Judgment (law)

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In law, a judgment is the formal decision made by a court following a lawsuit. At the same time the court may also make a range of court orders, such as imposing a sentence upon a guilty defendant in a criminal matter, or providing a remedy for the plaintiff in a civil matter.

In the United States, under the rules of civil procedure governing practice in federal courts and most state courts, the entry of judgment is the final order entered by the court in the case, leaving no further action to be taken by the court with respect to the issues contested by the parties to the lawsuit. With certain exceptions, only a final judgment is subject to appeal.

In some legal systems (particularly civil law jurisdictions), a judgment is not considered final until after appeals have been exhausted or waived.


  • Consent decree, a final, binding judgment in a case in which both parties agree, by agreement, to a particular outcome
  • Declaratory judgment, a judgment of a court in a civil case which declares the rights, duties, or obligations of each party in a dispute
  • Default judgment, a binding judgment in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant has not responded to a summons
  • Summary judgment, a legal term which means that a court has made a determination without a full trial
  • Vacated judgment, the result of the judgment of an appellate court which overturns, reverses, or sets aside the judgment of a lower court

Reserved judgment[edit]

Main article: Reserved decision

A judge will sometimes, having heard both sides of the argument, refrain from making an immediate decision and retire to consider the case further. The judge will announce that they are to 'reserve' their judgment until a later time. This is sometimes annotated in law reports by the Latin phrase "Cur. adv. vult." or "c.a.v." (Curia advisari vult).[1] The term "avizandum" is used in Scots law.


As one example of a USA state, California's Code Of Civil Procedure's section 695.010(a) provides that all property owned by the debtor, subject to certain exceptions, is subject to enforcement of a judgment. Community property owned by a debtor’s spouse is included within the “all property owned by the debtor.”

Additional costs and interest may be added to the judgment. As money comes in from the debtor to the creditor, it is first applied to satisfy any additional costs and interest, and only then, the principal balance of the judgment. Interest accrues only on the original amount of the judgment unless judgments are periodically re-recorded, in which case interest compounds. Judgments continue to exist for 10 years from the date of the entry of the judgment. Judgments may be renewed for additional terms of 10 years. Judgments are usually collected through the lien mechanism. The creditor will place a lien on the debtor’s real and personal property (by recording the judgment with the county recorder’s office or entering it with the Secretary of State), and the lien will be satisfied when the property is sold by the debtor or foreclosed upon by the creditor. Once the underlying judgment is satisfied, the lien must be released.[citation needed]

Release of judgment[edit]

In some jurisdictions, full payment of a monetary judgment entitles the judgment debtor to receive from the judgment creditor, upon request, a document called a "satisfaction and release of judgment",[2] whereby the judgment debtor may have the original judgment vacated, the action dismissed, any lien removed, and the damaging record expunged from the judgment debtor's public records and credit history.[3] An example of this is in Illinois state law, cf. 735 ILCS 5/12-183.[4]


In a non-legal context, spelling differs between countries. The spelling judgement (with e added) is common in the United Kingdom in a non-legal context.[5][6][7] In British English, the spelling judgment is correct when referring to a court's or judge's formal ruling, whereas the spelling judgement is used for other meanings.[8]

In American English, judgment prevails in all contexts.[9] In Canada and Australia, in a non-legal context both forms are equally acceptable, although judgment is more common in Canada and judgement in Australia.[10] In New Zealand the form judgement is the preferred spelling in dictionaries, newspapers and legislation, although the variant judgment can also be found in all three categories.[citation needed] However "judgment" is the term used for the court's formal rulings or orders in New Zealand. Usage in South Africa is similar to that in Australia and New Zealand.


  1. ^ Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. 1979, at 344
  2. ^ Satisfaction; Release of Judgment — Illinois docstoc.com
  3. ^ What Is a Release and Satisfaction? Illinois Legal Aid
  4. ^ (735 ILCS 5/) Code of Civil Procedure Illinois General Assembly
  5. ^ Definition of to judge Cambridge dictionary
  6. ^ Definition of judgement Oxford dictionary
  7. ^ Definition of judgment Longman dictionary
  8. ^ Ritter, R. M. (2002). The Oxford Guide to Style. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-869175-0. 
  9. ^ Burchfield, Robert William (1996). The New Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-869126-2. OCLC 36063311. 
    Garner, Brian A. (2003). Garner's Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516191-2. 
  10. ^ Pam Peters, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, p. 303.

External links[edit]