Legal Analysis

Synthesis and Case Comparison
Legal Analysis—The Next Step
• Reading an understanding cases is first step in
legal analysis

• Next step is to relate law to a factual dispute
– developing an argument to support your client’s
position or
– presenting an objective discussion of the law as
related to a factual dispute
• Lawyers (and Judges) use I.R.A.C.
formula to analyze legal issues
– Issue
– Rule of Law
– Analysis or Application
– Conclusion
Rule of Law
• Rule of Law that applies may stem from
more than one case

• Giving a complete rule of law often
requires synthesis of the cases
• Step between research and writing
• Relating relevant cases to one another
• Necessary because research often reveals
many cases
• Also necessary because case law is
limited to facts of case and your facts may
be a little different than each case
How Similar Cases Relate
• A group of cases say the same thing
– i.e. ―The courts consistently hold…
• Two or more cases define/explain different
elements of the same cause of action or
code section
• Two or more cases distinguish application
of law to different facts
• Combining separate
pieces to make a

• Rule for your case
Example--Grouping Cases
• The majority of the states have adopted the traditional
rule that a landowner is liable for injuries to trespassing
children if the landowner maintains an attractive
nuisance (citations) The reasons for this rule are….
(explain various reasons--which may differ from court to

• A number of states, however, have rejected the rule and
instead apply the traditional rule of a landowner’s duty to
trespassers. (citations and reasons.)
You Try It
• Powell v. Alabama
– The 14
Amendment requires that states
appoint lawyers for indigent defendants in
capital cases.

• Gideon v. Wainwright
Synthesis and Case law
• Every case gives us a piece of the whole
picture; i.e. part of the entire body of law
on a subject

• When a factual situation presents more
than one issue or when facts are not the
same as any one case, it is necessary to
use more than one case
Synthesis--Briefing 2 or more
• Synthesis is done with cases dealing with
the same or similar issue

• Synthesis gives you a more complete
picture of the rule of law governing your
legal questions
• Research reveals Terry v. Ohio
– A patdown for weapons is allowed when an officer
has rational suspicion that a crime has occurred
(Suspects seen ―casing‖ a jewelry store ) and may
have a weapon
– If during a lawful patdown search, an officer feels
something that he knows immediately to be
contraband, it can be seized because plain feel is
same as plain view
• For example, consider Terry v. Ohio and Minnesota v.
Dickerson and other cases:

• If police have rational suspicion to believe a suspect is
involved in criminal activity and may have a weapon, that
individual may be detained and outer clothing patted
down for weapons. If an item feels like a weapon, the
officer may remove it. If the item turns out not to be a
weapon, but other contraband, it may be seized because
it is in plain view. If an item does not feel like a weapon
it cannot be seized unless the officer is immediately able
to determine that the item is illegal contraband.
Hypothetical 2
• Police receive a report of an armed robbery at a 7-11,
the suspects, 2 males, fleeing in a purple pickup truck,
with a partial license, 4DC. While patrolling they see a
vehicle matching the description. They pull the vehicle
over, and order the occupants, 2 males, out of the car.
The officer pats down the suspects. The officer feels no
weapon, but does feel a soft pouch that he thinks might
be marijuana. To confirm this he removes the package
from the suspects pocket and discovers that it is
marijuana. The officers then check the passenger
compartment of the vehicle. Under the front seat the
officers find cocaine.
Terry Rule
• Police can detain an individual with
rational suspicion to believe the person is
involved in criminal activity and can pat
down if there is rational suspicion to
believe he has a weapon
Long (Michigan v.) Rule
• Where police have articulable suspicion to
believe a driver may be armed and
dangerous, they may conduct a protective
search for weapons not only of the driver’s
person but also of the passenger
compartment of the car. Any contraband
in plain view can be seized, whether it is a
weapon or not.
Sibron Rule
• If the protective search goes beyond what
is necessary to determine if the suspect is
armed, it is no longer valid under Terry and
its fruits will be suppressed.
Rule from Terry, Long and

• When police have rational suspicion to
believe a person is armed they may do a
pat down for weapons, and if the suspect
is stopped in a vehicle the passenger
compartment may also be searched.
However, any evidence obtained after
police determine there is no weapon will
be suppressed unless it was in plain view.
Case Synthesis
• A case synthesis compares the outcomes
of cases and attempts to harmonize these
outcomes into a set of logically consistent
rules of law.
– E.g. Your complete statement of the rule(s) of
law should apply to or be consistent with all of
the cases you are synthesizing
How to Synthesize
• Start with facts:
• Isolate factual similarities and differences
Proceed to Reasoning
• If there are different facts, or contrary
holdings, you may also need to compare
and discuss reasons for decisions
How to Synthesize, cont.
• Compare your holdings
• Look to the facts you have incorporated into your
• have you incorporated all key similar facts?
• Have you incorporated all key different facts?
How to Synthesize, cont.
• Reconciling contradictory holdings:
– Look to facts
– Look to rationale

Did Courts base their decisions on law from same jurisdiction?
If rationale based on state law, is same state law being applied?
Is there a question of state or federal law?
Has there been any intervening statutory law that could make court come
up with another result?
Has there been any intervening U.S. Supreme court ruling that might
change things?
Written Synthesis
• Look for these words tying your holdings
– And
– In addition
– However
– Unless
– Except