You Made your Case

Try to find an explicit statement of your major premise in governing or persuasive cases.

It is often quite easy to find a governing case with a passage that says precisely what you want your major premise to be. Say you’re defending a municipality against a $ 1983 suit alleging unconstitutional racial discrimination. The facts of your case, while showing some racially disparate effects of the practice in question, are entirely devoid of any indication —or even allegation—of intent to discriminate. Your syllogism might begin with this major premise:

For violation of the Equal Protection Clause, “[a] purpose to discriminate must be present.” Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229, 239 (1976) (quoting Akins v. Texas, 325 U.S. 398, 403 (1945)).

When direct quotation is not possible, set forth the major premise in your own words, supported by citation of a case from a governing court. That case must clearly hold to that precise effect. In the example just given, if the quoted language from Washington v. Davis did not exist, you might argue:

To prove a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, the plaintiff must show intentional discrimination. Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229, 239 (1976).

Inputs: Antonin Scalia & Bryan Garner

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