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In the first step, research and define each legal term placing the definition and the legal authority (primary sources or secondary sources supported by a primary source) in the first column. A legal authority must support the legal term as a primary source citation. The legal authority must demonstrate how the precedent definition is applied (constitutional provisions, legislative statutes, state laws, ordinances, or legal cases). Limit secondary source citations (encyclopedias, textbooks, attorney legal publications, and law school references) to identify the source leading to the primary source. When a secondary source quotes a definition, search for the primary source (i.e., the case; statute) within the secondary source’s material. Define each term, study the term’s application to the case studies, and critical “issues” that determine a case’s outcome.
Once you have identified and defined a legal term, identify a case that applied the precedent term’s Rule of Law decision. Analyze the case and briefly outline the facts and issues related to the case’s Rule of Law. Insert the case information into column two on the chart.
The third column tracks the element requirements of the Rule of Law. Elements are the crucial parts of evidence that must be established in a court to prove a legal claim. Before deciding that a precedent applies to a case, the court must compare the facts, issues, and the precedent’s elements to determine whether the facts align with the Rule of Law. In a lawsuit, the parties argue the following elements:
The defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty.
The defendant breached that duty.
Plaintiff suffered an injury.
Evidence that the defendant’s breach caused the injury.