Dicta, Mere

Comments made by a court that are not in reference to an issue that is actually before it, i.e., a point of law it needs to resolve in the case it is actually hearing. Dicta is considered in principle to be of limited precedential value, hence the tendency to describe it as “mere dicta.” However, in practice dicta may be very influential: for example dicta from the appellate court with jurisdiction over an instant case will prove persuasive with a judge concerned about being reversed.

In addition, some judges are or were notable jurists, with the result that their dicta tend to be taken seriously by other judges, e.g., Richard Posner (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit); Frank Easterbrook (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit); Benjamin Cardozo (Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court); Oliver Wendell Holmes (Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court); Lord Justice Denning (U.K.: Master of the Rolls); Justice Richard Goldstone (Constitutional Court of South Africa).

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