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Overrule is used in two circumstances: (1) when an attorney raises an objection to the admissibility of evidence at trial and (2) when an appellate court issues its ruling.

In the first circumstance, in accordance with Rule 103 of the Federal Rules of Evidence or various state statutes such as Section 2104 of Oklahoma’s evidence code, the trial judge will either overrule or sustain the objection. When the trial judge overrules the objection, the trial judge rejects the objection and admits the evidence. On the other hand, sustaining the objection means that the trial judge allows the objection and excludes the evidence.

In the second circumstance, when an appellate court overrules a case, the appellate court overturns a precedent. As a result, the precedent is no longer the controlling rule of law. For example, in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that segregating children in public schools solely based on race violated the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause. With this decision, the Supreme Court overruled its prior decision in Plessy v. Ferguson that separate but equal accommodations based on race did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Thereafter, Brown v. Board of Education, not Plessy v. Ferguson, became the controlling rule of law for issues on separate but equal accommodations based on race.

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