How to Brief a Case

Case briefing is honestly one of the most useful things I've learned how to do while in my first semester of law school. It's super helpful! It's easier to remember the cases I've read and what the most important information from each case is.

There are plenty of different ways to brief cases, but below are few of the most common methods, as well as an example of how I brief cases.

IRAC Method

IRAC stands for "Issue," "Rule," "Application," and "Conclusion," and it's a very basic way to format your case briefs. When I write my briefs, I use this method as a skeleton for them. I always include IRAC, but I also like to mention which court the opinion is from, the case's citation, procedure, and holding so I can remember the facts of the case without having to go through my casebook again.

Here's how I lay out my case briefs, using my brief for Fojtik v. Charter Med. Corp., which was used in my torts class to illustrate the prima facie for false imprisonment. My brief is in italics so you can tell it apart from the explanation of what to write:

Court/Citation: This is pretty self-explanatory, include the court and the citation for the case.

  • Texas Court of Appeals
  • 985 S.W. 2d 625
Issue(s): What is being debated in this case? What is the court trying to solve? Why are you reading this case?
  • To what extent must plaintiffs insist on their freedom before it's considered false imprisonment?
  • Did Fojtik have a "just fear of injury"?
Facts: What do you need to be reminded of the case? What is relevant for you to understand that isn't included in the application? What do you need to know from past procedure?
  • P voluntarily admitted to Charter after family held intervention for his alcoholism
    • stated if P didn't go voluntarily, they would force him to go
  • P was allowed "passes" to leave the facility for several hours at a time but always returned voluntarily when his pass expired
  • Charter was unable to force a patient to come back when they were out on a pass; they could only hope patients would follow the rules and return
  • Charter produced summary judgment evidence that P could leave whenever P wanted to
  • P appealed the summary judgment
Rule(s): What rule is being applied to the case? What new rule is the court implementing, if there is one?
  • Prima facie false imprisonment:
    • willful detention by D, 
    • w/o consent of the detainee, and
    • w/o authority of law
  • detention may be accomplished by violence, threats, etc.
    • if a threat --> P must demonstrate that the threat would inspire a just fear of injury to their person, reputation, or property
  • threats of imprisonment are not enough to establish a claim for false imprisonment (Safeway Stores)
Application: How did the court apply the facts of the case to the rules?
  • Black v. Kroger
    • 18-year-old woman w/ lack of business expertise and a 10th grade education accused of stealing by employers
    • told repeatedly in a windowless room that if she did not admit to stealing they would handcuff and imprison her
    • woman made false confession b/c she was convinced she was going to jail either way
    • jury ruled in favor of Black
  • Skillern & Sons, Inc. v. Stewart
    • female employee accused of stealing led by arm into a room w/ 2 strange men
    • threatened w/ imprisonment if she did not write a confession
    • managed to leave but was brought back and told the same set of rules
    • tried to stand up and was pushed back into her chair by one of the men
    • jury ruled in favor of Stewart
  • Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Amburn
    • employee led to secluded room and accused of theft
    • employee's path to the door was never blocked
    • jury ruled in favor of Safeway
  • Randall's Food Market, Inc. v. Johnson
    • store employee accused of stealing asked to work on volunteer project or wait in an office
      • chose to wait in the office
    • left office and returned twice
    • left "unguarded"
    • jury ruled in favor of Randall's
  • P not young, inexperienced woman like in Black
  • P not physically restrained, like in Skillern
  • ruling from Ambern applies b/c threats are not enough to establish "just fear"
  • ruling from Randall's Food Market applies b/c P was coming and going from Charter
Conclusion: What decision did the court come to? Why did the court choose the holding they did?
  • P was not falsely imprisoned b/c he could have left whenever he wanted to and threats aren't enough to constitute false imprisonment
Holding: What did the court choose to do with the previous court's holding?
  • Affirmed

Book Briefing

In addition to my written briefs, I book brief as well. It's nice to have my briefs in two places. The written briefs are nice for an overview of the case and the book briefs have more detail, which is nice to have in class when my professors ask for the smallest details. My book briefs are color-coded.

The colors I use are orange for facts/procedure, purple for the issue, pink for the rule, blue for application, and green for the conclusion. When I'm just reading through the case introductions and notes, I highlight important information in yellow.

CREAC Method

CREAC is similar to IRAC, and it stands for "Conclusion," "Rule," "Explanation," "Analysis/Application," and "Conclusion." I personally prefer using IRAC (it's also the method my professors prefer for exams), but it all depends on what works best for you.




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