Entifying Key Facts of a Client’s Case

In identifying the key facts of a client's case, the following steps are recommended (Putnam, 2009):

entify every cause of action based on facts presented. Based upon a review of the facts, one may arrive at a preliminary conclusion regarding which possible causes of action are raised.

Specify each element for every cause of action determined. Every cause of action is constituted by several elements. These elements need to be determined to ensure that the same law applies now given the current facts. This requires some research but is crucial in staking claim. Before asserting any claims, one must prove the existence of elements constituting every cause of action identified. These are called key facts.

Record all facts which are relevant to the causes of action earlier identified. All the facts which have a relation to the elements of the causes of action are listed. Interviews may be gathered from the client or witnesses. Fact checking is needed to ensure veracity of information.

Determine the key facts. Determine the key facts or client's facts which can be applied to establish or satisfy the elements of each cause of action. Only the key facts are identified because only these are essential to the outcome of the case.

Identifying Key Facts of a Court Opinion

In order to identify the key facts in a court opinion (Putnam, 2009), the following steps may be used:

Read the whole case. It is also important that in reading, one needs to bear in mind the question about the ruling based on which facts. Therefore, one must possess a general overview of the case by reading and having the decision reached in mind.

Look to the holding. You need to determine how the court answered the legal questions raised based on the facts of case and in what manner the court applied the rule of law.

Identify the facts leading to the holding. First, one needs to list all the facts that are in any way related to the court’s holding. Second, one needs to identify which of the listed facts are key facts and determine the key facts.

Key Facts in United States v. Leon

Burbank police initiated surveillance on Leon based on a confidential informant who alleged that the defendant and an accomplice were selling large amounts of cocaine. Information prior to the surveillance investigation also indicated the Leon was known to store a large stash of methaqualone at his residence.

A search warrant “valid in its face” was then issued by a State Superior Court Judge in 1981.

The searches that followed produced large quantities of illegal drugs in different residences as well as automobiles.

Leon was indicted by a California grand jury and subsequently charged with violating federal drug trafficking laws.

During trial, the court granted Leon’s motion to suppress evidence arguing that the warrant was defective because it did not establish the existence of probable cause.

Upon appeal, government argued that the police acted on good faith when obtaining a defective warrant.

Court of Appeals affirmed trial court decision and declined the good faith argument.

The Supreme Court granted the petition for certiorari.

CITATION: United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S. Ct. 3405, 82 L. Ed. 2d 677, 1984 U.S.

PARTIES: United States of America, Petitioner

Alberto Antonio Leon et al., Respondent

FACTS: A search warrant issued by a Superior Court judge led to the seizure of large amounts of illegal drugs in the defendant’s residence. The trial court found the search warrant insufficient on its face and was suppressed at trial.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS: Petitioner appealed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

ISSUE: Whether evidence obtained under a search warrant issued lawfully by a judge but found wanting in probable cause should be excluded.

HOLDING: In this case, good faith mistake justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule.

REASONING: The exclusionary rule was intended not as a constitutional right but a judicial act which safeguards Fourth Amendment rights. It was primarily intended to deter police abuse and/or misconduct. A police officer who acts in good faith despite a defective warrant cannot be held liable for misconduct. There is no basis in suppressing evidence when the police officer relied in good faith on a defective search warrant.

DISPOSITION: Reversed.

COMMENTS: The admission of evidence violates due process rights and may in effect “freeze” Fourth Amendment rights (O’Brien, 1993). What is to stop police officers in taking away the specific requirements in search warrants and come up with vague conditions all subsumed under the good faith reliance principle?

CITATION: Commonwealth v. Shea, 38 Mass. App. Ct. 7. 644 N.E.2d 244 (1995)

PARTIES: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Petitioner

John J. Shea, Respondent

FACTS: Defendant and his friend invited two women who were sunbathing. Once the women were aboard, the defendant headed out to the open sea. While off shore, defendant stopped the boat, disrobed, and made sexual advances at the women. When the women demanded to be returned to Boston, defendant threw them overboard.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS: Petitioner appealed the decision of the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

ISSUE: Whether the ocean can qualify as a dangerous weapon used in the commission of assault and battery.

HOLDING: The ocean is not a dangerous weapon for purposes of Section 15A in Massachusetts General Laws.

REASONING: Section 15A of chapter 265 of Massachusetts General Laws provides three elements constituting assault by means of a dangerous weapon, 1) touching must have occurred however slight by means of the weapon, 2) weapon must be inherently dangerous, and 3) there must be intent to use the object in a potentially dangerous manner. While the ocean can be considered and is dangerous, in its natural state it cannot be considered such within the purview of Section 15A because it does not likely produce death.

DISPOSITION: Reversed.

COMMENTS: Had there not been another boat in sight, the women thrown overboard would have drowned. The ocean was used to punish and the intent was to produce fatal consequences.

MEMORANDUM OF LAW

To: Supervising Attorney

From: (Your name)

Date: March 5, 2011

Case: Eldridge v. Eldridge

Re: Modification of Child Support

Statement of Assignment

I have been assigned to prepare a memorandum on the issue of whether the court erred in exempting Mr. Eldridge from child support arrearages due to temporary unemployment. The second issue to be resolved is whether Mrs. Eldridge has sufficient ground to appeal the ruling.

Issue

The relevant statute is Ind. Code § 31-2-11-12 which provides that “a court may not retroactively modify an obligor's duty to pay a delinquent support payment.” Further, a court which acquires jurisdiction can modify arrangements for support payment that “becomes due after notice of a petition to modify the support order has been given to the obligee” and “before a final order concerning the petition for modification is entered” (Section b, Ind. Code § 31-2-11-12).

Brief Answer

Yes, with qualification. In Cardwell v. Gwaltney, 556 N.E.2d 953 (Ind. App. 1 Dist. 1990), even when non-custodial parents lose income due to unemployment, courts still require child support obligations, albeit at a minimum level. An obligor who fails to pay support because he has no financial means to do so cannot be held in contempt. The obligation however accrues and when the obligor subsequently acquires ability to pay child support, the custodial parent will be reimbursed.

Statement of Facts

Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge divorced in 1992 with the latter granted custody of two minor children. Child support obligations amounted to $700 per month for Mr. Eldridge. From January to October 1993, he became unemployed and was delinquent in paying child support totaling $7,000. Mr. Eldridge filed for modification of child support which the court granted, ordering him to pay $3,500 instead of $7,000. Mrs. Eldridge was advised that she had no standing to appeal the court order.

MEMORANDUM OF LAW

To: Supervising Attorney

From: (Your name)

Date: March 5, 2011

Case: Mr. Arturo Garcia

Re: Child support modification

Statement of Assignment

I have been assigned to answer the legal question of whether 1) a unilateral decision to reduce child support is allowed when the child reaches the age of majority, and 2) evaluate whether the court is likely to grant child support modification under particular circumstances.

Issue

Under Statutory Laws: NMSA § 28-6-1 (Repl. Pamp. 1991) (state of New Mexico) states the age of majority is 18 years old, NMSA § 40-4-7 (Repl. Pamp. 1994) in Section F states “The district court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of all matters pertaining to the... care, custody, maintenance... of the children so long as the children remain minors,” and NMSA § 40-4-11.4(A) (Repl. Pamp. 1994) in Section A states, “A court may modify a child support obligation upon a showing of material and substantial changes in circumstances subsequent to the adjudication of the preexisting order.”

Brief Answer

On the first issue of whether Ms. Sanchez can unilaterally decide to reduce child support, No. The reaching of the age of majority of one child does not allow for a unilateral modification of child support. While child support is terminated once the child reaches 18 years old, in the case of Britton v. Britton, 100 N.M. 424, 428, 671 P.2d 1135, 1139 (1983), the statute of limitations on child support payments merely prevents remedy on stale claims but does not undermine its validity nor does it modify the child support decree.

On the second issue, No. In Wolcott v. Wolcott, 105 N.M. 608, 609-10, 735 P.2d 326, 327-28 (Ct. App. 1987), the court ruled that a spouse’s voluntary change of employment or life choices leading to a change in ability to meet child support obligations do not justify modification.

Statement of Facts

Arturo Garcia and Mary Garcia divorced after 15 years of marriage. Mr. Garcia was awarded the custody of their children and Ms. Garcia, a brain surgeon, shouldered a larger share of child support at $3,000 a month. Frustrated at the perceived inequitable arrangement, Ms. Garcia resigned from her job and worked as a paralegal and at the same time enrolled in a community college, substantially lowering her income. When the oldest child reached the age of majority, Ms. Garcia reduced child support to just $500 a month sans a court judgment.



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