Write On!, 1218 WYBJ, Vol. 41 No. 6. 50

Author:Michael R. Smith, J.
Position:Vol. 41 6 Pg. 50

Write On!

Vol. 41 No. 6 Pg. 50

Wyoming Bar Journal

December, 2018

Applying Legal Rules.

Michael R. Smith, J.

One of the foundational skills of legal writing is rule-based analysis: stating a legal rule and applying it to the facts of the present case. Despite how common rule-based analysis is, however, many legal writers struggle with communicating the application of a rule to facts.

The application step of rule-based analysis generally contains two components. The first component is reminding the reader of the facts of the present case that are relevant to the stated rule. I say "remind" the reader of the facts because it is quite likely that the writer told the reader all of the facts of the present case earlier in the writer's document, such as in the Statement of Facts section of a memo or brief. Thus, when a writer includes facts in the application step of rule-based analysis, the writer is simply identifying, and reminding the reader of, the facts from the full narrative that are specifically relevant to the rule being discussed at that point.

The second component of the application step is explaining the legal significance of the facts in terms of the stated rule. Here, the writer states how the facts either meet or fail to meet the operative parts of the legal rule.

Let's look at an example of rule-based analysis involving the application of the definition of kidnapping under Wyoming law:1

Kidnapping requires confinement with the intent to hold for ransom, to facilitate the commission of a felony, or to inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-201(a) (2018).

In this case, Appellant held the victim in her home, forcing her to remain there in several locations—the bathroom, the bedroom, and eventually the living room. During this entire time, he had his hands around her neck or her body, rendering her unable to seek the usual protections of society. Appellant let the victim go only when he became aware that she had called the police. A reasonable jury could have found from these facts that the time the victim was forced to spend in her house with Appellant was sufficient to...

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