THE PARTIES AND HOW TO KEEP TRACK OF THEM Beginning students often have difficulty identifying relationships between the parties involved in court cases. The following definitions may help: Plaintiffs sue defendants in civil suits in trial courts. The government (state or federal) prosecutes defendants in criminal cases in trial courts. The losing party in a criminal prosecution or a civil action may ask a higher (appellate) court to review the case on the ground that the trial court judge made a mistake. If the law gives the loser the right to a higher court review, his or her lawyers will appeal. If the loser does not have this right, his or her lawyers may ask the court for a writ of certiorari. Under this procedure, the appellate court is being asked to exercise its lawful discretion in granting the cases a hearing for review. For example, a defendant convicted in a federal district court has the right to appeal this decision in the Court of Appeals of the circuit and this court cannot refuse to hear it. The party losing in this appellate court can request that the case be reviewed by the Supreme Court, but, unless certain special circumstances apply, has no right to a hearing. These two procedures, appeals and petitions for certiorari, are sometimes loosely grouped together as “appeals.” However, there is, as shown, a difference between them, and you should know it. A person who seeks a writ of certiorari, that is, a ruling by a higher court that it hear the case, is known as a petitioner. The person, who must respond to the petition, that is, the winner in the lower court, is called the respondent. A person who files a formal appeal demanding appellate review as a matter of right is known as the appellant. His or her opponent is the Respondent. The name of the party initiating the action in court, at any level on the judicial ladder, always appears first in the legal papers. For example, Arlo Tatum and others sued in Federal District
Court for an injunction against Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and others to stop the Army from spying on them. Tatum and his friends became plaintiffs and the case was then known as Tatum v. Laird. The Tatum group lost in the District Court and appealed to the Court of Appeals, where they were referred to as the appellants. When Tatum and his fellow appellants won in the Court of Appeals, Laird and his fellow defendants decided to seek review by the Supreme Court. They successfully petitioned for a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court directing the Court of Appeals to send up the record of the case (trial court transcript, motion papers, and assorted legal documents) to the Supreme Court. At this point the name of the case changed to Laird v. Tatum: Laird and associates were now the petitioners, and Tatum and his fellows were the respondents. Several church groups and a group of former intelligence agents obtained permission to file briefs (written arguments) on behalf of the respondents to help persuade the Court to arrive at a decision favorable to them. Each of these groups was termed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court.” In criminal cases, switches in the titles of cases are common, because most reach the appellate courts as a result of an appeal by a convicted defendant. Thus, the case of Arizona v. Miranda later became Miranda v. Arizona. A STUDENT BRIEFS IN BRIEFING A CASE [CASE NOTE] These can be extensive or short, depending on the depth of analysis required and the demands of the instructor. A comprehensive brief of a case note includes the following elements: 1. Identification of the case (Tile and Citation) 2. Procedural history 3. Material facts of the Case 4. Issues 5. Arguments of the parties 6. Decisions /Judgment or Holdings 7. Reasoning of the court (Rationale) 8. Ratio decidendi 9. Obiter dictum 10. Significance of the case.
1. Identification of the case (Title and Citation) The title of the case shows who is opposing whom. The name...
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