A dissenting opinion refers to an opinion written by an appellate judge or Supreme Court Justice who disagrees with the majority opinion in a given case. A party who writes a dissenting opinion is said to dissent.
Unlike majority opinions and similar to concurring opinions, dissenting opinions are not binding law and, therefore, future cases are not obliged to follow them. Nonetheless, dissenting opinions preserve minority viewpoints on contested legal issues and contribute to the public debate of these issues.
In rare circumstances, the views expressed in a dissenting opinion are adopted as law in future court cases or encourage legislation overriding the majority opinion. For example, in Katz v. United States, the Court adopted the dissenting views of Olmstead v. United States when they held that wiretapping infringes upon the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
[Last updated in September of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]