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A brief summary of a legal rule or a significant fact in a case that, among other headnotes that apply to the case, precedes the full text opinion printed in the reports or reporters. A syllabus to a reported case that summarizes the points decided in the case and is placed before the text of the opinion.
Each jurisdiction usually determines whether headnotes are part of the law or only an editorial device to facilitate research. Most headnotes are included by private publishers and do not constitute a part of an opinion. The most notable publisher that employs headnotes is the West Group in the National Reporter System, which publishes cases from practically every jurisdiction. Use of headnotes in the National Reporter System is generally consistent, regardless of the jurisdiction. The Reporter of Decisions for the United States Supreme Court also prepares a syllabus for Supreme Court decisions, when feasible, at the time an opinion is issued. The syllabus summarizes the points of law addressed in each case, but does not constitute a part of the opinion and does not constitute binding authority.
n. the summary of the key legal points determined by an appeals court, which appears just above each decision in published reports of cases. Headnotes are useful for a quick scan of the judgment, but they are the editor's remarks and not the court's. (See: reports)