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Encyclopedia > Obiter dicta

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.

  Results from FactBites:
Lord Mersey— Obiter Dicta : ET Research (2005) by Senan Molony - 13 March 2005 (3222 words)
He was announcing the appointment of Mersey, a 71-year-old man, to sit in charge of the Wreck Commissioner’s Court.
Mersey’s obiter dicta in the transcript of evidence are spectacularly hostile in the matter of the Californian from the start.
And when the report was produced, it was so satisfactory that Lord Mersey suddenly enjoyed a career rebirth – although there were many private complaints about his palpable and growing deafness.
  More results at FactBites »



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