concurring opinion | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Law

A concurring opinion is a judge’s agreement with a legal decision but for different reasons, influencing future law interpretations.

In the world of law, judges often express their thoughts on a case through written opinions. One type of opinion that is frequently overlooked, but can be quite impactful, is the concurring opinion. This legal term might sound complex, but let’s break it down and explore what it means, how it works, and its implications.

What is a Concurring Opinion?

A concurring opinion is a written document by a judge or justice of a court who agrees with the decision reached in a case but holds different reasons for reaching that conclusion than those stated in the majority opinion. In essence, a judge who writes one says, “I agree with the result, but I have something different or additional to say.”

Why Write a Concurring Opinion?

They serve several purposes. They allow a judge to express their own views on the legal principles or policy issues involved in a case. Judges can use these opinions to clarify their stance on a particular legal issue, emphasize a specific point, or elaborate on a complex aspect of the case that they believe the majority opinion didn’t sufficiently cover.

Additionally, they can offer additional guidance on how the decision should be interpreted and applied in future cases. They can shape the understanding and evolution of the law by providing alternative interpretations or viewpoints.

How Does it Work?

Let’s use an example to illustrate how a concurring opinion works. Suppose a court is deciding a case involving the constitutionality of a particular law. The majority of the judges may decide to uphold the law, finding that it does not violate the Constitution. This majority opinion becomes the final ruling of the court.

However, one of the judges may agree with the outcome of the case but may have a different reasoning. This judge might believe the law is constitutional but for reasons not stated in the majority opinion. Here, the judge will write a concurring opinion to express these different reasons.

The Impact

While the majority opinion is considered the “law of the case,” concurring opinions also play a critical role in shaping legal doctrine. Future judges can look to them for persuasive arguments or alternative ways to interpret the law.

Moreover, a concurring opinion may influence the public’s perception of a case. By offering a different perspective or highlighting overlooked issues, the concurring opinion can enhance the debate on legal questions and contribute to the law’s dynamism.


In conclusion, a concurring opinion is a unique and important facet of judicial decision-making. It is an opportunity for a judge to voice different reasons for agreeing with the court’s decision. Although it does not carry the weight of the majority opinion, a concurring opinion can have a profound impact by influencing future interpretations of law, offering alternative legal perspectives, and contributing to the broader discourse on legal issues. As we delve into legal studies, understanding the role and implications of a concurring opinion can provide a richer perspective on how our legal system works.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/14/2023

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