There was the following passage in New York Times (April 28) under the title, “In Baltimore, we’re all Freddie Gray.”:

“We’ve watched as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in conjunction with Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, spent over a week investigating what appears to be an open-and-shut case. I’d like to think that if I broke a person’s neck for no reason, I’d be charged in minutes. But the system — even when it’s run by a black mayor and a majority of the City Council is black — protects the police, no matter how blatant and brutal they are.

As I am unfamiliar with the expression,“open and shut,” I searched the meaning on Google, and found the following definition by the Free Dictionary among several sources:

Open and shut - If a legal case or problem is open and shut, the facts are very clear and it is easy to make a decision or find a solution

Is the usage of idiom, “open and shut” limited to legal matters? If it came from the instantaneous action of opening and shutting something like a box or drawer, why can’t we use it on anything, questions (e.g. simple calculation) or problems that are manifest or easy to solve other than legal cases?

  • Related; english.stackexchange.com/questions/15282/…
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 8:48
  • @Josh61. Could be related, but quite different. I checked the previous question you refered to. It's asking the origin of "open and shut" as an idiom. I'm not asking its etmology. It's obvious. I'm asking its usage and the scope of the word application other than legal implication, which I would like to venture. Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 11:36
  • 1
    @Josh61. P.S. After adding the above comment, I found the following answer is from you. It's an elaborate and valuable input. Many thanks. Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 11:41
  • You can open and shut the window. But "open and shut case" is a legal idiom that would only be used (and often is) in other contexts in a metaphoric sense.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 12:22

2 Answers 2


An expression generally , but not exclusively, used referring to legal matters :

Open-and-shut case:

a legal case or other matter that is easy to decide or solve. (Oxford Learner's)

Open-and-shut case

a simple and straightforward situation without complications. (Often said of criminal cases where the evidence is convincing.)

  • The murder trial was an open-and-shut case. The defendant was caught with the murder weapon. Bob's death was an open-and-shut case of suicide. He left a suicide note.

The Free Dictionary

  • Can I use the phrase, “open and shut” for other subject than legal cases?

Sure you can:

Origami Extravaganza! Folding Paper, a Book, and a Box ... - Page 27 Tuttle Publishing - 2000

Slide your index finger into K, and your thumb into I. Move your fingers in an open and shut motion to define the Fox's mouth (FIG. 12).


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