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With respect to law, “opinion” primarily refers to a judicial opinion, which is a court’s written statement explaining the court’s decision for the case. The opinion usually contains the following elements: name of the judge who wrote the opinion, statement of facts, the legal issues implicated, the court’s rationale and holding, and dicta.

Some common legal phrases that use the term “opinion” include:

  • “Majority opinion” is a judicial opinion that is joined by more than half the judges deciding a case.
  • Concurring opinion,” or concurrence, is the separate judicial opinion of an appellate judge who voted with the majority. Concurrences explain the appellate judge’s vote and may discuss parts of the decision in which the appellate judge had a different rationale.
  • Dissenting opinion,” or dissent, is the separate judicial opinion of an appellate judge who disagreed with the majority’s decision explaining the disagreement.
  • Unlike most judicial opinions, an “advisory opinion” is a court’s nonbinding statement interpreting the law.
  • Per curiam opinion” is a judicial opinion issued under the name of the deciding appellate court. Thus, unlike most judicial opinions, per curiam opinions do not identify the judge who wrote the opinion.
  • “Plurality opinion” is a judicial opinion that received the most votes of any opinion but not enough to be the majority opinion.
  • “Opinion evidence,” as outlined in Rule 701 in the Federal Rules of Evidence, is witness testimony based directly on the witness’s own thoughts, beliefs, or inferences.
  • Expert opinion,” as outlined in Rule 702 in the Federal Rules of Evidence and as opposed to opinion evidence, is testimony by an expert witness: a witness who possesses specialized knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.
  • “Opinion work product” refers to material prepared by an attorney in preparation of litigation that reveals the attorney’s opinions, mental impressions, conclusions, or legal theories of the case. Opinion work product, unlike other work product, is almost never discoverable by an adversary.

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]