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Obiter Dictum

Definition - What does Obiter Dictum mean?

Obiter dictum (plural: obiter dicta) is a Latin phrase that means “by the way,” and refers to something said by the judge during the course of a court case or judgment. However, these words may not have a direct relevance to the case, nor are they necessary for the rendering of a decision. They could be about something that is superfluous to the topic.

Justipedia explains Obiter Dictum

A judge can make passing remarks or comments about any specific fact within the case or within the overall courtroom. If the judge compliments a lawyer on their dress style, for instance, it would be considered as having no bearing on the case at hand. In many cases, the judge might say different things to either the defense lawyer or prosecutor, about the topic in general, or even directly to the client. This could be an analogy, general information about the subject, or even their general thoughts on the matter.

Obiter dictum only applies judges and infers that the judge is the only person in the courtroom who has the ability to speak about any subject during the course of a case. If similar actions were undertaken by anyone else in the courtroom, it could be considered contempt of court by the judge.

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