I am of a view opposite to that espoused by the people above. While I stopped formally briefing cases in September of my 1L year, the entirety of my exam prep, more or less, consists of a nuanced understanding of the cases. So yes, stop at book briefing (whatever that means, I don't know what book briefing is - writing notes in your book?), but don't do anything less than that. It's my opinion - admittedly, an unsupported one as I haven't experimented working the other way - that memorizing a bunch of rules in an acontextual fashion is the path to mediocrity. What I do in virtually all of my exams, and it's worked because I'm in the top 1% of Georgetown, is I'll say something like (the following is a paraphrase of an answer on an exam that won me a best exam award - the facts were that an anonymous informant told a cop a teacher would be carrying a gun into the school where he worked in a battered briefcase, and the officer stopped and frisked the teacher):
"in Florida v. J.L. the Court said anonymous tips could only give rise to reasonable suspicion if they're predictive, except in cases of great dangers. [That's the holding, the part that everyone throws onto their outline.] But what did the Court really mean by predictive? Well, they say that saying a guy's going to be on the corner wearing a plaid jacket and carrying a gun at 4:00 is not predictive; the plaid jacket, the Court wrote, only went to identity. What matters is predicting the criminal conduct. So here, in your fact pattern, when you say the informant said Teacher Larry would be carrying a gun in a battered briefcase, that's on the borderline, because in part it's a prediction about criminal conduct, but on the other, Teacher Larry may well just carry a briefcase around every day, so we could just see this as a piece of info about identity, like the plaid shirt. The latter's probably the better view; otherwise, any tip becomes "predictive" if you say someone will be carrying a weapon/contraband in a bag they carry all the time, when all that really shows is that you know they carry that bag. And what about the great dangers exception? Isn't carrying a gun to a school a great danger? Well we know that's not the case, because in J.L., the guy was supposedly carrying a gun, and the Court said that wasn't a great danger. However, just maybe, bringing a gun to a school, rather than a high-crime street corner where everyone's often shooting each other anyway, changes the analysis. But probably not, given that the Court's one example of a great danger is a bomb; the Court seems to be thinking in terms of large acts of terrorism, and guns would bring in a whole lot into the exception. If, however, the informant specifically said Teacher Larry was bringing the gun to school to shoot all his students, that would probably qualify. But a gun, standing alone, doesn't become a great danger just because of where you take it."
But what if you didn't remember all those facts, and all the Court's analysis? A whole lot could go wrong. If you just have the rule in your outline, and then you're confronted by this "prediction" that a teacher will carry a gun in a briefcase, you could say, "sounds predictive to me," and stop there, as predictive is a vague term and the Court's really using it in a peculiar way. Now, hopefully you're a better outliner than that, and you have read the case closely enough, in your outlining process, to make a note of what the Court means by predictive. But even then, what will you do with the gun in the school if you don't remember that J.L. itself was a case about a gun, and that the Court specifically mentioned bombs? Just grope around at the meaning of great danger. The moral of the story is that you can never talk sensibly about a rule unless you know the context from which it came. Rules are usually stated so generally that it's impossible to know what they mean until you see how they've been applied.
Last edited by traydeuce
on Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.