Obiter dictum

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In law, obiter dictum means "a remark in passing". Obiter dicta (the plural) are remarks made by courts in passing judgment which do not form a part of the reasoning necessary to decide the case. Such remarks are not binding on lower courts (or upon the court that made the remark, in subsequent cases).

The Fifth Circuit explained this concept in declining to apply dictum stated by a prior panel of the same court:[1]

This statement is dictum and, as such, does not bind us. See Gochicoa v. Johnson, 238 F.3d 278, 286 n.11 (5th Cir. 2000). A statement is dictum if it "could have been deleted without seriously impairing the analytical foundations of the holding" and "being peripheral, may not have received the full and careful consideration of the court that uttered it." Id. (quoting In re Cajun Elec. Power Coop., Inc., 109 F.3d 248, 256 (5th Cir. 1997)). A statement is not dictum if it is necessary to the result or constitutes an explication of the governing rules of law. Id.


  1. Int'l Truck & Engine Corp. v. Bray, 372 F.3d 717, 721 (5th Cir. 2004).