Opinion in United States

Opinion Definition

In Evidence. An inference or conclusion stated by a witness, as distinguished from a statement of matters of fact. In Practice. The statement of reasons (according to the definition of Opinion based on the Cyclopedic Law Dictionary ) delivered by a judge or court for giving the judgment which is pronounced upon a case. The judgment itself is sometimes called an opinion, and sometimes the opinion is spoken of as the judgment of the court. A declaration, usually in writing, made by a counsel to his client of what the law is, according to his judgment, on a statement of facts submitted to him. An opinion is in both the above cases a decision of what principles of law are to be applied in the particular case, with the difference that judicial opinions pronounced by the court are law and of authority, while the opinions of counsel, however eminent, are merely advice to his client or argument to the court.

Judicial Opinions

See “Case Pulls,” “Citations,” “Foreign Laws,” “State cases” and individual states, United States courts and/or foreign countries by name.

Unpublished Judicial Opinions

By Lorelei Laird

Do unpublished opinions open the door to inconsistencies in the law and a lack of judicial accountability? A federal lawsuit against the California Supreme Court in 2008 raised the stakes over this question, asking the district court to overturn the state’s prohibition on citing unpublished opinions.

Hild v. California Supreme Court(No. C-07-5107-JCS (N.D. Cal. filed Oct. 4, 2007)) argues that the state’s publication rules violate Californians’ due-process and equal-protection rights by creating “a de facto policy of refusing review of unpublished decisions in civil cases.”

The suit came about after a jury awarded $704,633 to Joshua Hild, a Big Creek teenager who was blinded in one eye when an employee of Southern California Edison fired a paintball gun. On appeal, the Court of Appeal for the Second District rejected the verdict in an unpublished opinion.

While a petition hearing was pending in the state Supreme Court, personal injury firm Bisnar Chase then filed the federal lawsuit in California’s Northern District. According to the suit, the high court routinely declines review of unpublished decisions in civil cases except in “extremely rare” instances in which it has previously granted review from a published decision presenting the same issues. This practice, the firm alleges, violates the 14th Amendment.
Earlier in 2008, U.S. district Judge Thelton E. Henderson roundly rejected that argument, saying the suit’s “claims are doomed to fail on the merits.” Bisnar Chase has appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit.

Although federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32.1 has, since 2006, allowed unpublished opinions to be cited, the California Constitution lets the courts decide which opinions they publish. However, California’s appellate courts still publish only 8 percent of their opinions, Chief Justice Ronald M. George said last year.

The question of publication in California divides, roughly, the bar and the bench. A 2006 survey found that two-thirds of attorneys favored the citing of unpublished opinions, compared with only 28 percent of jurists-who, after all, must labor over the writing of those opinions.

For those who want to change the rules, the heart of the matter is the principle of stare decisis, says Ventura solo appellate attorney Greg May, author of The California Blog of Appeal.

Defenders of the current system, meanwhile, point to the already overburdened courts. Chief Justice George has said that allowing citation of all decisions would force judges, lawyers, and law clerks to sift through twelve times as many cases as they do now.

“The amount of work … would drastically increase the cost of delivering legal services,” adds David Axelrad, a partner with Encino appellate firm Horvitz & Levy. “One hundred percent of the appellate court decisions [would be] citable precedent-you’d have to read all of them!”

Kimberly Kralowec, an appeals attorney at San Francisco’s Schubert & Reed, agrees that a change would mean extra work for lawyers. But she also finds some truth to the claim that the state Supreme Court is much less likely to grant review of unpublished decisions. “I can hear the frustration that is coming through in [the Hild] complaint,” says Kralowec, who blogs at The Appellate Practitioner. “Whether it rises to a constitutional violation is a different story.”

Practical Information

A judge’s statement, or the reason given for a court’s judgment, finding, or conclusion. An opinion is usually written by one judge, but other judges that hear the case may join in the opinion. Also, the conclusions of an attorney about some matter presented to a client. (Revised by Ann De Vries)

What is Opinion?

For a meaning of it, read Opinion in the Legal Dictionary here.

Opinion in Foreign Legal Encyclopedias

For starting research in the law of a foreign country:

Link Description
Opinion Opinion in the World Legal Encyclopedia.
Opinion Opinion in the European Legal Encyclopedia.
Opinion Opinion in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia.
Opinion Opinion in the UK Legal Encyclopedia.
Opinion Opinion in the Australian Legal Encyclopedia.

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See Also
Foreign Laws
Case Pulls

Opinion in the Context of Law Research

The Thurgood Marshall School of Law Library defined briefly Opinion as: A written document, produced by a judge, in which he or she provides a detailed description of the court’s decision in a case. The opinion typically addresses the arguments of the plaintiff and defendant, explains which party won the case, and explains why the court decided as it did.Legal research resources, including Opinion, help to identify the law that governs an activity and to find materials that explain that law.

Opinion Definition in the context of the Federal Court System

A judge’s written explanation of the decision of the court. Because a case may be heard by three or more judges in the court of appeals, the opinion in appellate decisions can take several forms. If all the judges completely agree on the result, one judge will write the opinion for all. If all the judges do not agree, the formal decision will be based upon the view of the majority, and one member of the majority will write the opinion. The judges who did not agree with the majority may write separately in dissenting or concurring opinions to present their views. A dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority opinion because of the reasoning and/or the principles of law the majority used to decide the case. A concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the majority opinion, but offers further comment or clarification or even an entirely different reason for reaching the same result. Only the majority opinion can serve as binding precedent in future cases. See also “precedent.”

Concept of Opinion

In the U.S., in the context of Judiciary power and branch, Opinion has the following meaning: The official, formal decision from a court of law with the legal reasons and principles upon which the legal decision is based. (Source of this definition of Opinion : University of Texas)



See Also

  • Judiciary Power
  • Judiciary Branch

Opinion: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Opinion. This part provides references, in relation to Opinion, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Opinion by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Opinion and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Opinion or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Opinion and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Opinion. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Opinion should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Opinion when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

1 thought on “Opinion”

  1. Kirk

    In the age of the internet, unpublished opinions exist and are viewable. When Appellate Courts botch a decision the ramifications of the bad decision may seriously damage the party who lost the suit while limiting their ability to clear the record.

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