Skip to main content

Law professor's abstract on Legal Theory Blog

October 27, 2010

The Legal Theory Blog, run by Lawrence S. Solum, stated that “Why Dicta Become Holdings and Why It Matters,” written by Professor Judy Stinson of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, was posted on the Social Science Research Network ( The abstract is as follows:

“The distinction between holding and dicta is significant. Yet holdings are sometimes treated as dicta, and more significantly, dictum is regularly elevated to holding. Although the confusion between holding and dicta has garnered substantial discussion, little attention has been paid to why this confusion exists. This article explores the reasons underlying the conflation of holding and dicta. It identifies several causes, including the cyclical nature of our judicial system, creating a ripple effect; the tendency of courts to emulate the Supreme Court; and our overemphasis on words, phrases, and quotations. The article argues that by identifying these causes, we can begin to consider solutions that will minimize the elevation of dicta into holding.”

Stinson’s research and teaching focuses on Legal Method and Writing, Legal Research and Writing, Introduction to U.S. Law, Appellate Advocacy and Sexual Orientation and the Law. She has written extensively in the area of legal research and writing and has published the advanced text, The Tao of Legal Writing. She has given numerous presentations in the legal-writing arena, in addition to speaking about the rights of legal-writing faculty to academic freedom and contracts in same-sex relationships.