What is Dictum?

Legal Definition
In United States legal terminology, a dictum (plural dicta) is a statement of opinion considered authoritative (although not binding), given the recognized authoritativeness of the person who pronounced it.

There are multiple subtypes of dicta, although due to their overlapping nature, legal practitioners in the U.S. colloquially use dictum to refer to any statement by a court the scope of which extends beyond the issue before the court. Dicta in this sense are not binding under the principle of stare decisis, but tend to have a strong persuasive effect, by virtue of having been stated in an authoritative decision, or by an authoritative judge, or both. These subtypes include:

  • dictum proprium: A personal or individual dictum that is expressed by the judge who delivers an opinion but that is not necessarily concurred in by the whole court and that is not essential to the disposition of the case.
  • gratis dictum: an assertion that a person makes without being obligated to do so, or a court's discussion of a point or question not raised by the record, or its suggestion of a rule not applicable in the case at bar.
  • judicial dictum: an opinion by a court on a question that is directly involved, briefed, and argued by counsel, and even passed on by the court, but that is not essential to the decision.
  • obiter dictum in Latin means "something said in passing" and is a comment made while delivering a judicial opinion, but it is unnecessary to the decision in the case and therefore not precedential (although it may be considered persuasive).
  • simplex dictum: an unproved or dogmatic statement.

In English law, a dictum is any statement made as part of a judgment of a court. Thus the term includes dicta stated incidentally, in passing (obiter dicta), that are not a necessary part of the rationale for the court's decision (referred to as the ratio decidendi). English lawyers do not, as a rule, categorise dicta more finely than into those that are obiter and those that are not.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
Practice. Dicta are judicial opinions expressed by the judges on points that do not necessarily arise in the case.

2. Dicta are regarded as of little authority, on account of the manner in which they are delivered; it frequently happening that they are given without much reflection, at the bar, without previous examination. "If," says Huston, J., in Frants v. Brown, 17 Serg. & Rawle, 292, "general dicta in cases turning on special circumstances are to be considered as establishing the law, nothing is yet settled, or can be long settled." "What I have said or written, out of the case trying," continues the learned judge, "or shall say or write, under such circumstances, maybe taken as my opinion at the time, without argument or full consideration; but I will never consider myself bound by it when the point is fairly trying and fully argued and considered. And I protest against any person considering such obiter dicta as my deliberate opinion." And it was considered by another learned judge. Mr. Baron Richards, to be a "great misfortune that dicta are taken down from judges, perhaps incorrectly, and then cited as absolute propositions." 1 Phillim. Rep. 1406; S. C. 1 Eng. Ecc. R. 129; Ram. on Judgm. ch. 5, p. 36; Willes' Rep. 666; 1 H. Bl. 53-63; 2 Bos. & P. 375; 7 T. R. 287; 3 B. & A. 341; 2 Bing. 90. The doctrine of the courts of France on this subject is stated in 11 Toull. 177, n. 133.

3. In the French law, the report of a judgment made by one of the judges who has given it, is called the dictum. Poth. Proc. Civ. partie 1, c. 5, art. 2.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
In general. A statement, remark or observation. Oratis dictum; a gratuitous or voluntary representation; one which a party is not bound to make. 2 Kent, Comm. 486. Simplex dictum; a mere assertion; an assertion without proof. Bract, fol. 320.

The word is generally used as an abbreviated form of obiter dictum, "a remark by the way;" that is, an observation or remark made by a judge in pronouncing an opinion upon a cause, concerning some rule, principle, or application of law, or the solution of a question suggested by the case at bar, but not necessarily involved in the case or essential to its determination; any statement of the law enunciated by the court merely by way of illustration, argument, analogy, or suggestion. See Railroad Co. v. Schutte, 103 U. S. 118,143, 26 In Ed. 327; In re Woodruff (D. C.) 96 Fed. 317; Hart v. Stribling, 25 Fla. 433, 6 South. 455; Buchner v. Railroad Oo„ 60 Wis. 264, 19 N. W. 56; Rush v. French, 1 Ariz. 99, 25 Pan. 816; State v. Clarke, 3 Nev. 572.

Dicta are opinions of a judge which do not embody the resolution or determination of the couit, and made without argument, or full consideration of the point, are not the professed deliberate determinations of the judge himself. Obiter dicta are such opinions uttered by the way, not upon the point or question pending, as if turning aside for the lime from the main topic of the case to collateral subjects. Rohrbach v. Insurance Co., 62 N. Y. 47, 58, 20 Am. Repi 451 In old English law. Dictum meant an arbitrament or the award of arbitrators.

In French law. The report of a judgment made by one of the judges who has given it Poth. Proc. Civil, pt. 1, c. 5, art. 2. See Dictum de Kenilworth.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
Something said; used for obiter dictum, which see. See 62 N. Y. 47, 20 Am. Rep. 451.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary