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The refusal by a judge to sustain an objection set forth by an attorney during a trial, such as an objection to a particular question posed to a witness. To make void, annul, supersede, or reject through a subsequent decision or action.

A judicial decision is overruled when a later decision, made by the same tribunal or a higher court in the same system, hands down a decision concerning the identical Question of Law, which is in direct opposition to the earlier decision. The earlier decision is thereby overruled and deprived of its authority as precedent.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


v. 1) to reject an attorney's objection to a question of a witness or admission of evidence. By overruling the objection, the trial judge allows the question or evidence in court. If the judge agrees with the objection he/she "sustains" the objection and does not allow the question or evidence. 2) to decide (by a court of appeals) that a prior appeals decision on a legal issue was not correct, and is therefore no longer a valid precedent on that legal question. (See: objection, sustain)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


to set aside the rule of a lower court. When achieved by a superior court in the Anglo-American system, the effect is retrospective. The term can be used of a statute that changes the legal effect of a decision. This is done from the date the statute comes into force.

Parliament can, of course, make the statute come into effect retrospectively, but this is something that is generally thought to be a dangerous form of legislation that may go against the rule of law.

Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

TO OVERRULE. To annul, to make void. This word is frequently used to signify that a case has been decided directly opposite to a former case; when this takes place, the first decided case is said to be overruled as a precedent, and cannot any longer be considered as of binding authority.
     2. Mr. Greenleaf has made a very valuable collection of overruled cases, of great service to the practitioner.
     3. The term overrule also signifies that a majority of the judges have decided against the opinion of the minority, in which case the latter are said to be overruled.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
In other words, when the Court overrules, it turns something bad (cases that refuse to apply the applicable law) into something good (justification for the overruling): The act of overruling can transform the statements written in a dissenting opinion into an authoritative source.
Judges use a variety of different words and phrases to overrule, and sometimes a future case retrospectively views an earlier case of overruling.
Before reaching the explicit act of overruling Seagram, the Court explained just how Brown-Forman had already implicitly overruled the case: While our decision in Brown-Forman did not overrule Seagram, it strictly limited the scope of that decision to retrospective affirmation statutes....
Justice Taylor's first rationale asserts that where a previous court's decision rested on false presumptions, or failed to take into account practical considerations, the current court should reexamine such a case, and, upon finding it erroneous, overrule it.
In the civil context, Justice Taylor used a similar rationale to overrule a previous decision that interpreted a provision of the Worker's Disability Compensation Act (WDCA).
Justice Breyer explained that Grutter said affirmative action would last for twenty-five years and "I know that time flies, but I think only nine of those years have passed." (3) Grutter was not from another era and had engaged the Court's "thought and effort," so why overrule it?
The Casey Court asserted that four alternative pragmatic considerations go into deciding whether to overrule. First, has the rule of the prior case proven unworkable?
The Thirteenth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment "overrule," respectively, each of Dred Scott's two main atrocious holdings: first, that the Fifth Amendment protection against deprivation of liberty or property without "due process of law" includes a substantive constitutional right to own slaves, as against federal government interference; and second, that black men and women, including free blacks, cannot be "citizens" of the United States or of any state within the meaning of Article III and Article IV's clauses that concern certain legal consequences incident to state citizenship.
well, supreme, why wouldn't it follow that the Supreme Court could overrule the Thirteenth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment too?
(1) How willing the Court has been to overrule would appear to depend in part on the setting in which it has been asked to do so.
The High Court's preparedness--albeit reluctant--to overrule where required in common law cases is illustrated by Brodie v Singleton Shire Council ('Brodie').