Monday, January 23, 2012

A Beginning Look at Case Law

So why does one look into the "law" in the first place, let alone study or research it?   The most basic would be to answer a legal question, makes sense right?

This would bring us to that section of law called case law.  Case law answers legal questions, as such answers have been determined over the years, it [case law] answers questions for which there is no statutory answer.   More specifically case law involves interpreting a statutory provision to make sense of how that statute should be applied to a particular case.

The above is the reason why it is so important to find case law that deals with facts that are similar to your given situation.   The closer the facts of the case law you are looking to cite to those in your case, the higher your odds are that the court will be persuaded by your argument.
Lets compare apples to apples . You bop into a court of law saying that Johnny stole your apple seeds and began to grow them in Georgia.   But Johnny counters by telling the court that the seeds could not be yours because they don't grow apples in Georgia because everybody knows that Georgia is the "peach state."
For simplicity you might offer to the court that Johnny is a liar because "Apple and More's Apple Facts" clearly state that: "(1) 100 varieties of apples are grown commercially in the United States, (2) Apples are grown commercially in 36 states, and (3) Apples are grown in all 50 states.  Well to you and I, or any other reasonable person, you have picked a winner and the facts show that Johnny is a liar. MAYBE!

I say "maybe" because there is a whole lot more that must be put forth, like who in the hell is "Apple and More," are they recognized by the court as being experts when it comes to apple seeds.  But if we take the above approach, we have made the mistake that most laymen will make when they go to court, and that is not knowing all the "elements" and issues that you have a burden to prove.  We have a long way to go, and a lot of other topics to cover before I get into the "elements" of a case, but with our example above you might find that the judge will cite a case telling you that: "To attempt to use the decision of this Court as a judicial pronouncement on a matter which is in no way before us is like trying to grow pears on an apple tree. The apple hanging on the tree of decision in this case has to do with the proposition as to whether the District Attorney of Philadelphia may, according to law, in discharging the functions of his office, subpoena to his office such persons he deems amenable to interrogation. That is the issue, that is the apple, and no amount of argumentation or interpretation can transform that apple into a pear. No mixing of seeds, no amount of botanical treatment or alimentation can grow a coconut on a banana tree, and no type of analysis, construction, exposition or diagnosis can read into this decision what is absolutely not there."  Com. ex rel. Specterv. Freed, 424 Pa. 508, 523.

In a nutshell this Judge, using case law, would be telling you, "look fella before you come into my court, and waste my time, you'd better understand that you have to prove a theft first, and it doesn't matter if its apples or oranges, you have to know the elements you have to prove in your case, case dismissed without prejudice." 

Keep your head up all is not lost, but don't jump to the conclusion that the "without prejudice" means that the judge kinda likes you.  [He probably hates your guts especially if its close to lunch and he has a slice of apple pie in his lunch box]  He is trying to get rid of your ass, and hopes you don't figure it out, and come back again.  (More on all this later too)  Guess what, I've set you up also because now we have the foundation laid so that we can delve into the use of case law in the following postings.  (Hang in there, y'all come back now ya hear!)

Thanks for viewing, tell a friend or two about Pro se HQ!

(Disclaimer, so to speak: the above example may be over simplistic to the point of straying, but I'm no attorney and until one is willing to attempt what I doing here I pray the hating is quelled, but correction and or suggestions are welcomed. Holla!)

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