How to Brief a Case: Tutorial

As with the formal statement of the holding of the case, a proper statement of the rule(s) derived from an appellate opinion is merely an academic exercise once the issue(s) has been accurately identified. The rule(s) of the case simply represents a re-formulation of the issue(s) statement, in combination with the formal holding(s), to produce a simple "black-letter" statement of law. Thus, an issue of "whether intent to cause harm is necessary to commit a Battery," which is answered in the negative by the holding, can be re-formulated into the following "black-letter" proposition of law:

"Intent to cause harm is NOT necessary to commit a Battery."

Such a statement, then, becomes the "black-letter" rule of the case. As such, it is often referred to simply as the "rule" of the case, and it is upon this very "rule" that subsequent judicial opinions will rely in applying the doctrine of stare decisis. Therefore, the rule of the case must be articulated with keen precision and accuracy regarding every detail of the court's analysis. Unfortunately, students are often unnecessarily confused by the use of this terminology, simply because many judicial opinions prefer to state the "rule" of the case by first declaring that "we hold that ...." However, once the proper use of this term is understood, this portion of the case "brief" should be relatively easy prepare.

The Rule(s) Derived from the Case

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