The Law of Citations and Seriatim Opinions: Were the Ancient Romans and the Early Supreme Court on the Right Track?
Austin, Joshua M.
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This article explores the oft forgotten and somewhat misunderstood ancient Roman law methodology known as the Lex Citandi, or Law of Citations. The Law of Citations was a relatively simple theory in which authority was given to the writings of five key jurists from the classical period of Roman law, and the majority won the day. Thus, in a way, the method of separate opinions was born. It was a theory revisited by our Supreme Court in its early days through seriatim, or separate, opinions; and perhaps still seen today in the modern day Supreme Court’s concurrences and dissents. This article discusses the similarities between the Law of Citations, seriatim opinions, and modern concurrences and dissents; while taking a historical look at these concepts. Additionally, this Comment will touch briefly on English legal history as well as the importance of some recent dissenting and concurring opinions issued by the Supreme Court. Ultimately, this article argues that the Law of Citations and seriatim opinions were actually the earliest manifestations of modern dissents and concurrences, and, while perhaps not properly executed, laid the foundation for important tools still in use by the highest court in the United States.