Analyzing Court Cases

Fundamentals of Procedural Law by Adam J. McKee

Analyzing court cases is a fundamental skill for criminal justice students. By studying court decisions, students gain insight into the application of procedural law in real-world situations.

This section will provide a step-by-step guide on how to analyze court opinions effectively. Understanding this process will enable students to develop critical thinking skills and enhance their understanding of procedural law.

Step 1: Read and Understand the Case

To begin the analysis, it is crucial to read and comprehend the court case thoroughly. Pay close attention to the facts of the case, the legal issues involved, and the court’s decision. Identify the parties involved, including the prosecution and the defense, and understand their arguments. Take note of the procedural history of the case, including previous court decisions that may have influenced the current ruling.

Step 2: Identify the Legal Principles

After understanding the case, the next step is to identify the legal principles applied by the court. These legal principles are the rules or standards that the court uses to make its decision. They are derived from statutes, constitutions, and previous court decisions. Look for key legal concepts, such as due process, search and seizure, or the right to counsel, which may be relevant to the case.

Pro Tip
The vast majority of procedural law cases will be based on a Constitutional Amendment! As you read, be sure to note any mention of Amendments and Clauses within those amendments.

Step 3: Examine the Reasoning

Once the legal principles have been identified, analyze the court’s reasoning behind its decision. Look for the arguments made by both sides and evaluate their strength. Consider the logic and coherence of the court’s analysis. Determine whether the court’s decision is consistent with the legal principles identified in Step 2. Assess how the court applied the law to the specific facts of the case.

Step 4: Consider Dissenting Opinions

In some cases, judges may disagree with the majority opinion and provide a dissenting opinion. It is essential to consider dissenting opinions as they often present alternative viewpoints and can provide a deeper understanding of the legal issues at hand. Analyze the dissenting opinions and compare them with the majority opinion to gain a more comprehensive perspective on the case.

Step 5: Reflect on the Implications

Lastly, reflect on the implications of the court’s decision. Consider how the ruling may impact future cases and the criminal justice system as a whole. Evaluate whether the decision aligns with your own values and beliefs. Reflect on any potential changes or reforms that could arise from the court’s decision. This critical reflection will help you develop a broader understanding of the complexities of procedural law.


Analyzing court cases is a vital skill for criminal justice students. By following a systematic approach, students can effectively analyze court decisions and gain a deeper understanding of procedural law. Start by thoroughly reading and understanding the case, identifying the legal principles at play, and examining the court’s reasoning. Consider dissenting opinions and reflect on the implications of the court’s decision. Through this process, students can develop critical thinking skills and enhance their knowledge of procedural law.

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Modification History

File Created:  08/07/2018

Last Modified:  07/10/2023

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