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Supreme Court Chart and Summary

Supreme Court Chart and Article Summary

1. Pick a Supreme Court Case
a. It must contain an Opinion of the Court and at least one Dissent
b. You may do cases that have to do with any of the Bill of Rights or the 14th Amendment (free speech, gun rights, search and seizure, rights of the accused, cruel and unusual punishment, cases about race, women, abortion, religion, etc.) You can also do cases about the executive branch (war powers, habeas corpus, treatment of detainees, issues in the military) or the commerce clause as it relates to civil rights.

2. Read the case carefully. Read the opinion of the court and one dissent. Ignore concurrences or additional dissents. Highlight or note the important passages. There may be much in the case that is technical. Dont worry about that stuff. Be on the look out for the big statements, especially those that show how the Court is interpreting the part of the Constitution in question. Notice the kind of quotes I picked in the examples I gave you.

3. Chart
a. In an excel document, input the Case information
i. Case name
ii. Case ID (e.g. 347 US 483)ackboar
iii. One-paragraph summary of the Facts of the case (in your own words)
iv. Constitutional Question (you can get from the opinion or websites like,
v. One paragraph summary in your own words of the holding. Include the vote count, 9-0, 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, 5-4 and a basic summary of the Courts answer to the constitutional question.

b. Then your document should have three columns one for the subject matter or issue, one for the Opinion of the Court and one for any one of the dissents. For this assignment, cut and paste only the most important quotations from the case as has been done in the example I have given. The key is to be able to match up points made in the dissent with points made in the Courts opinion. It is this upon which you will be graded. You should have at least 10 quotations for the Opinion of the Court and 10 quotations for the dissenters. Again, only include the most decisive quotations. The quotations should not be any longer than three sentences. Do not concern yourself with earlier Supreme Court decisions, or issues in the lower court decisions, just focus on quotes in the decision that analyze the constitution or make big statements about rights and justice.

c. Note that some cases are quite long. But once you find a good one, they are worth reading. Take your time to find the right case before you begin. Find a case about a subject in which you have some interest. If you find gun cases interesting, find a supreme court about gun rights. If you are interested in the abortion debate, find an abortion case. Older cases (pre-1975) tend to be shorter.

d. For the chart portion of the assignment, I have given you examples from Court cases that I have done. My examples are beyond what I expect from you, but it will give you a sense for what I am looking.

4. Read one high quality journal article about your case or the issue in your case (e.g. privacy, abortion, capital punishment). This article should be from law reviews or academic journals, etc.. The article must be at least 10 pages in length. On a separate page of the assignment (in a word document) summarize the article in two paragraphs in your own words. It should be well-written and be a clear presentation of the main argument of the author and his understanding of the case. Upload the article to the dropbox in the form of a PDF or a doc so I can read the article. Do not just include a link. You may not use material published as blogs or entries on websites. It must be a published article in a law review or a journal. For this part, you may use Lexis Nexus or JSTOR or any other academic search engine in the librarys electronic resources. You may also use an approved article sent to me by email ahead of time. If you have any doubt about whether your article is a good one, email me.