Reading and Understanding Case Law

Case law, also used correspondingly with common law, means a bunch of precedents and jurisdiction established by prior judicial judgments on a specific concern or topic. It refers that case laws are distinct from one jurisdiction to another. For instance, a case in New York cannot get analyzed considering a case law from California. Alternatively, New York courts will examine the problem based on binding precedent. If no prior judgments on the concern are present, New York courts can search for precedents from a different jurisdiction. It is an example of persuasive authority instead of binding authority. Other components like how early dated the judgment is and the similarity of the facts in both cases affect the application of the precedent.

Elements of a Case
The essential elements of a case are as follows:

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Substantive History: The details regarding the history of the case are present close to the starting of the case. This kind of detail is also called the judicial history of the case. This history describes how the case advanced toward the tribunal. Many judicial proceedings start in lower courts and then hop onto the appellate court. Mostly the hearing of reported occurrences happens in the court of appeals. Judgments by the lower tribunal are generally not published.

Facts: The facts are the fundamental part of all cases. The initial attention of a reader must be on the facts of the case. It aids in contemplating the facts considering what happened before this concern advanced as a part of a legal proceeding. A case brief refers to a case summary, and the bench generally puts the facts close to the beginning of the judgment.

Issues of the Case: The issue, and there can be many, is the concern raised before the bench: the tribunal giving the judgment. The issue raised before the appellate court is not the same as stated before the trial court. For instance, at the rank of a lower court, the problem may be whether the respondent is guilty or not. In an appellate court case, the issue can comprise a judicial error, not examining guilt or innocence.

The Rule of Law: The regulations are the laws used by the tribunal. These regulations get derived from chief sources of law, such as the Constitution, enactment, orders, and precedents. These regulations get applied to the facts of a case. The tribunal ensures that the readers acknowledge the reason behind obtaining a specific outcome.

Reasoning and Analysis: The reasoning or analysis segment is crucial as it is the core. The research is generally the extended part of a decision. A tribunal defines its analysis and research with the help of the crucial facts and the necessary law.

The Court’s Judgment: The holding defines the court’s order or derivation on a specific legal problem. After giving the verdict regarding the legal concern, the tribunal either take legal action or directs another court to do the same.

Key Points to Understand while Reading a Case
The main things to understand when reading a case are as follows:

Title of the Case: The title in criminal cases always includes at least two names. The first name is of the party that filed for action. The government begins all criminal proceedings in the United States. The v. is a short form of the Latin word versus, meaning against. The second name in the title is of the defendant.

Citation: The citation includes the letters and numbers along with the case title. It lists details regarding what tribunal heard the case when the tribunal took the decision and where the reader can search for the reported proceeding.


Appellate cases refer to a scenario where the trial court has already given some verdict for the proceeding. However, any one of the parties has appealed in a higher court for re-evaluation of the case. Parties request for re-evaluation asserting faults made by the lower court or wrongful acts done by police, lawyers, or judges.

Additional Key Points to Consider while Understanding a Case Law
Here are some additional key points to consider when understanding case law:

Suppression Hearings: Many proceedings entailing alleged police malpractice emerge out of what respondents perpetuate were inaccurate rulings on provisional motions to eliminate evidence at proceedings known as suppression hearings.

Parties Involved in Appealing: Generally, the appellant court refers to the party who appeals as the appellant. The party appealed against is the appellee.

The Opinion: Most cases, especially those of the United States Apex Court, have at least two kinds of opinions. The majority opinion refers to the law in the case. The US Apex Court has nine candidates; each gives a vote. Candidates giving five same votes comprise a majority. If these five candidates consent to both the analysis and the order, the opinion refers to a majority opinion. Sometimes, judges agree with the order but do not consent to the research or reasoning for the judgment. These judges then state distinct, concurring opinions, giving their analysis for the order.

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