What types of written opinions may the US Supreme Court issue?

already exists.

Would you like to merge this question into it?

already exists as an alternate of this question.

Would you like to make it the primary and merge this question into it?

exists and is an alternate of .

Written Opinions

The four most common opinions:
  • Majority
  • Concurring
  • Dissenting
  • Per Curiam

The Court's Opinion (usually also the majority opinion) is synonymous with the Court's decision. The "Opinion of the Court" gives the verdict and explains the reasoning behind the decision reached. The privilege of writing the official opinion falls to the most senior justice in the majority group, or to the Chief Justice if he voted with the majority; this person may choose to write the opinion, or may assign the task to another member of the majority. If the justices who voted against the majority wish to issue a unified opinion, they simply decide amongst themselves who will write it.

Individual justices may write their own opinions, usually concurring or dissenting, regardless of whether they agree with the majority. Justices may also "join" or sign any other written opinion they agree with, even if they agree with more than one point-of-view. This generally strengthens the opinion.

All published opinions except Per Curiam decisions may be used as precedent in future litigation.
  • Opinion of the Court - The official opinion, whether unanimous or by majority vote

  • Majority opinion - Also called the "Opinion of the Court," this is the official verdict in the case that represents the vote of the majority of justices

  • Plurality opinion - A concurring opinion joined by more justices than the official Court opinion

  • Dissenting opinion - An opinion written by a justice who disagrees with the majority

  • Dissenting in part - An opinion written by a justice who voted with the majority on the decision, but disagrees with a portion of the reasoning in the majority opinion, which he or she explains in writing

  • Unanimous opinion - An opinion authored by one justice, often (but not always) the Chief Justice, and signed by all justices

  • Concurring opinion - An opinion that agrees with the decision but may disagree with the some of the reasoning behind the Court opinion, or may elaborate on a point made or introduce further relevant information

  • Concurring in part - Typically an opinion written by a justice who voted against the majority, but agrees with a portion of the majority opinion, which he or she explains in writing

  • Concurring in judgment - An opinion written by a justice who agrees with the decision, but not with the reasoning used to reach the decision

  • Concurring in part and dissenting in part - An opinion written by a justice who may have voted either way, but wants to explain which points are in agreement and which are in disagreement.

  • Per Curiam opinion: The opinion is given by the full court, unsigned by the Justices

  • Seriatim opinion: Each justice on the Court writes his or her own, separate opinion; there is no majority opinion, only a majority verdict. This type of opinion was more common in the 18th, and parts of the 19th, centuries


The most important type is the majority opinion. The majority opinion is, as the name suggests, the opinion of the majority of judges hearing the case. In most cases, a majority opinion requires five Justices, unless one or more Justices have recused themselves from a given decision. The majority opinion is important because it defines the precedent that all future courts hearing a similar case should follow.

Majority opinions are sometimes accompanied by concurring opinions. Concurring opinions are written by individual Justices in the majority. These opinions agree with the majority opinion, but may stress a different point of law. Sometimes, concurring opinions will agree with the result reached by the majority, but for a different reason altogether.

Opinions written by justices not in the majority are known as dissenting opinions. Dissenting opinions are important because they provide insight into how the Court reached its decision.

Sometimes the court issues so many separate opinions that whichever opinion is joined by the most justices is referred to as a plurality, rather than a majority. One recent example of a decision holding a plurality opinion is that of Baez et al., v. Rees (2008), where Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy and Alito signed one opinion, and Justice Stevens wrote a separate concurring opinion, as did Justices Scalia, Breyer, and Thomas (Scalia also joined Thomas' concurrence). Justice Ginsberg wrote a dissenting opinion in which Justice Souter joined.

There are also a number of cases where members of the majority each wrote a concurring opinion, without creating a unified majority or plurality opinion, as well as cases where the court decision was released without the signature of any justice, in an anonymous fashion. This latter form is known as a per curiam decision. Bush v. Gore (2000) is a recent example. Cases decided per curiam do not create a precedent that can be cited in future litigation.

Plurality and per curiam decisions tend to create confusion as to how a federal or constitutional law is to be interpreted.
63 people found this useful

What is the shortest US Supreme Court opinion?

According to Ryan C. Black and James F. Spriggs II, in their analysis of trends in Supreme Court decisions, the shortest opinion is a mere ten words. Unfortunately, their paper didn't cite the case to which they referred, nor the criteria used for determining which comments counted as opinions, as o ( Full Answer )

What is the Supreme Court opinion?

The opinion is the Supreme Court's decision on a case, usually accompanied by a written explanation that includes the reasoning and legal precedents used.

How are US Supreme Court written opinions assigned?

The "opinion of the Court" is synonymous with the Court's decision. The Opinion gives the verdict and explains the reasoning behind the decision reached. The privilege of writing the official opinion falls to the most senior justice in the majority group, or to the Chief Justice if he voted with the ( Full Answer )

Does the US Supreme Court have the right to issue a writ of mandamus?

Yes. The US Supreme Court has discretionary authority to issue writs of mandamus when the case falls under their jurisdiction. Supreme Court Rules, Rule 20, outlines the conditions under which the Court may issue such a writ. A Writ of Mandamus (Latin, "we command"), classified as an Extraordina ( Full Answer )

How does a US Supreme Court opinion affect law?

A US Supreme Court majority or plurality decision establishes or upholds a precedent for applying and interpreting federal or constitutional law, to be used by the lower courts in deciding relevant future cases. The Court may also overrule legislation found to be unconstitutional..

Where can you find full opinions of US Supreme Court cases?

There are several good websites where you can find Supreme Court case information, including how the individual Justices voted on a particular case. Oyez.org offers excellent summary analysis on past cases, and you can find current slip opinions on more recent cases on the Supreme Court's own websit ( Full Answer )

What are three kinds of opinions that may be written by the supreme court after a case is decided?

The most important type is the majority opinion. The majority opinion is, as the name suggests, the opinion of the majority of judges hearing the case. In most cases, a majority opinion requires five Justices, unless one or more Justices have recused themselves from a given decision. The majority ( Full Answer )

What US Supreme Court case has a majority opinion concurring opinion and dissenting opinion?

Many cases fit these criteria, because split decisions are common on a court where members have mixed political ideologies. Justices who strongly oppose a majority decision will often write a dissenting opinion(s) in order to record their legal reasoning for consideration in future cases. Justice ( Full Answer )

What is a written opinion of a US Supreme Court Justice who disagrees with the majority opinion?

A Justice may write a dissenting opinion if he or she votes against the majority and wants to record his or her legal reasoning for consideration in future cases. Dissenting opinions, although written in opposition to the majority , or Court Opinion , may be cited as precedents in future litig ( Full Answer )

Is the US Supreme Court the only court that can give advisory opinions in the federal judiciary?

Answer The Supreme Court is forbidden from giving advisory opinions under the US Constitution. The Supreme Court, as well as the lower courts, may act only in matters involving "cases and controversies" as they are defined in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. An advisory opinion is an o ( Full Answer )

What are the four kinds of writs issued by the US Supreme Court?

Writ of Certiorari: (Latin, "informed") An order issued to a lower court to produce the official records for a case the Court intends to review. . Writ of Habeas Corpus: (Latin, "produce the body") An order forcing a detention facility to bring the accused before the court to determine whether ( Full Answer )

What does the US Supreme Court do after writing the final opinion?

The opinions are given to the Reporter of Decisions to prepare a bench opinion for public release, and announced and/or read in open court. Within a few hours of the announcement, the bench opinions are published online and in booklet form as slip opinions.

What is an opinion written by a US Supreme Court justice who agrees with the minority opinion?

The term "minority opinion" is a bit unorthodox, considering those who vote against the majority may not be unified in their reasoning. When a Supreme Court justice wants to express disagreement with the opinion of the Court (usually the majority), he or she may write a dissenting opinion . It is n ( Full Answer )

When does the US Supreme Court issue opinions?

The US Supreme Court releases opinions on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and on the third Monday of each sitting. The public is usually alerted a few days prior to an opinion being released, but the specific case name and docket number are kept secret until the formal announcement. This practice ma ( Full Answer )

What types of opinion are always rendered with a decision from the US Supreme Court?

Regardless of the US Supreme Court's decision, there is no guarantee any type of opinion will be written. Per curiam (unsigned) decisions -- which are reasonably common -- seldom include full written opinions. About 20% of the US Supreme Court's decisions lack any written opinion; many simply ( Full Answer )

How many written opinions are used in the US Supreme Court?

There is no fixed answer to this question. The US Supreme Court sometimes issues decisions without written opinions, sometimes with a single majority opinion, sometimes with a majority opinion and one or more dissenting or concurring opinions, and so on. To learn more about Supreme Court opinions ( Full Answer )

What is the definition of a majority opinion in the US Supreme Court?

A majority opinion is the agreed decision of more than half the justices who heard the case. Under most circumstances, a simple majority would be five of nine justices (5/9); however, there have been many times when only eight sat on a case (5/8), and it's legally possible for as few as six justic ( Full Answer )

When do US Supreme Court justices write their case opinions?

There is time allotted for writing opinions during the two-week period following a sitting for oral arguments, and after all case arguments are completed in April of the current Term. Justices may write anytime they choose, however. First, the justices meet in a closed conference to discuss the c ( Full Answer )

What is a written opinion in a US Supreme Court case?

Written opinions represent the constitutional theories, logic and case law supporting a decision or a response to that decision . The Supreme Court may issue more than one type of opinion. The majority decision is released as "the opinion of the Court." Other justices may write concurring (agre ( Full Answer )

How many written opinions does the US Supreme Court produce each year?

The US Supreme Court issued 73 Opinions for the 2007-2008 Term; 83 for the 2008-2009 Term; and 93 opinions for the 2009-2010 Term. According to Supreme Court literature, the justices generate approximately 5,000 pages of printed opinions each year.

What days does the US Supreme Court issue decisions?

When the justices are sitting, opinions are usually released on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and on the third Monday of each session (no arguments are heard that day). In May and June, when the Court has finished hearing oral arguments for the Term, opinions are often released only once a week, u ( Full Answer )

What are three types of opinions that a Supreme Court justice can write?

The three types of opinions most people are familiar with are: . Majority (usually called the "opinion of the Court") . Concurring (agreeing) . Dissenting (disagreeing) These are not the only opinions the Court may issue. For more information, see Related Questions, below.

May US Supreme Court rulings be set aside?

Yes, but only by the US Supreme Court itself. In order for a decision to be set aside, an appellant has 25 days after the decision is released to petition the Court for a rehearing. If the Court grants the petition, which it rarely does, the justices may decide to change a prior decision based on ne ( Full Answer )

When can the US Supreme Court decide an issue of state law?

The US Supreme Court only reviews state laws that are relevant to a case before the court if it conflicts with federal law or infringes rights protected by the Constitution. The primary considerations for using judicial nullification to overturn state laws would be: . if they infringe individual ( Full Answer )

Where are US Supreme Court opinions published?

Print The official, government bound editions of the US Supreme Court's opinions is United States Reports . West Publishing produces annotated editions that include opinions, commentary and precedents published as The Supreme Court Reporter and The Federal Practice Digest . The diges ( Full Answer )

What does the US Supreme Court issue when it accepts a case for review?

The US Supreme Court traditionally issues a writ of certiorari , an order to the lower court to send the records for the case under review. Although the Court still grants and denies certiorari , they seldom issue an actual court order for records anymore; this function is now handled administrati ( Full Answer )

What is the difference between the majority opinion and minority opinion in a US Supreme Court case?

The majority opinion, or opinion of the Court, is the official decision in a case. It sets binding precedents for all courts below the supreme court and may change how laws are interpreted or applied, or even if they are allowed to stand at all. Their really is no such thing as a "minority opinio ( Full Answer )

What makes an opinion unanimous in a US Supreme Court decision?

Supreme Court decisions are unanimous when all justices hearing a case vote the same way, and none vote in opposition. If the entire Court is available, unanimity would require a 9-0 vote. If all justices sign the majority opinion, the opinion would also be unanimous.

When the US Supreme Court rules how many opinions can it issue about this one ruling?

There is no mandated limit; however, the practical limit would be nine -- one for each member of the Court. Only one opinion may be submitted as the official opinion of the Court; however, each justice is free to write a dissenting or concurring (or dissenting in part and concurring in part) opin ( Full Answer )

What happens if a dissenting opinion is issued by a justice of the Supreme Court?

Nothing really "happens". It's published along with the majority opinion but doesn't change the majority decision in any way. Unless the Court votes unanimously, there will generally be a dissenting opinion. A justice may even opt to write an opinion "concurring" with the judgment itself, but ind ( Full Answer )

Who usually writes US Supreme Court opinions?

The "opinion of the Court" is synonymous with the Court's decision. The Opinion gives the verdict and explains the reasoning behind the decision reached. The privilege of writing the official opinion falls to the most senior justice in the majority group, or to the Chief Justice if he (or she) voted ( Full Answer )

Who writes the opinion of the court in Supreme Court?

It depends. The task of writing the majority opinion is assigned to different judges. Different judges can join the majority opinion, or if they choose, can write a concurring opinion where they may agree with the outcome but may want to express his opinion differently than the majority. Dissenting ( Full Answer )

How may members does the US Supreme Court have?

The US Supreme Court is composed of 9 members. This job has lifetime tenure unless there is a case for impeachment and a trialresulting in a guilty verdict.