In law, the term dicta is used to refer to a judge's statement of legal opinion that is not directly relevant to the case being heard. Unlike statements that are directly relevant to the case, dicta are not binding legal decisions.
Where part of a previous judgment is cited as part of a legal argument, sometimes the opposing lawyer will argue that the cited text was merely dicta, in order to undermine the force of the argument. Nevertheless, judges tend to respect each other's opinions, and citation of good dicta can form a strong part of a legal argument, even though it lacks binding force.
An example of an instance where a judgment may include dicta is where a court rules that it lacks jurisdiction to hear a case or dismisses the case on a technicality. If the court in such a case offers opinions on the merits of the case, such opinions constitute dicta. Less clear-cut instances of dicta occur where a judge makes a side comment in a judgment in order to provide context for other parts of the judgment, or makes a thorough exploration of a relevant area of law.
Dicta is plural. The singular is dictum. The fuller phrase obiter dicta (literally "other sayings") (singular obiter dictum) is also used.
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