Students are required to read a number of legal decisions for this class.  For those students who are not familiar with reading case law, the following is a list of items that they should look for when briefing (or summarizing) a case. 

parties involved

-who commenced the action? (known as the plaintiff)

-who defended the action? (known as the defendant)

-who appealed the earlier decision? (known as the appellant)

-who responded to the appeal? (known as the respondent)

-are there any interveners? (also known as the friends of the court)

-in a criminal matter, who is the accused?


-what events occurred before this matter became a legal dispute?

history of the case

- how did the case proceed through the courts?

-how did the case proceed through the courts?

-what did the trial court decide?

-who appealed the decision?

-what did the appellate court decide?


-what are the legal issues the court was asked to deal with?

remedy sought

-what do each of the parties want?


-how was each of the legal issues decided?

-how many judges supported the decision (majority opinion)?

-how many judges dissented (minority opinion)?

reasons for the decision

-what was the reasoning of the court to support its for the judgment?

-what was the reasoning adopted by the dissenting judges?

-did the plaintiff get the remedy he or she sought?

ratio decidendi

-what was the precedent established by the decision?

-what are the legal principles established by the court which ought to bind a future court?


-what comments were made that were not part of the ratio of the case, but may have important implications for future courts

-what are the implications of the decision for the political system

-what are the implications of the decision for society