Project #38898 - case study

Geoffrey, Inc V. South Carolina Tax Commision, 437 S.E.2d 13 (S.C. 1993)

Court Case Briefs


As noted in the syllabus, a case brief is a one page summary of the cases specified in the Class Schedule. They will be in a format of Facts, Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. The briefs will be reviewed in the class in which they are listed. One student will be assigned to each case being briefed to present the material in the briefed cases to the class. These presentations will be short (2 to 3 minutes or so per student) and present both sides of the arguments in the case.

In completing your brief, pay particular attention to the one page limit. Do not go longer than one page. While it’s not called a “brief” for that reason, the title is a good explanation of how long it should be – brief. The following is a description of what should be included in your brief. You should note that in the legal world there are numerous approaches on how to brief a case. You may well find that different firms and managers want a different format. However, for purposes of this class, please use this format. It is a comprehensive approach that is an appropriate learning tool for students.

1.      Facts: Includes a description of the relevant facts of the case so the reader can better understand the Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion.

2.      Issue: One or two sentence maximum, in the form of a question, usually beginning with the term “whether.”

3.      Rule: The rule of law that is to be applied to the case. It is not the rule determined by the court in the case being briefed. If the case is about the applicability of the Supremacy clause, that is the rule that is to be applied.

4.      Analysis: The court’s approach to analyzing the facts and applying the law. In other words, why it reached its decision.

5.      Conclusion: One sentence answer to the Issue. Stay away from saying “the appellant won this case.”


1.      Do not overly use references to “plaintiff,” “defendant,” “appellant” etc, and instead focus on the “taxpayer” or its name or the state taxing authority’s name.

2.      It is unnecessary to relate the history of the case in the facts or conclusion. Focus on the decision by the court in the case you are briefing.

3.      Review the Thiokol case as an example.



The briefs themselves will be due and turned in on the date of the MidTerm (October 15) and the date of the last class (December 15). It is expected that the students will read the cases, complete the briefs, listen to the discussion of the cases, and then turn them in for grading. Since the briefs are not due the date of the class meeting in which they are discussed, it is expected the students will take advantage of the class discussions to revise their briefs as necessary before turning them in. 



Thiokol Corporation, Morton International Inc., v. Roberts  76 F2d 751 (1996)

United States Circuit Court of Appeals




Thiokol and Akzo were both Michigan taxpayers subject to the state's Single Business Tax (SBT). Both taxpayers challenged the law which provided that in determining the tax base, compensation is included as a component. Compensation includes employers' payments to retirement and health benefit plans. Federal law at Section 514(a) of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 provides that it supercedes state laws that "relate to any employee benefit plan" covered by ERISA.




Whether the Michigan SBT statute by including employee benefit plan payments (including those regulated as part of ERISA) as part of its tax base is unconstitutional since it "relates to" employee benefit plans which is pre-empted by ERISA?




Federal law is the supreme law of the land. From this supremacy clause flows the pre-emption doctrine that provides that states cannot enact and enforce legislation in an area already legislated by Congress.




The Court reasoned that a law that refers to or has a connection with an employee plan covered by ERISA is pre-empted, even if the law is not specifically designed to affect such plans. There is an exception (Shaw exception) to pre-emption when those state laws affect employee plans in too tenuous, remote or peripheral a manner to warrant a finding that the law relates to the plan. The Court pointed out that the reference to the pension plan payments as part of the addback for compensation was mainly simply a way to describe the calculation, not an attempt to regulate pensions, since it determined the SBT base by the addition method, as opposed to the subtraction method. The Court found that the SBT met the Shaw exception as having too remote a relation. It went on to address and also reject the taxpayers arguments that the actual reference to the covered plan and that the Greater Washington case limited the Shaw exception.




No, the Michigan SBT treatment of pension payments covered by ERISA is too tenuous and remote a relation to be pre-empted by the federal ERISA statute.





Subject Law
Due By (Pacific Time) 09/02/2014 12:00 am
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