How to Brief a Case: Tutorial

The rationale of the case "brief" contains a summary of the specific legal reasons given by the court in support of its decision. Usually, a court will offer more than one reason to justify the result of an opinion. This "rationale," or the ratio decendi (reason for the rule) as it is sometimes called, should list (in brief outline form) a summary of each of these stated reasons.

Typically, an opinion will cite numerous cases and other primary (as well as secondary) legal authorities in support of a particular argument or rationale. It is not necessary for the "brief" to include a listing of all of these authorities. It is the court's reasoning that is important here, not the specific authorities which are given in support of that reasoning.

The rationale portion of the case "brief" may include specific legal (or even factual) reasons, as well as other reasons which may be dictated by some broader policy view (e.g., legal, social, moral, or even political) held by the court. With respect to such policy rationales, sometimes the court will expressly identify the controlling policy, and more often any such policy can only be inferred from other statements contained within the court's opinion and analysis. The identification of specific rationales used by the courts in their appellate decisions provides deeper insight into the court's analytical processes which may be used by the student to better understand the outcome in the particular controversy, as well as to predict outcomes in future cases.

Rationale for the Court's Decision

Edward C. Martin

To view descriptions of each element of a case "brief,"  CLICK on the appropriate link below.


Type of Action


Procedural History

Contentions of Parties