Dissenting Opinion Law and Legal Definition

A dissenting opinion is the opinion of a judge of a court of appeals, including the U.S. Supreme Court, which disagrees with the majority opinion. When more than one judge dissents, often one will write the dissenting opinion and the other judge(s) will join their names to it. Other times, different judges may write their own dissenting opinions, especially when they dissent for different reasons.

Over time as the social climate or law evolves, a dissent may eventually prevail. For example, for years now, many federal judges have taken a stand against mandatory minimum sentences. A majority haved called for outright abolition of mandatory sentencing. Some senior federal judges have refused to hear drug cases because of the long sentences they are bound by law to give defendants. Many federal judges are recording their dissent.