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How to Write a Legal Brief

Each student will be assigned a significant case decided by the California Supreme Court of the California Appellate Court. Each case will answer a question regarding Criminal Law that will appear on the Final Examination. Each student will prepare a typed written brief using the format given in class (see below). The student will then be called upon to present his/her brief in a five minute presentation before the class.

The ADJUS 12 brief involves the case name at the top of your paper and four sections. For a full explanation of how to write this brief and/or how to present it to your class, please talk to your instructor. The information below is a basic guideline for your reference. If there are any differences between what your instructor requires and this page, please do as your instructor has asked.

Section Information to Include
Facts: One paragraph synopsis or summary of what your case is about. What crime was committed and why did the defendant appeal his/her conviction?
Issue: List the problem that the court must decide on (in question form and underline entire issue).
Holding: This is the court's answer to the issue. Response is usually a "yes" or "no." Sometimes, the response here is "See opinion below" but only in rare cases and the instructor will inform you if you have one of these cases.
Opinion: One paragraph summary of why the court decided as it did. The court's rationale or reasoning will be explained in your case.

Your paper will be graded on how well you complete each of the above sections and on your class presentation. Please also remember to consider the following:

  • Spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Formatting/structure of brief (Capital letters, underline, spacing, etc.)
  • Maximum brief length is one page
  • Cover page is NOT necessary
  • Put your name on the brief before turning it in

For a sample of the brief structure and spacing, click here: sample brief