Per curiam decision

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 concurring and dissenting 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


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] In modern practice, they are most commonly used in summary decisions that the Court resolves without full argument and briefing.[5] The designation is stated at the beginning of the opinion. Single-line per curiam decisions are also 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,[6] there were multiple concurrences and dissents.[7][8]

Examples include:

The per curiam practices of the individual United States Courts of Appeal vary by judicial Circuit. The Second Circuit, for instance, issues its nonprecedential decisions as "summary orders" that do not designate an author but are also not labeled as per curiam opinions; occasionally, the court will issue precedential decisions with a per curiam designation. In the Third Circuit, by contrast, the majority of both precedential and nonprecedential decisions indicate the authoring judge, and the per curiam designation is generally, but not exclusively, reserved for dispositions on the court's pro se and summary action calendar.


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.[9]

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.[10]

Many decisions of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, especially in the First and Second Judicial Departments, do not designate an author. Across the Departments, the per curiam designation is used in attorney disciplinary decisions.[11]


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.

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. ^ See (observing that summary reversals are usually issued as per curiam opinions)
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ See, e.g., Sundance v. Municipal Court, 42 Cal. 3d 1101 (1986).
  10. ^ See, e.g., Mosley v. State, 209 So. 3d 1248 (Fla. 2016). Hitchcock v. State, 413 So. 2d 741 (Fla. 1982).
  11. ^ See, e.g., Matter of Stein,
Benisek v. Lamone

Benisek v. Lamone, 585 U.S. ____ (2018), and Lamone v. Benisek, 588 U.S. ____ (2019) were cases before the Supreme Court of the United States dealing with the topic of partisan gerrymandering arising from the 2011 Democratic party-favored redistricting of Maryland. At the center of the cases was Maryland's 6th district which historically favored Republicans and which was redrawn in 2011 to swing the political majority to Democratic via vote dilution. Affected voters filed suit, stating that the redistricting violated their right of representation under Article One, Section Two of the U.S. Constitution and freedom of association of the First Amendment.

Benisek v. Lamone, a case challenging the denial of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to place an injunction on the controversial redistricting maps for upcoming elections, was heard during the 2017–2018 term following the Court's decision from Gill v. Whitford. The Court, in a per curiam decision, affirmed the District Court's decision, and remanded the case for further hearings to take Gill into consideration. The District Court later ruled the maps to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering and ordered new maps to be draw. The state challenged this in Lamone v. Benisek, which the Supreme Court heard in the 2018–2019 term alongside Rucho v. Common Cause, a partisan redistricting case from North Carolina. The Supreme Court ruled in both Lamone and Rucho by a 5-4 majority that questions of partisan gerrymandering represents a nonjusticiable political question and remanded the case back to the district court with instructions to dismiss the case.

Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc.

Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. (Docket 18-483) was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with the constitutionality of a 2016 anti-abortion law passed in the state of Indiana. Indiana's law sought to ban abortions performed solely on the basis of the fetus' gender, race, ethnicity, or disabilities. Lower courts had blocked enforcement of the law for violating a woman's right to abortion under privacy concerns within the Fourteenth Amendment, as previously found in the landmark cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The lower courts also blocked enforcement of another portion of the law that required the disposal of aborted fetuses through burial or cremation. The per curiam decision by the Supreme Court overturned the injunction on the fetal disposal portion of the law, but otherwise did not challenge or confirm the lower courts' ruling on the non-discrimination clauses, leaving these in place.

The case gained national interest as the first major abortion-related case to be heard by the Supreme Court since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy (who tended to favor abortion rights) with his replacement Justice Brett Kavanaugh (who has appeared to rule against such rights in his previous limited judicial history). Court observers expressed concern that in opposing comments raised between Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg could result in later abortion-related challenges reaching the Supreme Court and potentially overturn parts of Roe v. Wade.

Bush v. Gore

Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), was a decision of the United States Supreme Court that settled a recount dispute in Florida's 2000 presidential election. The ruling was issued on December 12, 2000. On December 9, the Court had preliminarily halted the Florida recount that was occurring. Eight days earlier, the Court unanimously decided the closely related case of Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board. The Electoral College was scheduled to meet on December 18, 2000, to decide the election.

In a per curiam decision, the Court ruled that the use of different standards of counting in different counties

violated the Equal Protection Clause, and ruled that no alternative method could be established within the time limit set by Title 3 of the United States Code (3 U.S.C.), § 5 ("Determination of controversy as to appointment of electors"), which was December 12. The vote regarding the Equal Protection Clause was 7–2, and regarding the lack of an alternative method was 5–4. Three concurring justices also asserted that the Florida Supreme Court had violated Article II, § 1, cl. 2 of the Constitution, by misinterpreting Florida election law that had been enacted by the Florida Legislature.

The Supreme Court decision allowed the previous vote certification to stand, as made by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, for George W. Bush as the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes. Florida's votes gave Bush, the Republican candidate, 271 electoral votes, one more than the required 270 to win the Electoral College, and the defeat of Democratic candidate Al Gore, who received 266 electoral votes (a "faithless elector" from the District of Columbia abstained).

Media organizations subsequently analyzed the ballots and found that the originally proposed county-based recounts would have resulted in a different outcome (Bush victory) than a full statewide recount (Gore victory). Florida subsequently changed to new voting machines to avoid punch cards which had allowed dimpled cards or hanging chad.

A number of subsequent articles have characterized the decision as damaging the reputation of the court, increasing the view of judges as partisan, and decreasing Americans' trust in the integrity of elections.

Caetano v. Massachusetts

Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 U.S. ___ (2016), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously vacated a Massachusetts conviction of a woman who carried a stun gun for self-defense.

Cooper v. Aaron

Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958), was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, which denied the Arkansas School Board the right to delay desegregation for 30 months.[1] On September 12, 1958, the Warren Court handed down a per curiam decision which held that the states are bound by the Court's decisions and must enforce them even if the states disagree with them, which asserted judicial supremacy established in Marbury v. Madison. The decision in this case upheld the rulings in Brown v. Board of Education and Brown II which held that the doctrine of separate but equal is unconstitutional.

Dougherty v. Stepp

Dougherty v. Stepp, 18 N.C. 371 (N.C. 1835) is a decision of the North Carolina Supreme Court authored by Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin. For at least a century, this case has been used in first-year Torts classes in American law schools to teach students about the tort of trespass upon real property.

In re Sealed Case No. 02-001

In re: Sealed Case No. 02-001, 310 F.3d 717 (2002), is a per curiam decision by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review in which it reviewed restrictions that were placed upon a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) on May 17, 2002. The Court of Review reversed the FISC's restrictions, stating that they "are not required by FISA or the Constitution". This opinion represents the first meeting of and first opinion by the Court of Review. For the purposes of review, the FISC's modification of the requested application worked as a "denial", thus giving the Court of Review jurisdiction to take the case.

The Court noted that the case raised important questions of statutory interpretation and the constitutionality of provision of FISA. In particular, the opinion addressed changes made in the act due to the passage of the Patriot Act. The Court addressed these questions in the context of a single request for an order authorizing electronic surveillance made by the government to the FISC. The FISC approved the requested order but "imposed certain requirements and limitations" on the government. The government appealed to the Court of Review.

The Court first stated that there appeared to be no disagreement between the government and the FISC as to the propriety of the requested surveillance because the FISC found that the government had shown probable caused to believe that the target is an agent of a foreign power. The government therefore only appealed the restrictions imposed. The restrictions include orders that

law enforcement officials shall not make recommendations to intelligence officials concerning the initiation, operation, continuation or expansion of FISA searches or surveillances. Additionally, the FBI and the Criminal Division [of the Department of Justice] shall ensure that law enforcement officials do not direct or control the use of the FISA procedures to enhance criminal prosecution, and that advice intended to preserve the option of a criminal prosecution does not inadvertently result in the Criminal Division’s directing or controlling the investigation using FISA searches and surveillances toward law enforcement objectives.

The FISC also created what the court referred to as a "chaperone requirement", which required that a unit of the Justice Department (the Office of Intelligence Policy and review (OIPR)) "be invited" to all meetings between the FBI and the Criminal Division involving coordination of efforts to investigate and respond to potential hostile acts. The Court of Review stated that the lower opinion establishing these restrictions did not clearly set forth the basis for its decision. Instead, the restrictions "appear[] to proceed from the assumption that FISA constructed a barrier between counterintelligence/intelligence officials and law enforcement officers in the Executive Branch," but the opinion did not support such an assumption. This "wall" between the intelligence officials and law enforcement officers was created by the FISC in reliance on "its statutory authority to approve 'minimization procedures' designed to prevent the acquisition, retention, and dissemination within the government of material gathered in an electronic surveillance that is unnecessary to the government's need for foreign intelligence information." Two arguments were presented by the government in opposition to these restrictions. First, the government argued that the pre-Patriot Act limitation in FISA that restricts the government's use of intelligence information is "an illusion." Alternatively, the government argued that even if the "primary purpose" limitation exists, the passage of the Patriot Act eliminated that concept from FISA. As a corollary, the government argued that the restrictions imposed by the FISC below were a misconstruction of the FISA provisions and "an end run around" the amendments added by the Patriot Act.The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) submitted amicus curiae briefs in support of the restrictions. The briefs argued primarily that the FISA statute (and the amendments of the Patriot Act) are unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment unless they are construed to prohibit the government from obtaining a FISA surveillance order if its "primary purpose" is criminal prosecution.Among other things, the Court of Review found that FISA is constitutional, that the minimization requirements of FISA are not grounds to limit the purpose of the FISA application, and that FISA may be used to collect evidence for criminal prosecution. The Court also noted (but made no judgment regarding) "the President’s inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance" which relates to part of the government justification in the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.

Int'l Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump

International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, 857 F. 3d 554 (4th Cir. 2017), was a 2017 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, upholding an injunction against enforcement of Executive Order 13780, titled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States", an executive order signed by US President Donald Trump on March 6, 2017. The order places limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries, and by all refugees who do not possess either a visa or valid travel documents. It revoked and replaced the President's January Executive Order 13769, which courts had also found illegal.

The case was brought by six individuals and three organizations that serve or represent Muslim clients or members, including the International Refugee Assistance Project, represented by lawyers from the National Immigration Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Supreme Court of the United States, in an unsigned per curiam decision, stayed most of the Fourth Circuit's judgment, agreed to review the case, and scheduled oral arguments for October. On September 24, 2017, the President signed a new Proclamation replacing and expanding his March Executive Order. In response, the Supreme Court canceled its hearing, then granted the government's request to declare the case moot and vacate the Fourth Circuit's judgment.

Federal district courts in Maryland and Hawaii issued injunctions blocking enforcement of the September Proclamation, which were then affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the en banc Fourth Circuit. On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court blocked all the lower court decisions and allowed the September Proclamation take effect while the Supreme Court considers the matter.

Josephine Staton

Josephine Laura Staton (born 1961) is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Judicial opinion

A judicial opinion is a form of legal opinion written by a judge or a judicial panel in the course of resolving a legal dispute, providing the decision reached to resolve the dispute, and usually indicating the facts which led to the dispute and an analysis of the law used to arrive at the decision.

One, Inc. v. Olesen

One, Inc. v. Olesen, 355 U.S. 371 (1958), is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision for LGBT rights in the United States. It was the first U.S. Supreme Court ruling to deal with homosexuality and the first to address free speech rights with respect to homosexuality. The Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that the gay magazine One violated obscenity laws, thus upholding constitutional protection for pro-homosexual writing.ONE, Inc., a spinoff of the Mattachine Society, published the early pro-gay "ONE: The Homosexual Magazine" beginning in 1953. After a campaign of harassment from the U.S. Post Office Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen declared the October 1954 issue "obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy" and therefore unmailable under the Comstock laws. In that issue, the Post Office objected to "Sappho Remembered", a story of a lesbian's affection for a twenty-year-old "girl" who gives up her boyfriend to live with her, the lesbian, because it was "lustfully stimulating to the average homosexual reader"; "Lord Samuel and Lord Montagu", a poem about homosexual cruising that it said contained "filthy words"; and (3) an advertisement for The Circle, a magazine containing homosexual pulp romance stories, that would direct the reader to other obscene material.The magazine, represented by a young attorney who had authored the cover story in the October 1954 issue, Eric Julber, brought suit in U.S. District Court seeking an injunction against the Postmaster. In March 1956, U.S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke ruled for the defendant. He wrote: "The suggestion advanced that homosexuals should be recognized as a segment of our people and be accorded special privilege as a class is rejected." A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision unanimously in February 1957. Julber filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on June 13, 1957. On January 13, 1958, that court both accepted the case and, without hearing oral argument, issued a terse per curiam decision reversing the Ninth Circuit. The decision, citing its June 24, 1957, landmark decision in Roth v. United States 354 U.S. 476 (1957), read in its entirety:

241 F.2d 772, reversed.Eric Julber for petitioner.Solicitor General Rankin, Acting Assistant Attorney General Leonard and Samuel D. Slade for respondent.PER CURIAM.The petition for writ of certiorari is granted and the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed. Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476.

One, Inc. v. Olesen was the first U.S. Supreme Court ruling to deal with homosexuality and the first to address free speech rights with respect to homosexuality. The justices supporting the reversal were Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, and Whittaker. As an affirmation of Roth, the case itself has proved most important for, in the words of one scholar, "its on-the-ground effects. By protecting ONE, the Supreme Court facilitated the flourishing of a gay and lesbian culture and a sense of community" at the same time as the federal government was purging homosexuals from its ranks.In its next issue, ONE told its readers: "For the first time in American publishing history, a decision binding on every court now stands. ... affirming in effect that it is in no way proper to describe a love affair between two homosexuals as constitut(ing) obscenity."

Perry v. Louisiana

Perry v. Louisiana, 498 U.S. 38 (1990), was a United States Supreme Court case over the legality of forcibly medicating a death row inmate with a mental disorder, to render him competent to be executed.

Stansbury v. California

Stansbury v. California, 511 U.S. 318 (1994), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court considered whether a police officer's subjective and undisclosed opinion whether a person who had been questioned was a suspect was relevant in determining whether that person had been in custody and thus entitled to the Miranda warnings. In a 9-0 ruling, the Court reversed and remanded the case. In a per curiam decision, the Court held that "an officer's subjective and undisclosed view concerning whether the person being interrogated is a suspect is irrelevant to the assessment [of] whether the person is in custody."

United States v. Texas

United States v. Texas, 579 U.S. ___ (2016), is a United States Supreme Court case regarding the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program.

In a one-line per curiam decision, an equally divided Court affirmed the lower-court injunction blocking the President's program. The case was decided by an eight-member bench due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.


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