Law students read commercial outlines, create outlines, read hornbooks, practice with flashcards and create case briefs in order to learn and memorize the various rules of law. A case brief is a synopsis, or summary, of a court opinion that states the essential and most pertinent information of the case and is used for in-class discussions and to integrate rules of law into a law school outline. Case briefs are particularly important in a course on taxation because there are many rules in tax law and case law is complex.
Write the title of the case and the case citation. The title of the case is structured as: petitioner's name (the person bringing the suit) v. respondent's name. For instance, "Jones v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue". The case citation is a series of numbers and descriptors used to retrieve the case, such as "2004 WL 29302 (U.S. Tax Ct.)". This citation states that the case occurred in 2004 and can be found using Westlaw at case 29302, and that it is a United States Tax Court case.
Summarize the facts of the case. The facts of any case, particularly a Tax Court case, can be very long and contain some nonessential information. Summarize the facts by writing down only the pertinent data: the names, dates and actions that ultimately determine how the case turns out.
State the issue or issues that are presented in the case. These issues are what make the case important enough for the Tax Court to hear it. Usually the issue statement can be formulated by beginning with the word "whether" and then stating the question to be determined in the case, such as "Whether a person realizes income when she sold her house for $250,000 and she has a cost basis in the house of $240,000." Another possible format is the "Under-Does-When" format, stated as: "Under the Tax Code, does a person realize income when she sold her house for $250,000 and she has a cost basis in the house of $240,000."
State the court's holding. The court's holding is the decision that the court made, such as: "The petitioner realized an income of $10,000 when she sold her house for $250,000 and she had a cost basis in the house of $240,000."
List the rules of law. There are rules of law that the Tax Court uses in arriving at its holding. List these rules in your case brief. The rules are often either statutes, such as "gross income means all income from whatever source derived," which is the Internal Revenue Code section 61; or the holding from previous case law, which will be accompanied by a case citation.
Summarize the court's rationale. It is important for law students to understand why the Tax Court arrived at the decision that it did, and to do this, they should write a brief summary of the court's rationale.
- Try to keep your case briefs as close to one page as possible.
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