Case Brief of Geringer v Wildhorn Ranch

MBA535: Case Brief Guidelines and Rubric
How and Why to Brief a Law Case
The purpose of reading in the practice of law is different from the purpose of reading in many
other disciplines. In law, you read not just to familiarize yourself with someone else’s ideas but
to be able to use the information to answer a question. This requires understanding judicial
opinions in depth and being able to use the information in a number of cases to formulate an
answer to a new question. Therefore, passively reading cases is not sufficient; you must
deconstruct the opinion into its component parts and state those components in your own words
and in an easily accessible format. Then the information is at hand for you to apply to a new set
of facts.
Briefing a case requires you to put the material into your own words. To do this, you have to
understand it. Underlining text does not require you to understand it. Moreover, briefing a case
reduces the volume of material so you can find what you need. Underlining does not accomplish
this goal either.
You will complete two Case Briefs as follows and submit each to the Dropbox no later than
Sunday 11:59 PM EST/EDT of the module in which it is due. (Each Dropbox basket is linked to
Details for each Case Brief are located within Modules 4 and 8.
Every lawyer briefs cases differently. A case brief generally consists of a series of topic
headings with the specific information from the case under each heading. Most case briefs
contain similar information but the headings and their sequence may be different. Some
professors have a preferred briefing format. You are only required to follow the general format
as set forth below.
The following is adapted from A Practical Guide to Legal Writing and Legal Method (Dernbach,
et al., 2007).
1. Case name: Include the full citation, including the date of the opinion, for future
reference and citation. An example would be as follows: State v. Holloran, 140 NH 563
(1995). Refer to Bluebook to determine the correct name for the case.
2. Pincites: Include pinpoint cites (cites to a particular page in the case) throughout the
case brief so you can find material again quickly within a case.
3. Procedural History: What happened to the case before it arrived in this court? If it is an
appellate case, list the decisions made by the lower court(s) and note what decision is
being reviewed (e.g., jury verdict, summary judgment). You may need to look up
procedural phrases with which you are unfamiliar.
4. Facts: Include only the facts that were relevant to the court’s decision. You are unlikely
to know what these are until you have read the entire opinion. Many cases may include
procedural facts that are relevant to the decision in addition to the facts that happened
before litigation.
5. Issue: The particular question the court had to decide in this case. It usually includes
specific facts as well as a legal question. It may be expressed or implied in the decision.
Cases may have more than one issue.
6. Holding/Decision: The legal answer to the issue. If the issue is clearly written, then the
holding can be expressed as “yes” or “no.” (Be careful not to confuse the holding with
implicit reasoning. See # 8 below.)
7. Rule: The general legal principle(s) relevant to the particular factual situation presented
in the case.
8. Reasoning: The logical steps the court takes to arrive at the holding. It can be
straightforward and obvious, or you may have to extrapolate it from the holding. Some
reasoning is based on social policy, which tells you why the holding is socially desirable.
Understanding the reasoning behind a decision is essential.
9. Disposition: A statement of what the court actually did in the case (affirmed, overruled,
10. Dissent/Concurrence: Although this part of the opinion is not considered law, it may
help you better understand some information about the legal reasoning in the case. Not
all cases have a dissent or concurrence, while some may have more than one.
11. Comments: Include your own responses to the case here. For example, does the
reasoning make sense? Is the holding consistent with other cases you have read? Is the
case relevant to the question you are trying to answer? This is a good place to note
connections between the case you are briefing and other cases you have read.
Grading Rubric
Scoring Ratings
(Criterion is
missing or not
in evidence)
(does not
performance is
(works towards
performance is
formulation, logic,
and identification of
all topics
0 Points 1-17 Points 18-19 Points 20-23 Points 24-25 Points
Synthesis, Analysis,
and Comprehension 0 Points 1-17 Points 18-19 Points 20-23 Points 24-25 Points
Grammar, Word
Choice, and
0 Points 1-17 Points 18-19 Points 20-23 Points 24-25 Points
Proper use of the APA
formatting style 0 Points 1-17 Points 18-19 Points 20-23 Points 24-25 Points
Sample Case Brief
Remember, most case briefs contain similar information but the headings and their sequence
may be different than what is outlined above. You should include in your brief all elements that
you deem necessary whether or not they are included in the sample below.
Luke Records, Inc. v. Navarro, 960 F.2d 134 (11th Cir. 1992)
Procedural History
Appealed from the trial court decision.
Luke Records, Inc., a recording label, held a contract with the musical group 2 Live
Crew. This group was well known in the genre of “Rap” music, which has repeatedly
been accused of incorporating “obscene” lyrics into the music. Obscene, in this sense,
pertains only to the legal definition of obscenity, not what any particular person or moral
code may deem obscene. Luke Records, Inc. was a Florida Corporation and Nick
Navarro was the sheriff of Broward County at the time. The sheriff obtained an ex-parte
injunction (this means an injunction without both parties being present at the initial
hearing) granting the sheriff an injunction (a court order to “stop” doing a particular act).
This injunction was served on local record stores in an effort to have the music removed
from Florida retail sale. After the local Florida Circuit Court in Broward County issued the
injunction, the decision was appealed to the United States District Court for Southern
Florida where the Court ordered the sheriff to stop enforcing the injunction, but did, in
fact, rule that the music was obscene, especially the song “As Nasty As They Wanna
Be.” The sheriff appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, in
Is this music obscene under Florida state law and/or federal Constitution?
Rule Obscenity
Obscenity must meet three part rule. Based on Supreme Court case Miller v. CA. All
three parts must be met:
a) Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards”
would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
b) Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual
conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law.
c) Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or
scientific value.
The burden of proof could be clear and convincing or preponderance of the evidence
test: however, at the time the sheriff was granted the music, he offered nothing into
evidence except a tape of the music played before the court. There was no additional
evidence presented that showed an average person applying contemporary community
standards would find the song appealing only to a prurient interest. Further, the sheriff
failed to prove part (b) and (c) of the test as well simply because he made no attempt to
enter any other testimony or evidence into consideration before the court. The sheriff
failed to meet his burden, although it is well possible that had he submitted all evidence
as required, he could possibly have met the test.
Case really determined by the sheriff’s failure of proof. No discussion of nature of music.
No discussion of rule. No proper evidence submitted to the court.

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