Case Summary Assignment

Case Summary Assignment

For this assignment, you will provide a case brief—along the lines of what you might produce for law school. Essentially, you will be laying out the facts of the case. There is an outline below to help describe the process. The outline is in bullet points, and you are welcome to use that sort of layout for this portion. Complete sentences are not necessary in this portion. The case brief should be about one (1) type-written page long, single-space at most.

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After you have briefed the case, then provide a short essay exploring the U.S. Constitutional Interpretation method in the case in question. The outline below includes the questions you need to answer in this portion. This part is more like writing a five-paragraph essay and should be about one-to-two (1-2) pages single-spaced.

∙ You may use outside sources for this assignment and can expect to use at least two beyond the case. Many sources are easily available online in law reviews. You may select which to use, just use the same method throughout the paper.

Case Brief

The case brief portion of this assignment should include:

∙ Title and Citation

o The title shows the plaintiff and defendant of the case.

o The citation of the case will tell you how to locate the case.

o For example: Marbury v. Madison, 5 US 137 (1803)

∙ Facts of the Case: This includes a written summary of the pertinent facts and legal points raised in the case. It will show how the case made its way to the Supreme Court. The facts are often conveniently summarized at the beginning of the court’s published opinion. Sometimes, the best statement of the facts will be found in a dissenting or concurring opinion. A good facts section will include:

o A one-sentence description of the nature of the case, to serve as an introduction. o A statement of the relevant law, with quotation marks or underlining to draw attention to the key words or phrases that are in dispute.

o A summary of the complaint (in a civil case) or the indictment (in a criminal case) plus relevant evidence and arguments presented in court to explain who did what to whom and why the case was thought to involve illegal conduct.

o A summary of actions taken by the lower courts, for example: defendant convicted; conviction upheld by appellate court; Supreme Court granted certiorari.

∙ Issues: The issues or questions of law raised by the facts peculiar to the case are often stated explicitly by the court. Constitutional cases frequently involve multiple issues, some of interest

only to litigants and lawyers, others of broader and enduring significant to citizens and officials alike. Be sure you have included both.

o When noting issues, it may help to phrase them in terms of questions that can be answered with a precise “yes” or “no.”

o For example, the famous case of Brown v. Board of Education involved the applicability of a provision of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to a school board’s practice of excluding black pupils from certain public schools solely due to their race. The precise wording of the Amendment is “no state shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The careful student would begin by identifying the key phrases from this amendment and deciding which of them were really at issue in this case. Assuming that there was no doubt that the school board was acting as the State, and that Miss Brown was a “person within its jurisdiction,” then the key issue would be “Does the exclusion of students from a public school solely on the basis of race amount to a denial of ‘equal protection of the laws’?”

∙ Decision: The decision, or holding, is the court’s answer to a question presented to it for answer by the parties involved or raised by the court itself in its own reading of the case. o If the issues have been drawn precisely, the holdings can be stated in simple “yes” or “no” answers or in short statements taken from the language used by the court. ∙ Reasoning: The reasoning, or rationale, is the chain of argument which led the judges in either a majority or a dissenting opinion to rule as they did. This should be outlined point by point in numbered sentences or paragraphs.

∙ Separate Opinions: Both concurring and dissenting opinions should be subjected to the same depth of analysis to bring out the major points of agreement or disagreement with the majority opinion. Make a note of how each justice voted and how they lined up.

Constitutional Interpretation Analysis

The final portion of the assignment relies on you to evaluate how the Constitution was interpreted and discuss the logic of the reasoning.

∙ Analysis: Here you should evaluate the significance of the case, its relationship to other cases, its place in American history, and what is shows about the Court, its members, its decision-making processes, or the impact it has on litigants, government, or society. Here is where you look at the implicit assumptions and values of the Justices should be probed, the “rightness” of the decision debated, and the logic of the reasoning considered.

o Focus on what method of Constitutional interpretation all of the justices

(majority/minority decisions) and how this method was used in the decision.

o Answer the question of if this decision overturns an earlier precedent because it is using a different method of interpretation.

o If there is a dissenting opinion, is that justice using a different method of Constitutional interpretation?

o Are there different types of interpretation that would have produced a different outcome in this case?

Which Case?

It is up to you to decide which case you want to analyze. Below are some cases that would be good to use for this assignment. There are plenty of other cases perfectly suitable for this assignment, and you are welcome to work on them. If you want to use a case not on this list and have questions, please reach out to me.

∙ Ex Parte McCardle (1869)

∙ Slaughter-House Cases (1873)

∙ Reynolds v. United States (1878)

∙ Schenck v. United States (1919)

∙ United States v. Carolene Products Co. (1938)

∙ Mapp v. Ohio (1961)

∙ Baker v. Carr (1962)

∙ Engel v. Vitale (1962)

∙ Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

∙ New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964)

∙ Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

∙ Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

∙ Loving v. Virginia (1967)

∙ Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

∙ U.S. v. Nixon (1974)

∙ Kelo v. New London (1984)

∙ Texas v. Johnson (1989)

∙ Employment Division v. Smith (1990)

∙ United States v. Lopez (1995)

∙ Bush v. Gore (2000)

∙ Lawrence v. Texas (2003)

∙ United States v. Windsor (2013)

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