Ken’s Comments:


One BIG reason that prison law libraries are such a disaster is that they do not understand what I tell you here. … (did I explain it to many? of course!)  and some of them are so mentally ill or just plain stupid that they think they know it all and just want to keep doing what they do!!

Always keep in mind:

  1. The Holding is the only important part of any case.
  2. Every case depends upon its particular facts. If the facts of your case differ, even in some minor way, from the facts of the case you are citing, that case may not control (be authority which controls) your case!


There are 3 kinds of law: 1. The Constitution. No other law overrides the Constitution. Any attempt to do so is ruled unconstitutional by the U S Supreme Court.  2. Statutes. These are laws made by Congress or by state legislatures. There also are Rules or Regulations of some agencies which have the force of law. 3. Case law –  also called Common Law – these are decisions by Courts. The ruling of a court applies only in the area where that court has jurisdiction. Many cases involve the interpretation, or meaning, of statutes or of the Constitution.  The rulings of the U S Supreme Court affect the whole country. 


One often cites cases, refers to cases, to support one’s argument that a court made a mistake. i. e. in an appeal.


The Holding of a case is the key decision, that Court’s decision on a specific legal issue which is the reason why it is ruling the way it rules or decides. It is the only language in that Opinion or Order – the case – which can be used properly as authority for one’s argument. Everything else is “dictum”, or truly not relevant as use for claiming it is authority or a precedent which should be followed by whatever court one is in. Here is the problem: some of the dictum

Here is one problem: some dictum can be very eloquent and very persuasive, and very clearly state a legal point, but if it is not the point on which the court’s decision hinges … fuggeddaboutit! I cannot tell you how many briefs or memoranda of law I read, shown me by  inmates, where dictum was used – totally inappropriately and uselessly – to support a certain claim. And when I asked: “who wrote this?” the answer was “the law library”!  Disastrous.

Here is another one. Cases were cited. When I read those cases, the facts were totally different than the inmate’s case! Therefore, that cited case was NO authority for what they were trying to do. Again, “who wrote this?” … “the law library”. 

In both situations above, in many, many inmate papers I reviewed, the error was so obvious and so serious I nearly could not believe it!

You must read: Prison Law Libraries, a Tragic Disaster

ok. The law is complicated; if you have any ???s about this, call me. 303-423-4067.

Holding defined

stare decisis defined

Dictum defined