Definition of dictum
From Latin dictum ("proverb, maxim").
dictum (plural dicta)
- An authoritative statement; a dogmatic saying; a maxim, an apothegm.
* 1949, Bruce Kiskaddon, George R. Stewart, Earth Abides
...a dictum which he had heard an economics professor once propound...
- A judicial opinion expressed by judges on points that do not necessarily arise in the case, and are not involved in it.
- The report of a judgment made by one of the judges who has given it.
- An arbitrament or award.
In legal terminology, dictum (plural dicta) is a statement of opinion or belief considered authoritative because of the dignity of the person making it.
There are multiple subtypes of dicta, although due to their overlapping, legal practitioners in the U.S. colloquially use dicta to refer to any statement by a court which extends beyond the issue at bar. Dicta, in this sense, is not binding under stare decisis, but tends to have a strong persuasive effect, either by being in an authoritative decision, stated by an authoritative judge, or both. These subtypes include:
- dictum proprium: A personal or individual dictum that is given by the judge who delivers an opinion but that is not necessarily concurred in by the whole court and is not essential to the disposition.
- gratis dictum: an assertion that a person makes without being obligated to do so, or also a court's discussion of points or questions not raised by the record or its suggestion of rules not applicable in the case at bar.
- judicial dictum: an opinion by a court on a question that is directly involved, briefed, and argued by counsel, and even passed on by the court, but that is not essential to the decision.
- obiter dictum in Latin means "something said in passing" and is a comment made while delivering a judicial opinion, but it is unnecessary to the decision in the case and therefore not precedential (although it may be considered persuasive).
- simplex dictum: an unproved or dogmatic statement.
Note that in the U.K., dicta is any statement that forms a part of the judgment of a court whose decisions have value as precedent, even if only persuasive, under the doctrine of stare decisis. Thus, unlike the U.S. version, the U.K. version also includes ratio decidendi, which are statements in the part of the reasoning for the decision. These statements are binding as precedent.
- "dictum", Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004); C.J.S. Courts §§ 142-143.
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