta . </li></ul>
Contain Theory <ul><li>Facts alone don't lead to a legal conclusion.
Courts use rationales and theories to come to legal conclusion.
These rationales and theories are needed to determine what facts the case was grounded in. </li></ul>
How Do I Find the Holding? <ul><li>Look for the rule(s) of law used by the court to come to it's decision(s).
The rule must be necessary for the decision. </li><ul><li>the result would have been different but for the rule. </li></ul><li>In the end, there is no real “rule” for finding the rule. It takes practice and knowledge. </li></ul>
Case Synthesis <ul><li>It is more common that a decision of a court is made by looking at many rules from other court decisions. </li><ul><li>Apply facts of case at hand to these rules.
Come up with revised rule. </li></ul><li>We will talk more about this in the near future. </li></ul>
What is Dictum? <ul><li>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.