Headnote

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A headnote is a brief summary of a particular point of law that is added to the text of a court decision to aid readers in locating discussion of a legal issue in an opinion. As the term implies, headnotes appear at the beginning of the published opinion.

Frequently, headnotes are "value-added" components appended to decisions by the publisher who compiles the decisions of a court for resale. As handed down by the court, a decision or written opinion does not contain headnotes. These are added later by an editor not connected to the court, but who instead works for a legal publishing house.

In 1906, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Company, 200 U.S. 321 (1906), that headnotes have no legal standing and therefore do not set precedent.

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