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Understanding Case Law

Understanding Case Law

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Understanding Case Law

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  1. Understanding Case Law

  2. Definition of a CASE • a written record of a legal dispute that has proceeded through the courts • Criminal Cases • ● begin when the Crown Attorney (acting on behalf of the Queen) files charges against someone (the defendant) who has allegedly committed a crime • ● the case ends when the accused (the defendant) is either found guilty and sentenced or found innocent and released • ● if the case is appealed, then the case ends when the appeal court either confirms or rejects the original trial decision • Civil Cases • ● begin when the plaintiff files a lawsuit against a defendant • ● the case ends when the court rules either in favour of the plaintiff or the defendant and both parties accept the decision • ● if the case is appealed, then the case ends when the appeal court either confirms or rejects the original decision

  3. Definition of a PRECEDENT- a rule developed in one case and followed in subsequent similar cases- the Latin name for precedent is stare decisis(which means to stand by previous decisions)- aka: Common law, Judge-made law, Case lawApplication of PRECEDENT● although the general rule of precedent is that a previous decision of a higher court must be followed, there is some flexibility● judges can avoid following a precedent by overruling it or distinguishing it▫ overruling - many precedents are very old, and so they may no longer be relevant in modern society▫ distinguishing - if it can be shown that the situation in the present case is different in some way from the situation in the precedent, then the judge does not have to apply the precedent

  4. BENEFITS of PrecedentConsistency: Similar cases get decided in a similar way.Certainty: This follows from consistency. It is easier for everyone to know what they can and cannot do. Lawyers can be more sure of the advice which they give.Efficiency: Because we know that similar cases will have a similar decision, many arguments do not need to go to court.DRAWBACKS of PrecedentUncertainty: There are so many cases in the law reports that you can find several precedents which apply in some situations.Fixity: Because the courts are unwilling to overrule a precedent, the law may not change for long periods, even though society has changed.Unconstitutional: In legal theory, only Parliament can make law. When judges overrule or distinguish precedent, they must be careful that it does not appear that they are making new law. But developing the law is acceptable.

  5. CASE BRIEFS- a CB is a summary of the case in your own words- the case is broken down into its most basic parts so that it can be more easily compared and contrasted to other situations

  6. Key aspects of a case to be included within a brief: • case citation • relevant facts • key issues • decision • ratio decidendi • analysis of decision or significance of ruling (sometimes included)

  7. Style of cause: Criminal R. Stands for “Rex” (King) or “Regina” (Queen) In other words, the state versus an individual. Volume 1 of the Supreme Court Records, page 103. Case Citation parties [style of cause], date published, case-reporting publication, pg. no., court) Date Published R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 103 (S.C.C.) Supreme Court of Canada.

  8. Style of cause: Civil First name is plaintiff. Second name is the defendant. Volume 1 of the Supreme Court Records, page 41. Case Citation parties [style of cause], date published, case-reporting publication, pg. no., court) Date Published Martin v. Perrie, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 41(S.C.C.) Supreme Court of Canada.

  9. Facts of the Case • A good student brief will include a summary of the pertinent facts and legal points raised in the case. It will show the nature of the litigation, what occurrences transpired, and, if the case is an appeal, what happened in the lower court(s). • Statement of Issue(s) • The issues or questions of law raised by the facts particular to the case are often stated explicitly by the court. • Constitutional cases frequently involve multiple issues, some of interest only to litigants and lawyers, others of broader and enduring significance to average citizens. Students should be se sure to include both types of issues. • When noting issues, it helps to phrase them in terms of questions that can be answered with a precise “yes” or “no.”

  10. Decision Here the student should indicate the decision of the court in this case. Ratio Decidendi Here the student should outline the reasoning behind the court's decision. (Was the court’s reasoning based on precedent, economics, politics, sociology, fairness, etc..?) 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. Dissent Here the student should outline the arguments of the judge(s) who did not agree with the majority opinion if applicable.

  11. The Appeal Process● appellant: the person who is seeking an appeal● respondent: the person against whom the appeal is being launched● appellant seeks permission or “leave to appeal” in order to have the case heard● options available to the Court of Appeal when deciding upon a request for appeal include: ▫ leave to appeal denied – the Court of Appeal will not hear the case and the most recent decision will stand ▫ leave to appeal granted – the Court of Appeal will hear the case and a new decision will be rendered - appeal dismissed - appeal allowed ▫ new trial ordered – the Court of Appeal orders that an entirely new trial occur