Amira wrote:Thanks for answering questions. My school's write-on competition allows us to choose between writing a case comment or a note on a legal topic. We have two weeks to write and the cases, articles, etc. we can use are in the packet--no outside research. What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to write a case comment instead of a note on a legal topic? Can you point me to any examples of case comments so I can see how they are structured?
I hope you're ready for a long answer... Here it goes.
The majority of law review competitions require students to write a casenote (which your school calls a "case comment"). The purpose of this type of article is to provide a thoughtful and original evaluation of the court’s decision in a particular case—not to merely summarize it.
A successful casenote always goes beyond the court’s articulated reasons for its decision and beyond the dissent’s articulated reasons for disagreement. Accordingly, it is never sufficient to argue that the majority is correct for the reasons advanced by the court, nor is it sufficient to argue that the court got it wrong for the same reasons articulated by the dissent. A casenote must analyze the applicable law and come to an original conclusion about why the court got it right or got it wrong.
The following are some examples of the types of analyses that a successful casenote can yield:
♦ The result was wrong; the court misused or misconstrued precedent.
♦ The result was right, but the court did not state the reasons for its decision, which are X, Y, and Z.
♦ The result was wrong; the court creates an exception to a constitutional provision that could swallow the rule.
♦ The result was right, but the court proposed no clear standard for guidance in the future; a workable standard would be X.
♦ The result was wrong; the court misread the statute’s legislative history.
A casenote (aka, case comment) should contain four parts: introduction, background, analysis, and conclusion. The introduction should describe the case and its holding briefly, and should present the writer’s thesis. It is also important to provide a roadmap in the introduction—e.g., “Part I describes X; Part II analyzes Y; and Part III concludes Z.” The background should include a summary of the facts of the case, its procedural history, and the court’s reasoning, as well as that of the concurring and dissenting opinions.
The analysis section of the casenote occupies the vast majority of the paper, and contains the substance of the writer’s claim—i.e., why the court got it right or wrong and, perhaps, what the correct outcome should be. The conclusion is a short summary of the analysis, and occasionally can be used to address issues that are raised by the writer’s claim.
Occasionally, write-on competitions require students to draft a comment (which your school calls a "note"), which analyzes an area of the law, as opposed to focusing on a single case. But there are many distinct types of comments out there, and it is important that you have knowledge of each of them just in case you are asked to write a specific type of comment in the competition. Another reason you should be aware of the different comments out there is that you may choose to write a particular type of comment based on the argument you formulate.
Here are some of the types of comments (aka, "notes" at your school):
First, there is the “case cruncher”—the “typical” article. This type of article analyzes case law in an area that is confused, in conflict, or in transition. Doctrine is antiquated or incoherent and needs to be reshaped. Often the author resolves the conflict or problem by reference to policy, offering a solution that best advances goals of equity, efficiency, and so forth. Next, there is the law reform article. Pieces in this vein argue that a legal rule or institution is not just incoherent, but bad—has evil consequences, is inequitable or unfair. The writer shows how to change the rule to avoid these problems. There is also the legislative note, in which the author analyzes proposed or recently enacted legislation, often section by section, offering comments, criticisms, and sometimes suggestions for improvement. Another type of article is the interdisciplinary article. The author of an interdisciplinary article shows how insights from another field, such as psychology, economics, or sociology, can enable the law to deal better with some recurring problem.
There are additional types of comments (notes), but you get the basic idea. It is a much more open-ended type of paper.
Of course, if your write-on competition asks you to write a specific type of comment, you must write precisely that type. You must follow the competition instructions scrupulously.
Like casenotes (aka, "case comments"), comments (aka, "notes") consist of four basic parts; an introduction, a background section, the analysis section, and a short conclusion. These sections are identical to those of a casenote, except that the comment deals with an area of the law rather than critiquing the outcome of a particular case.
I hope this information is helpful. I cannot tell you which type of article would be better for you to write. You'll have to figure that out on your own. Good luck!