A Legal Brief of Ex Parte McCardle

For anyone who has ever went to law school or anyone who wants to go to law school, learning how to write a case brief is very important. Case Briefs are basically small summaries of the most important facts of the case and the way that the Supreme Court justices ruled in the case. Every legal brief has the same format. In the upper lefthand corner you will have your own name, followed by the date, case name and the date that the Supreme Court ruled and made its decision in the case. After that information, you write down the Facts of the case. This information includes the defendant or accussed who is bring forth a suit to the Supreme Court and the other party in the case which will usually be the government or corporation.

One the facts of the case have been stated, the writer must state the legal principle that the judges used to make their decision. Most of the time it will be based on one of the Bill of Rights, a Constitutional Amendment or a previous Supreme Court case, also called a legal precedent. Next comes any questions that the court must answer which impact policy making decisions in the U.S. and laws. Then comes the majority opinion which is written by a judge on the majority side. There might also be judges who vote with the court in a majority but have a different reason for voting that way.

Next the writer states if there are any judges in dissenting opinion of the court and also if there are concurring dissenting opinion or judges who dissented from the court for a different reason. Finally you must state the vote in the court such as 5 to 4 or 6 to 3 or if any judge has abstained from the vote. Finally, state the legal principle which the case was decided on. Below you will find the Supreme Court legal brief and format of Exparte McCardle

Case Brief

John Smith
March 7, 2006
Ex Parte McCardle
#74 U.S. 506 (1869)

Facts: William McCardle was arrested in 1867 for publishing editorials and articles in his Mississippi newspaper that went against the Reconstruction Movement. McCardle sought a writ of habeas corpus that the Reconstruction Acts were unconstitutional. Supreme Court heard decision in 1867. In 1867 Congress withdrew its 1867 act of jurisdiction on McCardle’s case and he was released just before his case went to trial.

Provision of Constitution: Congressional Reconstruction Acts of 1867 and judicial jurisdiction of the courts.

Questions: Do the courts have habeas corpus jurisdiction after Congress has already withdrawn its authority with a statue 3 weeks later? Also, did McCardle’s imprisonment violate the 5th Amendment?

Majority decision: The court does not have jurisdiction in this matter according to the 1868 statue.

Majority reasoning: Appellate jurisdiction is created by the courts conferring on the Constitution. However, Congress can make exceptions to its jurisdiction as it has done in this case. The court cannot rule on something in which it has no jurisdiction on. Congress can remove jurisdiction from the courts for any reason

Concurring Reasoning: none

Dissenting opinion: none

Vote: Chief Justice Salmon Chase and unanimous court vote voted that the court does not have jurisdiction in the matter.

Legal Principle: “When an act of the legislature is repealed, it must be considered, except as to transactions past and closed, as if it never existed.”

This Supreme Court case shows that when Congress has made a law, the Supreme Court must respect that law unless it goes directly against the Constitution and the rights of the accused.

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