Here is the breakdown of a case brief, and there are FIVE sections: 1. Parties; 2. Procedural History; 3. Facts; 4. Issue(s); 5. Holding/Rationale.
1. Parties: We are all familiar with the terms like plaintiff and defendant, but when we are able to decide who fits into what category, we are trying to understand the roles in trial courts and in the appeals process. While the criminal is always the defendant, sometimes, the criminal is not always the appellant. Sometimes, the state entity involved may want to appeal a lower court’s ruling (like the granting of a motion to suppress the evidence). But normally, when a defendant appeals for any reason, his title/role in the appeals court is as the appellant.
In the trial court, the STATE is always the plaintiff, and the criminal is the defendant. So, your first set of parties should look like this:
Plaintiff: State of ____________(the prosecutor represents the STATE)
Defendant: the criminal’s name
Next, if the defendant is convicted and loses, he will appeal to the intermediary appellate court in his state. So the parties look like this:
Appellant in the intermediary court of appeals: the criminal’s name
Respondent/Appellee in the intermediary court of appeal : State of ____________
Since we are learning to brief a SCOTUS case, this case will have also been heard by the State Supreme Court of the state where he was convicted because a state charged defendant (as opposed to one charged in federal court), MUST exhaust all of his state appeals before going into federal court (and the SCOTUS is the U.S. or federal Supreme Court). So, the parties will look like this:
Appellant to the state supreme court: the criminal’s name;
Respondent/Appellee to the state supreme court : State of ____________
Finally, most of the time, these cases get to the SCOTUS on a writ of certiorari which is a mechanism by which the criminal “petitions” the Court to hear his case which has constitutional issues, and the Court decides whether or not to hear the case; if it decides to hear the case, it grants the petition of the criminal. So, the parties now look like this:
Petitioner to the SCOTUS: the criminal;
Respondent to the SCOTUS : State of ____________.
2. Procedural History: When we look at the procedural history, we see how and why a case can make it all the way to the SCOTUS. All cases start in a trial court somewhere (usually called a Superior Court). If the defendant is convicted, he can appeal; however, if the state loses on an evidence question (like a motion to suppress), the state can also appeal.
But what is much more likely to happen is that a defendant is found guilty, and he appeals to the intermediary appeals court in his state (you will need to Google the name of the state’s appellate court); he is now the “appellant” and the state is the “respondent or appellee.”
If he fails there, he can appeal to his state’s supreme court (again, you’ll need to Google the name of the court). He is still the appellant, and the state is the respondent or appellee.
If he fails there, he can ask the SCOTUS to hear his case. A defendant does this by “petitioning” the SCOTUS to hear his case, so the name of the appellant defendant is now “petitioner” and the state is called the “respondent.”
If the SCOTUS decides in its “Rule of Four” that it wants to rule on his particular appeals issue, the Court will issue a writ of certiorari granting the defendant a hearing before the USSC. Wow! Only a handful of cases are ever decided by the SCOTUS! Most of the time, we will see “cert. denied” on many cases. This means that the SCOTUS denied the defendant’s request to have his case heard before the SCOTUS .
To do the procedural history, you must summarize two things: the courts that heard the case and what happened in each of these courts. Example: Defendant was convicted after jury trial of manslaughter in the County of Union, State of New Jersey. He appealed his conviction to the New Jersey Appellate Division saying that the evidence obtained should have been suppressed, but his appeal was denied. He then appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court who also denied his appeal. He petitioned the SCOTUS to hear his case, and the Court affirmed the lower courts’ decisions upholding his conviction.
3. Facts: Even though this is always the easiest to write, it is very important. In this section, we are looking at the importance of facts and how law can change given a new twist on a fact pattern. While facts may be the easiest part to write about, it really is the MOST critical! Only include the facts of the crime, and if needed, of the police’s conduct. Don’t cite any court hearings. That should be done in the procedural history.
4. Issues: We are learning in the issues section why the SCOTUS accepted this case (the SCOTUS accepts those cases only that are “new” constitutional issues that the Court must deal with in our ever evolving legal system). What main issue did the Court decide? You should frame the issue as a question.
For example, here is the issue in a SCOTUS case: Based upon reasonable suspicion only, can a police officer stop and frisk a suspect he believes to be armed when the officer does not have probable cause to arrest the suspect? This was the issue in Terry v. Ohio.
5. Holding/Reasoning: And finally, when we interpret how the Court rationalized the case, we are learning how the SCOTUS justices think about the law. So, first state the holding (what the Court decided) and then tell us why the Court ruled that way. You will see that there are dissents, that is, those justices on the Court who disagree with the majority. You will see that there are concurring opinions, that is, those justices on the Court who agree but for a different legal reason. But most importantly, you will see in trying to understand the Court’s ruling that even the SCOTUS justices are confused and disagree!!!!
Two points need to be made: 1) only capitalize the word “court” in a sentence when “court” is part of a name of a court OR when referring to the SCOTUS only like I have done above; 2) don’t expect to submit perfect case briefs-these are not easy to do.
There are five threads to this assignment. We will work to perfect each part of a “case brief” together, so that when you begin to brief cases in other classes, you will be able to do these assignments without guessing. In law school, we brief about 50 cases a week (or more!)
We will brief the case of ARIZONA v. JOHNSON, 555 U.S. 323 (2009).
I picked this case because this decision upheld the Terry stop and pat down for occupants in a motor vehicle, and many of you have studied Terry in your other classes.
See the sites for Arizona v. Johnson below. Read the case. Then research the case on the Internet. Figure out who the parties are, how the case when from a state court all the way to the SCOTUS, summarize the facts, tell me what the issues are, and then tell me the holding of the SCOTUS and the rationale the SCOTUS provided for its decision.
Here is the outline of how we brief a case in law school.
Case Name: Arizona v. Johnson
Case citation: 555 U.S. 323 (2009)
1. The Parties: Tell me who the parties are: in a criminal trial, the plaintiff is the state of wherever this happened (Ohio). But the defendant appealed so he’s the appellant. Fill in the following:
• Plaintiff –
• Defendant –
• Appellant to the Court of Appeals in Arizona- (HINT: The defendant won in this court, but he was the appellant)
• Respondent to the Court of Appeals in Arizona –
• Appellant to the Supreme Court of AZ – (HINT: The defendant had won his appeal in the lower appellate court, so who appealed to the AZ Supreme Court?)
• Respondent to the Supreme Court of AZ –
• Petitioner to the SCOTUS – (HINT: The defendant had won his appeals in AZ’s appellate courts, so who petitioned the SCOTUS?)
• Respondent to the SCOTUS –
2. Procedural History: Tell me what happened in each of the courts that heard the case of Johnson.
3. The Facts: Just cite the facts of the case as succinctly as possible, but make sure you add the facts that the appeal about (the Terry pat down of Johnson, a backseat passenger). Tell the story of the crime. Facts MAKE the law!
4. The Issue: Why did he appeal? Why did the State of Arizona then start appealing? What issues were raised on appeal????? What was the question before the SCOTUS? When noting issues, it may help to phrase them in terms of questions that can be answered with a precise “yes” or “no.”
Read this first about the ISSUE in Arizona v. Johnson:
Arizona v. Johnson involved a lawful routine traffic stop of a car in a Tucson neighborhood noted for gang activity. While one police officer questioned the driver about his car insurance, Officer Trevizo directed her attention to the passenger in the back seat of the car – a man wearing Crips gang colors and carrying a police scanner in his jacket pocket. When she asked him to step out of the car so she could ask him about gang activity, he voluntarily stepped out of the car, and then Officer Trevizo frisked him for weapons. She found a gun and marijuana. The Arizona Court of Appeals found the search to violate Fourth Amendment rights, the Supreme Court of Arizona denied discretionary review and the State of Arizona appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While the important issue at stake in the case -whether an officer confronted with a potentially “armed and dangerous” individual during a lawful stop may frisk the individual for weapons – was placed front and center by both Arizona and the federal government, the issue that seemed most troubling to the Justices was: when does a stop end, or is it possible for a lawful stop to become consensual?
5. The Holding & Court’s Rationale:
Holding: What did the SCOTUS decide on the issues in #4 above??? What was the Court’s answers to the issues before it?
Rationale: The reasoning, or rationale, is the chain of argument which led the judges in either a majority or a dissenting opinion to rule as they did. This should be outlined point by point in numbered sentences or paragraphs.
Here is the decision in Arizona v. Johnson which we will be briefing:
Here is a summary of the case and some good sites you can read: ARIZONA v JOHNSON 555 US 323 2009.doc
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ARIZONA v. JOHNSON, 555 U.S. 323 (2009)
Argued December 9, 2008—Decided January 26, 2009 No. 07–1122.
In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 , this Court held that a “stop and frisk” may be conducted without violating the Fourth Amendment ’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures if two conditions are met. First, the investigatory stop (temporary detention) must be lawful, a requirement met in an on-the-street encounter when a police officer reasonably suspects that the person apprehended is committing or has committed a crime. Second, to proceed from a stop to a frisk (pat down for weapons), the officer must reasonably suspect that the person stopped is armed and dangerous. For the duration of a traffic stop, the Court recently confirmed, a police officer effectively seizes “everyone in the vehicle,” the driver and all passengers. Brendlin v. California, 551 U. S. 249.
While patrolling near a Tucson neighborhood associated with the Crips gang, police officers serving on Arizona’s gang task force stopped an automobile for a vehicular infraction warranting a citation. At the time of the stop, the officers had no reason to suspect the car’s occupants of criminal activity. Officer Trevizo attended to respondent Johnson, the back-seat passenger, whose behavior and clothing caused Trevizo to question him. After learning that Johnson was from a town with a Crips gang and had been in prison, Trevizo asked him get out of the car in order to question him further, out of the hearing of the front-seat passenger, about his gang affiliation. Because she suspected that he was armed, she patted him down for safety when he exited the car. During the pat down, she felt the butt of a gun. At that point, Johnson began to struggle, and Trevizo handcuffed him. Johnson was charged with, inter alia, possession of a weapon by a prohibited possessor. The trial court denied his motion to suppress the evidence, concluding that the stop was lawful and that Trevizo had cause to suspect Johnson was armed and dangerous. Johnson was convicted. The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed. While recognizing that Johnson was lawfully seized, the court found that, prior to the frisk, the detention had evolved into a consensual conversation about his gang affiliation. Trevizo, the court therefore concluded, had no right to pat Johnson down even if she had reason to suspect he was armed and dangerous. The Arizona Supreme Court denied review.
Held: Officer Trevizo’s pat down of Johnson did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Pp. 5–9.
(a) Terry established that, in an investigatory stop based on reasonably grounded suspicion of criminal activity, the police must be positioned to act instantly if they have reasonable cause to suspect that the persons temporarily detained are armed and dangerous. 392 U. S., at 24. Because a limited search of outer clothing for weapons serves to protect both the officer and the public, a pat down is constitutional. Id., at 23-24, 27, 30-31. Traffic stops, which “resemble, in duration and atmosphere, the kind of brief detention authorized in Terry,” Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U. S. 420, 439, n. 29, are “especially fraught with danger to police officers,” Michigan v. Long, 463 U. S. 1032, 1047, who may minimize the risk of harm by exercising ” ‘unquestioned command of the situation,’ ” Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U. S. 408, 414. Three decisions cumulatively portray Terry’s application in a traffic-stop setting. In Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U. S. 106 (per curiam), the Court held that “once a motor vehicle has been lawfully detained for a traffic violation, the police officers may order the driver to get out of the vehicle without violating the Fourth Amendment,” id., at 111, n. 6, because the government’s “legitimate and weighty” interest in officer safety outweighs the “de minimis” additional intrusion of requiring a driver, already lawfully stopped, to exit the vehicle, id., at 110-111. Citing Terry, the Court further held that a driver, once outside the stopped vehicle, may be patted down for weapons if the officer reasonably concludes that the driver might be armed and dangerous. 434 U.S., at 112. Wilson, 519 U. S., at 413, held that the Mimms rule applies to passengers as well as drivers, based on “the same weighty interest in officer safety.” Brendlin, 551 U. S., at 263, held that a passenger is seized, just as the driver is, “from the moment [a car stopped by the police comes] to a halt on the side of the road.” A passenger’s motivation to use violence during the stop to prevent apprehension for a crime more grave than a traffic violation is just as great as that of the driver. 519 U.S., at 414. And as “the passengers are already stopped by virtue of the stop of the vehicle,” id., at 413-414, “the additional intrusion on the passenger is minimal,” id., at 415. Pp. 5-7.
(b) The Arizona Court of Appeals recognized that, initially, Johnson was lawfully detained incident to the legitimate stop of the vehicle in which he was a passenger, but concluded that once Officer Trevizo began questioning him on a matter unrelated to the traffic stop, pat down authority ceased to exist, absent reasonable suspicion that Johnson had engaged, or was about to engage, in criminal activity. The court portrayed the interrogation as consensual, and, Johnson emphasizes, Trevizo testified that Johnson could have refused to exit the vehicle and to submit to the pat down. But Trevizo also testified that she never advised Johnson he did not have to answer her questions or otherwise cooperate with her. A lawful roadside stop begins when a vehicle is pulled over for investigation of a traffic violation. The temporary seizure of driver and passengers ordinarily continues, and remains reasonable, for the duration of the stop. Normally, the stop ends when the police have no further need to control the scene, and inform the driver and passengers they are free to leave. An officer’s inquiries into matters unrelated to the justification for the traffic stop do not convert the encounter into something other than a lawful seizure, so long as the inquiries do not measurably extend the stop’s duration. See Muehler v. Mena, 544 U. S. 93, 100-101. A reasonable passenger would understand that during the time a car is lawfully stopped, he or she is not free to terminate the encounter with the police and move about at will. Nothing occurred in this case that would have conveyed to Johnson that, prior to the frisk, the traffic stop had ended or that he was otherwise free “to depart without police permission.” Brendlin, 551 U. S., at 257. Trevizo was not required by the Fourth Amendment to give Johnson an opportunity to depart without first ensuring that, in so doing, she was not permitting a dangerous person to get behind her. Pp. 7-9.
217 Ariz. 58, 170 P. 3d 667, reversed and remanded.
GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.