Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961)
1. The Parties: Tell me who the parties are: in a criminal trial, the plaintiff is the State of wherever this happened (Ohio). But the defendant appealed so he’s the appellant. Fill in the following:
• Plaintiff –
• Defendant –
• Appellant –
• Respondent –
2. Procedural History: this was tried in a trial court, and she was found guilty, and she appealed to the Ohio appeals court. This case went to an appeals court, a state supreme court, and then to the USSC. Tell me every court where this case has been heard.
3. The Facts: just cite the facts of the case as succinctly as possible but make sure you add the facts that she is appealing about (the search of her home).
Tell the story of the crime. Facts MAKE the law!
4. The Issue: why did she appeal? What issues did she raise on appeal?????
When noting issues, it may help to phrase them in terms of questions that can be answered with a precise “yes” or “no.”
5. The Holding & Court’s Rationale:
Holding: What did the USSC decide on the issues in #4 above???
Rationale: The reasoning, or rationale, is the chain of argument which led the judges in either a majority or a dissenting opinion to rule as they did. This should be outlined point by point in numbered sentences or paragraphs
Most of our significant legal history in criminal procedure has been created by cases that the USSC has chosen to decide to address novel or new issues in criminal law and procedure. The categories of a case brief breakdown what happened to the case as it worked its way from the trial courts to the state’s appellate court to the state’s supreme court and finally to the USSC.
These case briefs may be hard, but they are a great learning experience. We are truly learning how to pull a case apart and understand why the law is what it is today. Just think of the impact Miranda v. Arizona has had on our CJS. And how about Gideon v. Wainwright? I don’t even have to tell you about those cases because you already know about them since they are such an important part of our everyday lives.
Here is the breakdown of our case briefs:
Parties: We are all familiar with the terms like plaintiff and defendant, but when we are able to decide who fits into what category, we are trying to understand the roles in trial courts and in the appeals process. While the criminal is always the defendant, sometimes, as we saw in Illinois v. Gates, the criminal is not always the appellant. The State of Illinois was appealing the trial court’s decision to suppress the evidence, so the State of Illinois appealed that decision all the way to the USSC. That’s so unusual! But look how important it was for the state to appeal the suppression!
Procedural History: We look at the procedural history, and we see how and why a case can make it all the way to the USSC. All cases start in a trial court somewhere (usually called a Superior Court). Then if the state loses on an evidence question (like a motion to suppress), the state can appeal. But what is much more likely to happen is that a defendant is found guilty, and he appeals to the intermediary appeals court in his state. If he fails there, he can appeal to his state’s supreme court. If he fails there, he can ask the USSC to hear his case. If the USSC decides in its “Rule of Four” that it wants to rule on his particular appeals issue, the Court will grant a writ of certiorari granting the defendant a hearing before the USSC. Wow! Only a handful of cases are ever decided by the USSC! Most of the time, we will see “cert. denied” on many cases. This means that the USSC denied the defendant’s request to have his case heard before the USSC.
Facts: In this section, we are looking at the importance of facts and how law can change given a new twist on a fact pattern (like in Illinois v. Gates where the Court established a new rule – totality of the circumstances – when the two pronged test of Aguilar/Spinelli didn’t really work for this set of facts. While facts may be the easiest part to write about, it really is the MOST critical!
Issues: We are learning in the issues section why the USSC accepted this case (the USSC accepts those cases only that are “new” issues that the Court must deal with in our ever evolving legal system).
Rationale: And finally, when we interpret how the Court rationalized the case, we are learning how the USSC Justices think about the law. You will see that there are dissents, that is, those justices on the Court who disagree with the majority. You will see that there are concurring opinions, that is, those justices on the Court who agree but for a different legal reason. But most importantly, you will see in trying to understand the Court’s ruling that even the USSC Justices are confused and disagree!!!!
Two points need to be made: 1) only capitalize the word “court” in a sentence when “court” is part of a name of a court OR when referring to the USSC only like I have done above; 2) don’t expect to submit perfect case briefs-these are not easy to do.
There are five threads to this assignment. We will work to perfect each part of a “case brief” together, so that when you begin to brief the five cases due this semester, you will be able to do these assignments without guessing.
We will brief the case of Mapp v. Ohio. I picked this case because the Mapp decision by the USSC applied the “federal” constitutional right guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment (to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures) to state prosecutions. Before Mapp, those Fourth Amendment protections, since they emanate from our federal constitution, applied only to federal criminal prosecutions (if you can believe it!)
See the sites for Mapp v. Ohio below. Read the case. Then research the case on the Internet. Figure out who the parties are, how the case when from a state court all the way to the USSC, summarize the facts, tell me what the issues are, and then tell me the holding of the USSC and the rationale the USSC provided for its decision.
Here is the outline of how we brief a case in law school.
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