Case Summary Organization
Case Summaries generally adopt a consistent structure with two main parts:
Part 1: Summary outline of the facts, decisional history and judicial reasoning
Part 2: Critical analysis of the issues, reasoning, significance and implications of the decision
Sections and sub-sections
The two substantive sections of a case summary can each be organised in a range of ways, reflecting the author’s approach to the issues and their interpretation of the case. For example:
The ‘expository’ section that reports on the case can be organised according to:
• Legal issues considered by the court
• Majority v minority reasoning
• Individual judgments.
The analytical or ‘discussion’ section of a case summary can be organised according to:
• Legal issues raised by the case
• Reasons for the majority decision
• Themes, principles or assumptions identified as underpinning the reasoning
• Implications for practice and policy.
If you review a few published case summaries in law reviews you will see a range of approaches to structuring the two main parts of a case summary .
Expository sections of case summaries commonly:
• Provide a concise summary of the facts and the decision at the outset
• Use language that is clear and ‘objective’ – similar to an executive summary
• Identify differences and points of agreement in the judgments and briefly outline patterns in the reasoning
• Identify the sources of law relied on in the decision, including salient statements of principle or legal precedent.
Analytical sections of case summaries commonly:
• Evaluate the court’s reasoning:
o Were significant factors, principles or precedents overlooked or undervalued?
o Were relevant precedents and rules given due consideration or distinguished satisfactorily?
o Were the court’s conclusions justified by the reasoning?
• Locate the decision within a broader legal and policy context
• Evaluate the significance and implications of the case within the identified context, which may focus on the interests of legal practitioners, the legal system, individual litigants, classes of litigants, particular social groups or social cohesion more generally
• Use more persuasive and evaluative language than the reporting section of the paper
When preparing a case summary , be careful to ‘balance’ the sections of your paper appropriately – the summary section should be as succinct as possible, so that you are able to fully explore the issues and develop an analysis in the latter section. As a guide, at least half your paper (half the word limit) should be analysis.