Find a U.S. Supreme Court case that deals with the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, or Eighth Amendment, i.e., on any substantive or procedural criminal law issue. There are dozens of examples in our textbook or you can check in with me for guidance.

To find a clean version of your case:

You must rely on at least one academic article to help guide you in your analysis of the case. There are many ways to find an article and I am happy to offer guidance. For now, I recommend:

Your brief should be more than two and less than three pages in length, single spaced, with 1″ margins. It must include the following headings. (Really, include the headings in your case brief or you will lose points for incorrect formatting.)

Case Citation.

Include the names of the parties such as Brown v. Board of Education, U.S. Supreme Court, and 1954. (One line.)

Key Facts.

Give a summary of the relevant and significant aspects of the case. The facts should identify the appellant and appellee, report the events leading up to the lawsuit and state the relief the appellant is seeking. Also, give a brief description of the procedural history; for example, does the case come to the Supreme Court from a state-level supreme court or through another process. (One to three paragraphs.)


This is the legal question the court is being asked to address. Sometimes, there are many issues. Demonstrate that you have identified the key constitutional issue(s) and due process right(s) being analyzed and applied by the Supreme Court. (One paragraph.)


The general legal principle applied to the facts of the case. For example, this could be a provision in a state or federal statute or a case precedent. The Court may review different rules. State the rule the Court applies to resolve the issue. (One to two paragraphs.)


State how the court resolved the issue. An example of a decision would be the lower court decision is reversed or affirmed. (One to three sentences.)


This section explains why the court made this decision. Summarize the reasons the court ruled this way.  (One to three paragraphs.)

Critical Analysis.

This is the most important section of your case brief and much of your grade will come from your ability to demonstrate that you have understood and considered the legal issue, the rule, the Court’s reasoning, with attention to our due process rights, and how the rule will be or already has been applied to society at large following the decision. Rely on at least one academic article that discusses the case to develop your own analysis. (Three to four paragraphs.)

Here are potential prompts to consider:

      • Discuss the reason you feel the Supreme Court heard this case. Said another way, the Court decides which cases it hears, and often does not hear a case until society has developed a general understanding. This is one way the Court tries to avoid appearing overly political. What was the social-political mood of America when the case was decided?
      • The Court must rely on both the penal code and U.S. Constitution as well as prior case law, or precedent. Which cases or statutes were overturned by this decision?
      • Does the Court seek to offer clarity on how an existing rule should be applied, does it shift the application of the rule, or does it depart greatly from prior precedent or criminal justice norms? Why do you think the Court took the direction it did?
      • Do you feel that the decision is in-line with what the framers of the constitution were thinking at the time they drafted our due process rights, or does the case reflect a willingness of the Court to evolve with shifting standards of decency?
      • Was the rule that it developed easily applied by the police, courts, or correctional system? For example, if you were a judge or police officer, how would this case influence your work?
      • Was the Court’s decision just? Said another way, do you agree with the Court’s decision? How would you modify the rule to conform to your sense of fairness as it relates to the criminal justice system and the rights of the accused.

Article Citation.

This can be APA or MLA. In the least, you must include author name(s), article title, journal name, and year of publication; give the link to any article that you access online. (One line.)


Case brief study