Charter-related Cases

Case Brief Assignment

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A case brief is a concise summary of a case law decision. The assignment will help students understand the role of case law in our common law system. It will also teach students how to interpret case law decision using examples that are current and significant for policing and the administration of criminal law. The challenge for students is distilling legalese into fundamental points in a condensed and easily understandable format.


Select one case from those listed below and complete a case brief based on the instructions provided. If you have another charter case that you would like to provide a case brief aside from those selected that will be permitted. You must advise me before hand and obtain approval for your case selection.






1. Length should be a minimum of 4 pages, double spaced, APA style.


2. A case brief is not a forum for voicing your opinion about the correctness of the decision. It is a summary of the decision made by some of the top legal minds of our country. The accuracy of your analysis of the case is what counts.


3. Most of the material for the case brief is contained in the “headnote”, usually found on the first two pages. Additional reading of the judge’s ruling may be necessary to summarize the reasons for the decision (ratio).


4. Your case brief will follow the headings exactly:

• (Title)

– For example: Regina v. Williams

• Procedural History

– In this section, trace the appeal process from the trial court to the S.C.C. Remember that trials are only done in the Provincial or Superior Courts (some provinces use different names). Appeals are not trials. Trials are about determining guilt through the trial process. The appeals you will review are arguments on constitutional points of law to determine if the trial decision was fair and lawful.

– What TRIAL court issued the original decision?

– What was the decision?

– Who appealed the case originally?

– Which court heard the first appeal and what was the decision?

– Who appealed the case to the S.C.C.?

Note: This section does not indicate what the decision of the S.C.C. was. That comes later.

• Facts

– Brief paraphrased summary of the facts.

– Include the details of the offence.

– Include the general trial or case facts leading up to the issue(s).


• Issues

– These are often clearly stated in the decision and are always phrased as questions that the S.C.C. is being asked to answer. So write the issues as questions.

• Decision (of the Supreme Court)

– You will find the decision after the case facts and it is always indicated in the following format:


– Indicate whether the appeal “allowed” or “dismissed”?

– Interpret what that decision means in regards to the issues? – Was it a majority or unanimous decision?


• Ratio Decidendi (Reasons for the decision – “Ratio” for short).

– A brief and concise summary of the reasons of the judge who wrote the decision for the S.C.C.

– This is the most difficult section and will often take several paragraphs to explain the reasons for the decision of the court.


Right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure

Hunter v. Southam Inc., [1984] 2 SCR 145


Right to religious freedom in a democratic state

R. v. Big M Drug Mart, [1985] 1 SCR 295


The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty

R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 SCR 103


Hate speech towards targeted groups

R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 SCR 697


Evidence in trials

R. v. Stinchcombe, [1991] 3 SCR 326


The right to be tried in a reasonable time

R v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27

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