Getting Started-The Parts

The first step to understanding Supreme Court opinions is to understand the distinct parts that make up the opinion as a whole. Most opinions will mirror the one below with a few minor changes, which might vary from case to case. The better you understand these individual parts, the better you'll be able to comprehend the opinion itself.

Things to Look For...

The beginning of the actual decision will usually be labled as such (it will say"opinion of the court" at the top instead of "syllabus"). On the beginning of the opinion it will also list the name of the justice that actually delivered the opinion to the court.

Next, the opinion will go through each issue, which are the central matters in a case, and apply the law of constitution to each of these issues.

Concurring and dissenting opinions will be listed after the actual opinion (concurring usually appears first) and will also be labled accordingly. Because decisions can include several dissents or concurring opinions, the authors and co-authors of those individual parts will be listed after it is introduced as a dissenting or concurring opinion.