The text of the case begins with the name of the judge or justice who wrote the opinion or decision for the majority, such as Cardozo, C.J. (C.J. stands for Chief Justice; J. stands for Justice or Judge.) Many names go unrecognized by the average law student. However, the names of famous Supreme Court justices, such as John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Benjamin Cardozo, Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, and Sandra Day O’Connor, and even some lower court judges, such as Richard Posner, may be familiar to legal scholars and students, practitioners, and even laypersons. Per curiam is occasionally found in place of the name of the judge. It means that the opinion was written “by the court” and no author is identified. Per curiam opinions are often unanimous.
The body of a legal case contains the opinion of the majority of the judges, also referred to as the court. It generally contains the issue, the substantive facts or the facts, the procedural facts or procedural history, the rule(s), the holding, and the reasoning. The majority opinion is followed first by the concurring opinions and then by the dissenting opinions. The other components are not arranged in a set order. However, information that provides background for the decision, such as the facts, issue, and the procedural history, is typically found in the first part of the body of the case, while the reasoning occurs later in the case. The issue and holding sometimes occur as a pair at the beginning of the case. The holding is often found at the end of the case as a conclusion to the court’s reasoning.