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U.S. Legal Research for Non-Lawyers

Structure of a Case

See the Newdow case, link below, for an example of a United States Court of Appeals case.

  • Caption: the name of the case
  • Docket Number: the number of the case file in the Court Clerk's office
  • Headnote: short statements, at the top of the case, before the opinion itself, of issues of law decided in the case, written by editors (not the court)
  • Syllabus: summary of the facts and issues of law and holding.  In official reporters, written by persons designated by the court; in unofficial reporters, written by the editors
  • Majority/Concurring/Dissenting Opinion
    • Always in this order
    • Majority opinion is the holding
    • Concurring opinion: joins in the result but for different reasons than the majority
    • Dissent: disagrees with the result

Case Law Research

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