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CASE COMMENT FORMAT

The case comment is a technical piece rather than a creative piece, so you should strive to follow this format as closely as possible.

A case comment consists of four distinct, rigidly defined parts:

1. Introduction (2-3 paragraphs)

Lead-in. Usually a case comment begins with a one-sentence paragraph identifying the precise subject of the case. This sentence allows the reader to decide whether or not the comment addresses an issue of interest, and helps focus the comment.

Statement of Facts. Briefly state only those facts of the case essential to the issue being resolved. The facts should be as brief as possible --only 2-4 short sentences should suffice.

Posture and Holding. Briefly review the procedural posture of the case. Substantive dispositions of the case by lower court decisions may be footnoted, but only if the decision provides support for your criticism of the case, presents an alternative rationale, or is otherwise significant or interesting to thee reader. Following the procedural posture of the case, the author should note the disposition and state the precise holding of the case under review. Usually, the holding can be stated in a single sentence.

2. History (6-8 paragraphs)

The history section reviews the essential steps in the development of the law leading up to the case under review. The general idea is to provide the reader with an adequate background in this area of the law to evaluate the court's decision, and the author's analysis of that decision. The history generally includes any statutory developments, seminal judicial interpretations or decisions, and any major cases dealing with the specific issue involved.

In this part of the comment the author should cite all of the sources that will be discussed later in the comment. Subsequent sections of the comment will simply refer back to these sources. Only rarely should new sources be introduced after the history section.

3. Analysis (the most important section of the comment)

The court's analysis (2-6 paragraphs). In this section the author relates the court's holding and its rationale. The author should similarly discuss any significant concurring or dissenting opinions.

The discussion should track the court's logical sequence, and merely report how the court reached its decision. Because the comment focuses on a single, narrow area of the law, the author should not discuss unrelated or merely peripheral issues addressed by the court. Similarly, the author should not discuss concurrences or dissents which focus on separate questions of law.

Author's analysis (2-4 paragraphs). In this section the author should critically evaluate the court's holding and rationale. You should include an evaluation of the court's performance, even if the evaluation says no more than that it is one of many reasonable methods of disposing of the claims. You may conclude that the court was right or wrong; that the court departed from accepted authority; that the court used faulty logic; or that the

court failed to rely or selectively relied on the evidence presented. You should concentrate on the impact of the case's holding on that area of the law.

You must support your assertions. The assertions you make may be supported through logical argument or, if supporting sources exist, through citation to these authorities. In supporting your analysis, you should discuss cases that are "on point" and interpret their significance to the narrow legal issue of your comment case.

4.

Conclusion

The case comment conclusion should be brief, concentrating on the impact the decision will have on the law. Once again, you need not come to a conclusion that the court's decision was right or wrong, but you should summarize the position you took in the analysis section.

General Matters Relating to the Comment

Footnotes. Perhaps the best way to get a feel for what belongs in the footnotes is to read the comments in the attached materials. Footnotes contain citations to authorities that support textual statements, sources of quotations, quoted words of an authority mentioned in text, full citations of documents mentioned in text, cross references within a comment, and citations to authorities which contradict or qualify statements made in the text. Citations are always to the source that the reader would find most helpful. The more central the proposition to your argument, the more comprehensive your citations; the less central to your argument, the less detailed your citations. Whether detailed or not, check all citations for Blue Book accuracy. In order to best inform the reader, citations should usually appear with accompanying short explanatory parentheticals.

In addition to the above elements that can be included in foot-notes, an author may use footnotes to discuss in textual form other relevant information that is not of sufficient importance to include in the text, but should be brought to the reader's attention. Nothing that is essential to the comprehension of the text, however, belongs in the footnotes; the text must stand on its own. Finally, you should limit textual footnotes to a discussion of why authorities support the propositions in the text.

The question of how much footnoting is enough is difficult to answer. There is no magic ratio of footnotes to text. The general rule is a 2:1 ratio, but this is not a requirement and you should avoid any tendency to fill pages with unnecessary footnotes merely to achieve the "right" ratio. Because this is a short, concise, analytical work, the footnotes should simply support the assertions made. If the credibility of your textual statements can withstand reasonable scrutiny given the accompanying footnotes, then your documentation is adequate.

Blue Book. A writer's ability to use the Blue Book correctly is an important skill for law review writing and is, therefore, a consideration in the grading process. Incorrect Blue Book form alone will not disqualify a comment, but it may lead to a deduction from your total score.