Per Curiam Opinion

Per Curiam Opinion in the United States

An unsigned opinion of a court. Per curiam opinions are used to briefly summarize a ruling without extensively developing the court’s reasoning. The term is Latin and translates “by the court.” See also Concurring Opinion (Apellate Judicial Process) Dissenting Opinion (Apellate Judicial Process) Majority Opinion (Apellate Judicial Process).

Analysis and Relevance

Per curiam opinions are generally used with cases that are reviewed on the merits but without oral argument. In such cases, the issue may be less involved or complicated than the issue in cases given a fuller treatment by the reviewing court. Thus a brief opinion summarily representing the decision is sufficient. Occasionally, per curiam opinions are found in very important cases. For example, in Furman v. Georgia (408 U.S. 238: 1972) the Supreme Court struck down the capital sentencing method used in Georgia. A brief per curiam opinion summarily described the decision. Individual members of the Court then entered lengthy concurring or dissenting opinions. While a majority agreed that the Georgia process was constitutionally defective, no majority existed on a rationale. Thus, the per curiam opinion was used to represent the outcome of the case, the only point on which the justices in the majority could agree. A similarly functioning per curiam opinion can be found in the Pentagon Papers case, New York Times v. United States (403 U.S. 713: 1971).

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Per Curiam Opinion from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Per Curiam Opinion: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

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Federal primary materials about Per Curiam Opinion by content types:

Laws and Regulations

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Federal Case Law and Court Materials

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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 Per Curiam 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 Per Curiam 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 Per Curiam 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 Per Curiam Opinion. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Per Curiam 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 Per Curiam Opinion when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

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