Headnote Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Headnote, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Headnote?

(n) Headnote is the caption, keywords, shortened legal points, summery etc appearing at the top of a published report. Headnote helps the readers by providing summarized information at a glance

History and Meaning of Headnote

A headnote is a summary that appears at the beginning of a published legal case or statute. It typically includes the names of the parties involved, the relevant legal issues, and a brief summary of the court's decision. Headnotes are intended to provide readers with a quick and easy way to understand the main points of a case without having to read through the entire document.

Headnotes have been used in legal writing for hundreds of years, and they continue to be a common feature of published legal opinions and statutes. They were originally handwritten by court reporters and published along with their written opinions, but with the rise of computer technology, headnotes are now created and published electronically.

Examples of Headnote

  1. In the case of Smith v. Jones, the headnote might read: "Whether a plaintiff can recover damages for emotional distress in a negligence case when the defendant's actions did not cause physical harm."

  2. In a statute, a headnote might provide a summary of the main purpose or provisions of the law. For example, the headnote for a tax law might summarize the tax rates and exemptions.

  3. A legal encyclopedia might include headnotes for each entry to help readers quickly understand the main concepts and points covered in that article.

Legal Terms Similar to Headnote

  • Summation: A summary of the main points of an argument or case, typically presented at the end of a trial or during a closing argument.
  • Synopsis: A brief summary or overview of a case or document.
  • Abstract: A summary of the key points of a longer document or paper, typically used in research or academic writing.