What is a Headnote?

  • Before a case is published in a reporter, an editor at West reads the case and selects the important issues of law.
  • For each major issue, the editor then writes a short description called a headnote.
  • These headnotes are typically found at the beginning of each opinion and help the reader quickly determine the issue(s) discussed in the case. 

Example Headnote

“Probable cause” for a search is defined as reasonable grounds for belief, supported by less than prima facie proof but more than mere suspicion, and exists when there is a fair probability, given the totality of the circumstances, that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.

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