Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Parts of a Case by Lyra Vidal

A. Parts of a Case

¡ Statement of the Case
¡ Statement of the Facts
¡ Issues or Assignment of Errors
¡ The Court’s Ruling
¡ Disposition or the Dispositive Portion
¡ Statement of the Case
¡ Consists of a legal definition of the nature of the action
¡ Stating the court of origin and the case number
¡ Reproduction of the decretal portion of the assailed decision

B. Statement of the Case

-- Civil Cases (example): case for collection, ejectment, quieting of title, foreclosure of mortgage, etc.
-- Criminal Cases: Verbatim reproduction of the criminal information serves a s a guide in determining the nature and the gravity of the offense for which the accused may be found culpable
-- Short description of the proceedings regarding the plea of the accused

C. Statement of the Facts

Objective/Reportorial Method - the judge summarizes the testimony of each witnesses and the contents of each exhibit.
Synthesis Method - the factual theory of the plaintiff or prosecution and then that of the defendant or defense is summarized according to the judge’s best light
Subjective Method - the version of the facts accepted by the judge is simply narrated without explaining what the parties’ versions are

In a combination of objective and subjective means, the testimony of each witness is reported and the judge then formulates his or her own version of the facts. In criminal cases, it may be better to present both the version of the prosecution and that of the defense, in the interest of fairness and due process.

A detailed evaluation of the contentions of the parties must follow. The resolution of most criminal cases, unlike civil and other cases, depends to a large extent on the factual issues and the appreciation of the evidence. The plausibility or the implausibility of each version can sometimes be initially drawn from a reading of the facts. Thereafter, the bases of the court in arriving at its findings and conclusions should be explained.

On appeal, the fact that the assailed decision of the lower court fully, intelligently and correctly resolved all factual and legal issues involved may partly explain why the reviewing court finds no reason to reverse the findings and conclusions of the former. Conversely, the lower court’s patent misappreciation of the facts or misapplication of the law would aid in a better understanding of why its ruling is reversed or modified.

In appealed civil cases, the opposing sets of facts no longer need to be presented. Issues for resolution usually involve questions of law, grave abuse of discretion, or want of jurisdiction; hence, the facts of the case are often undisputed by the parties. With few exceptions, factual issues are not entertained in non-criminal cases. Consequently, the narration of facts by the lower court, if exhaustive and clear, may be reproduced; otherwise, the material factual antecedents should be restated in the words of the reviewing magistrate.

In addition, the reasoning of the lower court or body whose decision is under review should be laid out, in order that the parties may clearly understand why the lower court ruled in a certain way, and why the reviewing court either finds no reason to reverse it or concludes otherwise.

D. Issues/Assignment of Errors

¡ Both factual and legal issues should be stated
¡ On appeal, the assignment of errors, as mentioned in the appellant’s brief, may be reproduced in toto and tackled seriatim, so as to avoid motions for reconsideration of the final decision on the ground that the court failed to consider all assigned errors that could affect the outcome of the case
¡ But when the appellant presents repetitive issues or when the assigned errors do not strike at the main issue, these may be restated in clearer and more coherent terms
¡ Additional issues may also be included, if deemed important for substantial justice to be rendered.
¡ Note: appealed criminal cases are given de novo review, in contrast to noncriminal cases in which the reviewing court is generally limited to issues specifically raised in the appeal. The few exceptions are errors of jurisdiction; questions not raised but necessary in arriving at a just decision on the case; or unassigned errors that are closely related to those properly assigned, or upon which depends the determination of the question properly raised.

E The Court’s Ruling

¡ full discussion of the specific errors or issues raised in the complaint, petition or appeal, as the case may be
¡ other issues the court deems essential to a just disposition of the case
¡ where there are several issues, each one of them should be separately addressed, as much as practicable.
¡ The respective contentions of the parties should also be mentioned here. When procedural questions are raised in addition to substantive ones, it is better to resolve the former preliminarily.

F. Ratio decidendi

A Latin term which refers to the underlying principle or rule of law on which a court’s decision is found (Black’s Law Dictionary, 18th Edition)

G Obiter dictum

A Latin term which refers to an opinion “uttered by the way, not upon the point or question pending, as if turning aside from the main topic of the case to collateral subjects”, or the opinion of the court upon any point or principle which it is not required to decide, or an opinion of the court which does not embody its determination and is made without argument or full consideration of the point and is not the professed deliberate determination oft he judge himself (People vs. Macadaeg, et al., GR. L-4316)

H. Disposition/Dispositive Portion
¡ In a civil case as well as in a special civil action, the disposition should state:
¡ Whether the complaint or petition is granted or denied
¡ Specific relief granted
¡ Costs
Note: The foregoing parts need not always be discussed in sequence. But they should all be present and plainly identifiable in the decision. Depending on the writer’s character, genre and style, the language should be fresh and free-flowing, not necessarily stereotyped or in a fixed form; much less highfaluting, hackneyed and pretentious. At all times, however, the decision must be clear, concise, complete and correct.

¡ Sources:
¡ People vs. Macadaeg, et al., GR. L-4316, May 28, 1952
¡ People vs. Sanchez, G.R. No. 13116, August 27, 1999
¡ Riesenbeck vs. CA, G.R. No. 90535, June 9, 1992
¡ Velarde vs. Social Justice Society, G.R No. 159357, April 28, 2004

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