Case Brief #1 Assignment
Moses v. Providence Hospital Medical Centers, Inc.,
561 F.3d 573 (6th Cir. 2009) (page 370 in textbook)
Due Date: March 3, 2018 @ 11:59 PM
Your first assignment in this course was to identify the most important
components of a case – the issue, rule, application, and conclusion. Those components
become more useful when they are re-combined in a practical format: The case brief.
Case briefing is a long-used method of studying law. Its purpose is to have
students identify the rules of law found in court cases and analyze how courts apply
these rules of law to the facts of a case in an objective and rational manner. Case
briefing hones analytic skills and heightens understanding of the role of courts in
defining, interpreting, and applying law. This document explains one way to brief
cases. There is no single standard for case briefing, but the structure below is common
and should be used for this assignment.
PURPOSES OF A BRIEF
1. Establishes a useful means of bringing the facts of a case back to memory in a
short time, for whatever purpose, including classroom discussion.
2. Allows you to extract from a judicial decision its future value as precedent. In
other words, it helps you find the principles of law that the case sets forth.
3. Allows for easier and smoother review of an area of law. Each brief takes a
complex and long document (the case) and reduces it to its key facts, holding,
and rationale (the brief). A collection of briefs can provide a comprehensive
summary of an area of law.
Your assignment is to create a case brief for Moses v. Providence Hospital
Medical Centers, Inc., 561 F.3d 573 (6th Cir. 2009). Your brief should follow the
template below. The grading rubric is attached for your information.
It is an important element of this assignment that your work shows a level of
professionalism. You are free to choose section should include a header indicating
which subject it addresses. Your submission should be a .pdf, .doc, or .docx document.
It should be double spaced and have 1-inch margins.
Your brief should be in 12-point font and should conform to the Seventh Circuit
Court of Appeals’ “Requirements and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other
Papers.” Those rules are the most comprehensive of any federal court guidelines on
typography. The most important rule to draw from those guidelines is that Times
New Roman is not a good font for reading long documents and that fonts designed for
books are superior. The Seventh Circuits’ guidelines suggest other acceptable fonts,
but I would recommend that you use either Century (the preferred font of the
Supreme Court of the United States) or Century Schoolbook (the font used in this
Please take your time in producing the case brief. The responses I received to
the first homework were generally of poor quality and were graded for effort rather
than accuracy. Do not assume that because you received a satisfactory grade on the
first homework that this assignment will be easy.
Be sure to do your own work. Students who used Google on their first
homework were frequently obvious and produced some of the lowest quality
responses. What news sources and historians choose to highlight about a case is
frequently of low value and does not conform with what the courts actually say. Legal
scholars do not have much use for what reporters think about a case and a brief is
not useful if it includes such errors.
State the facts of the case in your own words. Indicate which facts are
operative, and which bear on the issues to be decided. Do not just repeat the judge’s
words. Be Brief. Often a sign of how well you understand the case is your ability to
identify the relative importance of facts. Some cases may have many extraneous facts
that do not need to be in your brief. Most certainly, some facts will be more important
than others. Your task is to frame the problem by describing the facts that count, the
ones that matter. You are welcome to use paragraph, list, or bullet point format for
the “Facts” section of the brief.
Issue spotting is the skill of recognizing in the facts a pattern that implies a
certain type of issue. For instance, facts that describe two people both claiming
ownership rights over a chair should spotlight an issue of ownership of personal
property. In reading cases, often the parties and the court do this work for you. Ask
yourself what legal questions are posed by the appealing party. The appealing party
is alleging that an error of law was made. What is that error? What question is the
court answering? Sometimes a court will see the issue differently than the parties
and present a different twist on the issue. State the issue cleanly and crisply. Avoid
stating it in technical or procedural terms. I prefer you state the issue as a question
that can be answered with a yes or no.
For example, the issue in a property case might be: Did Smith established legal
ownership of the chair by physically possessing it for seven years?
What is the ruling by the court? Who won? Answering these questions forces
you to identify the outcome of the case. You must understand the procedural setting
enough to know what happens as a result of the decision. For instance, if the court
rules “in favor of the appellants,” what does this mean? More importantly, you need
to find the holding on the issue itself. How did the court decide the issue? What rule
of law is provided by the case? Using the chair ownership example from above, a
holding that resolves the issue might be:
“No. The court found that Smith had not established ownership of the chair by
virtue of possessing the chair for seven years.”
Notice how the above statement ignores who owns the chair. A newspaper
headline would be more focused on the personal story: “Smith Loses Chair to Green.”
In briefing a case, however, you are not a reporter; you are a student of law. For that
reason you must stick to the issue and its resolution as the primary focus.
The length of each part of the case brief need not be evenly distributed. In fact,
the rationale section is usually the longest section. In the rationale section you
explain why the court ruled the way that it did. This means that you need to describe
the court’s reasoning, sometimes even quoting the court’s choice of words. You must
also explain which facts the court depended upon and which ones it discounted or
ignored. You should also note what prior decisions it looked at and whether it chose
to follow them, overrule them, or differentiate them. The court might also interpret
or cite particular statutes or other laws in reaching its decision. Finally, notice
whether the court relies upon public policy to reach its decision. Thus, the potential
components to a court’s rationale include:
• Facts: which ones were dispositive and which ones not
• Prior cases that were followed, differentiated, or overruled
• Statutory law and how it was interpreted
• Public policy principles
Your task is to organize these components and explain how the court used them
to reach its decision. You are trying to find the precedent (or legal principle) that may
flow from this case. The legal principle is the “why” of the decision, not the “what.”
This is very important, as unless you can determine the why of a case, it is very
difficult to use the case to predict the outcome of similar disputes when they arise.
Returning to the chair ownership issue above, the holding does. Not thell us
the “why” and, as such, is not really that useful on its own. The rationale of the court,
however, might describe how the court relied upon a long history that ownership is
not automatically determined by mere, possession, but instead depends on how
possession and control was lost by a previous owner.
Because the U.S. legal system is a common law system (based on prior judicial
decisions), it is important to find out what happened to the case after it was
decided to determine if the decision is still “good law.” Did the Supreme Court
overturn the decision? Was a statute enacted invalidating the decision? Did
another court say that the legal principle stemming from this case doesn’t
apply in certain circumstances?
It is obviously not possible to manually review all of the cases that exist in
order to determine what is and is not good law. Since the mid 18th century, however,
lawyers have used lists of case citations in order to quickly determine the strength of
a precedent. Modern computing allows these lists to be quite comprehensive. These
programs, knowns as “citators” are offered by various legal research companies.
Through the student library you now have access to Westlaw, one of the most
powerful legal research tools available. Westlaw’s citator service is called KeyCite.
By pulling the KeyCite report on a case you can quickly determine whether a case
has frequently been cited with approval, distinguished, or disapproved.
When you KeyCite a case, Westlaw provides a report showing every opinion
where that case has been referenced, how much the case was discussed in each
opinion, and whether the case received negative treatment. Note that Westlaw also
provides “flag” system next to case names. No flag means a case is probably good law,
a yellow flag indicates the case has some negative history, and a red flag means a
case has been overruled.
It will be your responsibility to KeyCite the assigned case and provide a .pdf of
the Westlaw KeyCite report of reported opinions citing the case. The process for
generating this report is explained in a separate document.
CASE BRIEF RUBRIC
STYLE OF CASE
NOTE: Late submissions will be penalized 100 points.
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