Per curiam decision

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In law, a per curiam decision (or opinion) is a ruling issued by an appellate court of multiple judges in which the decision rendered is made by the court (or at least, a majority of the court) acting collectively (and typically, though not necessarily, unanimously).[1] In contrast to regular opinions, a per curiam does not list the individual judge responsible for authoring the decision,[1] but minority dissenting and concurring decisions are signed.[2]

It is not the only type of decision that can reflect the opinion of the court. Other types of decisions can also reflect the opinion of the entire court, such as unanimous decisions in which the opinion of the court is expressed, with an author listed.[3] The term per curiam is Latin for "by the court".[4]

United States

Federal

The decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court are usually not per curiam.[3] Their decisions more commonly take the form of one or more opinions signed by individual justices which are then joined in by other justices.[3] Unanimous and signed opinions are not considered per curiam decisions, as only the court can officially designate opinions as per curiam.[3] Per curiam decisions tend to be short.[3] The designation is stated at the beginning of the opinion. Single-line per curiam decisions are generally issued without concurrence or dissent by a hung Supreme Court (a 4-4 decision), when the Court has a vacant seat.

The notable exception to the usual characteristics for a per curiam decision is the case of Bush v. Gore. Although it was per curiam,[5] there were multiple concurrences and dissents.[6][7]

Examples include:

State

The Supreme Court of California occasionally releases decisions in the name of "The Court" but they are not necessarily unanimous. Sometimes, they are accompanied by extensive concurring and dissenting opinions.[8]

The Supreme Court of Florida frequently releases death penalty opinions in a per curiam form, even if there are concurring and dissenting opinions to the majority.[9]

Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada uses "The Court" instead of per curiam.

The US uses per curiam primarily for uncontroversial cases. Canada, however, has used "The Court" for important and controversial cases to emphasize that the Court is unanimous.[citation needed]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Bryan A. Garner, ed. (2001). Black's Law Dictionary (2nd Pocket ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Group. pp. 503, 523. 
  2. ^ For examples, see Bobby v. Van Hook and Michigan v. Fisher
  3. ^ a b c d e "Per curiam". Wex. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 2008-09-10. 
  4. ^ "Per curiam". Merriam Webster English Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  5. ^ https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-949.ZPC.html
  6. ^ https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-949.ZD.html
  7. ^ https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-949.ZC.html
  8. ^ See, e.g., Sundance v. Municipal Court, 42 Cal. 3d 1101 (1986).
  9. ^ See, e.g., Mosley v. State, 209 So. 3d 1248 (Fla. 2016). Hitchcock v. State, 413 So. 2d 741 (Fla. 1982).
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