Fact-Pattern or Hypothetical Problems
When you approach these
questions, the following steps will help you to solve them:
- As you
read over the facts, try to place them in one of the categories of cases
that we have studied. For
example, ask yourself whether the facts indicate a possible Commerce Clause
or (later in the course) implied powers or incidental powers case and, if
so, whether the facts resemble an even more particular set of cases. If
you decide the case is a Commerce Clause case, ask whether it is a federal
power or a state power case; if it is a state power case, does it involve
protectionism or burdensome regulation of interstate commerce? If it is an
incidental powers case, which branch of government does it affect? This is
the crucial first step: if you mis-categorize
the case, you will have trouble. Always be true to the given facts: do not
add new ones or ignore details that are present in the fact pattern.
the cases and their rules that
dealt with the particular kind of case under review.
the perspective of one of the parties (look to the question to see which
one comes first) and ask how the rules of the cases can be argued to help
your case. If there are more than one plaintiff
or defendant, take each plaintiff or defendant in turn, covering them all.
In effect, you are making an
argument that supplies the minor premises of your syllogism. “The rule in Seelig is
that state laws with the purpose and effect of suppressing competition
between the states violate the Dormant Commerce Clause. Here, ….
switch hats and assume the perspective of the opposing party (or parties).
Using the same rule as the opposing party, look for reasonable weaknesses, if any, in the other party’s argument. You must address the other party’s argument
before you do anything else. Be reasonable; don’t make absurd statements
or assertions that go beyond the given facts.
as the opposing (second) party, look to the cases for other rules or facts
that might provide a favorable argument for you. Spell it out, as in #3
above. For example, in the City of Philadelphia
case, the dissent argued that the New
Jersey law was a valid quarantine law. If the
facts in the fact pattern favor such an interpretation, you should make
that argument. Or in the transportation cases, where the test is a
balancing test, one party will argue reasonably and persuasively that the
measure’s burden on interstate commerce outweighs the police power
benefit; the other party will argue the opposite. Both parties will
similarly address the “reasonable less-burdensome alternative” rule.
the arguments by returning to the first party (or parties) and responding
to the opposing party’s (parties’) arguments, as the opposing party first
did in #4 above. Thus, if the
quarantine argument was raised by the opposing party, the first party must
reasonably and persuasively respond to it.
The key is to make sure that each party addresses each
and every argument of the opposing party.