Red Herring Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Red Herring?

A legal issue or fact that does not have anything to do with the case at hand.

History and Meaning of Red Herring

The term "red herring" has its origins in the practice of using a smoked herring to mislead hunting dogs. The strong smell of the fish would distract the dogs from the scent of the quarry, leading them off course. In the legal context, a red herring is something that is intentionally misleading or distracting, often a fact or issue that is not relevant to the case.

Examples of Red Herring

  1. In a murder trial, the defense attorney attempts to introduce evidence of the victim's prior criminal history. This information is not relevant to the question of whether the defendant committed the crime, and is therefore a red herring.
  2. During a political debate, a candidate brings up an unrelated issue in an attempt to distract from their opponent's argument. This tactic is also a red herring.
  3. A company being sued for product liability attempts to shift blame onto the consumer by pointing out that the product warning label stated potential risks. This is a red herring because it does not address the question of whether the product was defectively designed or manufactured.

Legal Terms Similar to Red Herring

  1. Distraction - a tactic used to divert attention away from a relevant issue
  2. Misdirection - the act of misleading or confusing someone, often intentionally
  3. Obfuscation - making something unclear or confusing in order to conceal the truth