Obiter dictum

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An obiter dictum is literally a “statement made in passing”; tossed off, as it were, by a court en route to a different a legal determination (a “ratio decidendi”) about something else.

A chance remark; a passing observation; a bon mot, not entirely on point to the matter at hand but which, if not strictly binding on a subsequently-convened lower court, is apt to make it swoon with admiration all the same.

Perhaps the most famous obiter dictum of all times was that made by a young High Court judge sitting in the King’s Bench Division by the name of Denning, Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd, which gave rise to the modern law of promissory estoppel.

Obiter is also the name of the University of Canterbury Law Society Magazine, which had its finest year in 1992, but recently went online, which seems to have been a mistake proving, as it does, only that the youth of today are so goddamn worthy.

See also