Definition of memorandum decision
A memorandum opinion or memorandum decision is a judicial opinion that does not create precedent, persuasive or mandatory in some jurisdictions. A memorandum is often brief and written only to announce judgment in a particular case. Depending on the kind of memorandum decision, citation of the opinion as case law may not be accepted.
Generally, memorandum opinions follow ordinary rules, including the application of precedent and the rule of stare decisis. However, in many courts (for example, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York), the style of analysis in memorandum opinions is much more concise and conclusory than it would be in an opinion intended for publication. That is, long strings of case citations are often inserted without explication or analysis of the applicability of the cited cases. In contrast, the California Constitution requires that all appellate decisions in California must be decided "in writing with reasons stated," which the Supreme Court of California has interpreted as requiring detailed written opinions even in frivolous cases. Nonetheless, the Courts of Appeal have the discretion not to certify opinions in frivolous cases for publication.
Memorandum opinions are often issued in areas of well-settled law or where a particular set of facts may create imprudent case law.
Memorandum opinions are not used in a case of first impression, where there is a lack of authority and guidance for subsequent courts.
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