obiter dictum

I see that Obiter Dictum, das is now in the Duden.

(in einem Urteil eines obersten Gerichts) rechtliche Ausführungen zur Urteilsfindung, die über das Erforderliche hinausgehen und auf denen das Urteil dementsprechend nicht beruht

This had passed me by. And strictly speaking there is no hierarchy of binding decisions in case law in Germany, although it’s clear that some decisions are treated as binding the lower courts.

So here’s a quote from a decision of a Higher Administrative Court:
Oberverwaltungsgericht NRW, 16 E 648/15 (at marginal number 19!):

Denn der Beschluss des Bundesverfassungsgericht beschränkt sich auf ein obiter dictum, ohne die Bedenken näher zu begründen und ohne sich mit der seit langem gefestigten Rechtsprechung auseinanderzusetzen, die u. a. von verschiedenen Obergerichten eingehend mit der allgemeinen Bedeutung von Beweisverwertungsverboten im Gefahrenabwehrrecht begründet wird.

I don’t know if one would translate English obiter dictum as German Obiter Dictum – that depends on how familiar it has become and how much explanation the user of the translation needs.

The latest edition of Dietl/Lorenz EN-DE (7th) has the following – first you look under obiter and are sent to dictum – reminds me why paper bilingual law dictionaries are dreadful – I think Romain is even worse. Under dictum:

obiter dictum Lat (a saying by the way) gelegentliche Äußerung f, beiläufige Bemerkung f (e-r Rechtsansicht in den Entscheidungsgründen, auf der die Entscheidung selbst nicht beruht. Im Ggs. zu ratio decidendi nicht bindend).

And Romain EN-DE, 5th ed.

obiter dictum, dicta pl, lat Urteil Nebenbemerkung, nicht tragender Entscheidungsgrund

I don’t think Dietl is right to say that the obiter is found in the grounds for the decision. It is found somewhere in the text of the decision. Were it actually in the grounds, I wonder how obiter it would be?

via Burhoff Online

2 thoughts on “obiter dictum

  1. Dietl is right if you read “Entscheidungsgründe” as used as a technical term for a part of a German judgment: everything other than “Rubrum” and “Tenor”. Or in other well-chosen words: “somewhere in the text of the decision”. :-)

  2. Surely it also depends how the ‘obiter’ is flagged up. His Honour Judge Burhoff’s labelling of a ‘flashing storage battery light’ to show a low level of charge does not appear to me to be presaged in the grounds of the German decision (ratio decidendi?) by a remark like ‘nebenbei gesagt’ or ‘en passant’. Contrast this with the tendency in reported England & Wales judgments to preface incidental comments with the actual opener of obiter, except for a well-known London High Court judge widely reported in the British press and who give an airline director a hard time in one case by asking him why his airline had lost his luggage after a flight. This (hilarious) comment was not construed as obiter, rather as a manifestation of bias.

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