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A slip opinion is a written statement prepared by a court that states the basis for a decision, and it’s published in a temporary form. The opinion is often given immediately after the court reaches a decision, such as the issuance of a bench opinion, and is subject to revision by the court. It’s an unpublished opinion, but slip opinions are often published in a court reporter or other publication once they are reviewed for typographical, grammatical, and other editorial errors and then revised. Prior to publication, the public can often review a slip opinion on the court’s website or obtain it from the court directly in a pamphlet or other print material or through an opinion service. Slip opinions can also be used in non-judicial cases, such as by a panel in an arbitration proceeding.
Slip opinions are often issued by an appellate court of the highest court in the land. Each opinion contains certain elements, which vary by jurisdiction and by the type of court. For example, a national court may include majority opinions, dissents, and concurrences. Slip opinions may contain some discrepancies when compared to their published counterparts, such as errors made in citing cases or other revisions the court deems necessary so that the opinion is free of errors.
Most jurisdictions state that the published version supersedes the slip opinion, because the slip opinion is a temporary form of the opinion. Some slip opinions are prepared within minutes after a bench opinion, and there often isn’t enough time to carefully revise the opinion and remove errors so that it’s suitable for publication. Parties to a case can research the court reporter in that jurisdiction or other publication to see whether the slip opinion was revised and finalized in a published opinion.
Individuals often do not rely on a slip opinion for preparing cases, because it can be superseded by a published opinion. Some courts expressly warn parties and courts about relying on slip opinions when preparing cases or rendering decisions, because they are temporary. A court may strike through a slip opinion to indicate that the opinion is superseded by a published opinion, but some courts may not. Most courts do not include the modifications made and incorporated in the published opinion, and individuals who rely on a slip opinion that has been modified could end up relying on the wrong case or gain a misunderstanding of the judge’s decision.