Types of Opinions

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Chapter Supreme Court Rules, Practices, and Traditions

U nanimous opinion: An opinion in which all justices vote with the majority.

Majority opinion: This opinion, which must have five votes, is the ruling of the Court. It stands as precedent for future cases.

Plurality opinion: The main opinion of the Court but one that fails to command a majority of the justices. For instance, a case may have four justices agreeing with one opinion, two justices who file concurring opinions but not joining the other four, and three justices in dissent. In this 4–2–3 split, there is no majority opinion.

Concurring opinion: An opinion that agrees with the result but not the reasoning of the majority or main opinion of the Court. A justice who writes a concurring opinion may want to emphasize particular points of law or simply indicate that the main opinion reached the right result by taking the wrong path.

Dissenting opinion: An opinion that disagrees with the result of the majority opinion.

Per curiam opinion: An opinion rendered by the Court, or a majority of the Court, collectively instead of a single justice.


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