Judgment (law)

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In law, a judgment is a decision of a court regarding the rights and liabilities of parties in a legal action or proceeding.[1] Judgments also generally provide the court's explanation of why it has chosen to make a particular court order.[2]

The phrase "reasons for judgment" is often used interchangeably with "judgment", although the former refers to the court's justification of its judgment while the latter refers to the final court order regarding the rights and liabilities of the parties.[3] As the main legal systems of the world recognize either a common law or statutory duty to provide reasons for a judgment, drawing a distinction between "judgment" and "reasons for judgment" may be unnecessary in most circumstances.

Spelling[edit]

Judgment is considered a "free variation" word, and the use of either judgment or judgement (with an e) is considered acceptable.[4] This variation arises depending on the country and the use of judgment in a legal or non-legal context.

British, American, and Canadian English generally use judgment when referring to a court's formal ruling.[5] Judgement is commonly used in the United Kingdom when referring to a non-legal decision.[6]

Judgment is also used in Australian and New Zealand English when referring to a court's formal ruling.[7][8] Non-English translations of judgment demonstrate varied spelling. For instance, the English translation of France's Code of Civil Procedure uses judgement throughout.[9]

Who Renders a Judgment[edit]

Decisions of a quasi-judicial body and administrative bodies may be colloquially referred to as "judgments". However, these decisions can be distinguished from judgments as the legal definition of judgment contemplates decisions made by judges in a court of law.[10] Judgments may therefore be distinguished from quasi-judicial or administrative decisions based on the fact that they are rendered by a wholly judicial body rather than their consideration of legal questions.

Form of Judgments[edit]

A judgment may be provided either in written or oral form depending on the circumstances.[11]

Oral judgments are often provided at the conclusion of a hearing and are frequently used by courts with heavier caseloads[12] or where a judgment must be rendered quickly.[13]

Written reasons for judgment are often provided in circumstances where a complex decision must be made, where the matter is likely to be appealed, or where the decision is considered to be of some significant importance to members of the legal community and/or the public at large.[14] Written reasons for judgment are not generally provided immediately following the hearing and may take days, weeks, or even months to be released.[15]

Types of Judgments[edit]

Types of judgments can be distinguished on a number of grounds, including the procedures the parties must follow to obtain the judgment, the issues the court will consider before rendering the judgment, and the effect of the judgment. Judgments which vary from a standard judgment on the merits of a case include the following:

  • Consent Judgment: also referred to as an "agreed judgment", a consent judgment is a settlement agreed upon by the parties and authorized by a judge.[16] Consent judgments are often used in the regulatory context, particularly in antitrust cases.[17]
  • Declaratory Judgment: a judgment which determines the rights and liabilities of the parties without enforcing a judgment or otherwise requiring the parties to do anything.[18] A declaratory judgment may be useful where the parties simply are in doubt regarding or wish to clarify their respective rights and liabilities and are not seeking a remedy. It has been suggested, at least in the United States, that a declaratory judgment is a "milder" form of an injunction order because it clarifies the parties' rights without actually directing the parties to do anything.[19]
  • Default Judgment: a judgment rendered in favour of one party based on the other party's failure to take action.[20] Default judgments are commonly used where the defendant fails to appear before the court or submit a defence after being summoned.[21] A default judgment grants the relief requested by the appearing party and does not require extensive factual or legal analysis from the court.[22]
  • Interlocutory Judgment: an intermediate judgment which provides a temporary decision on an issue that requires timely action.[23] Interlocutory orders are not final and may either not be subject to appeal or may follow a different appeal procedure than other kinds of judgments.[24] Examples of interlocutory orders include requiring one spouse to pay the other spouse a weekly support sum for the duration of a divorce proceeding until a final judgment on spousal support is rendered, or preventing one party from transferring property relevant to an action until the court has rendered a final judgment.
  • Reserved Judgment: a judgment that is not given immediately after the conclusion of the hearing or trial. A reserved judgment may be released days, weeks, or even months after the hearing.[25] In the United States, a reserved judgment is sometimes annotated in law reports by the Latin phrase "Cur. adv. vult." or "c.a.v." (Curia advisari vult).[26]
  • Summary Judgment: an accelerated judgment that does not require a trial and where the court's interpretation of the pleadings forms the basis of the judgment.[27] For a summary judgment, the court will consider "the contents of the pleadings, the motions, and additional evidence adduced by the parties to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact rather than one of law."[28]
  • Vacated Judgment: a judgment of an appellate court where the judgment under review is set aside and a new trial is ordered.[29] A vacated judgment is rendered where the original judgment failed to make an order in accordance with the law and a new trial is ordered to ensure a just outcome. The result of a vacated judgment is a trial de novo.

Opinions Within Judgments[edit]

If more than one judge is deciding a case, the judgment may be delivered unanimously or it may be divided into a number of majority, concurring, plurality, and dissenting opinions. Only the opinion of the majority judgment is considered to have precedent-setting weight. Some examples of opinions within judgments include:

  • Concurring opinion: the opinion of a single judge or judges that agrees with the final outcome of the majority opinion but disagrees in whole or in part with the reasoning.[31]
  • Plurality opinion: the opinions of different judges of the court where a majority judgment is not obtained.[32][33] An example of a plurality opinion is a court of three judges each rendering a different concurring decision, agreeing on a final outcome but disagreeing on the reasons justifying that final outcome.
  • Dissenting opinion: the opinion of a single judge or judges that rejects the conclusions of the majority decision in whole or in part, and explains the reasons for their rejection of the majority decision.[34]

Enforcement of Judgments[edit]

When a court renders a judgment, it may state that the successful party has a right to recover money or property. However, the court will not collect the money or property on behalf of the successful party without further action. In common law legal systems, judgment enforcement is regulated by administrative divisions such as a province, territory, or federated state, while in civil law legal systems judgment enforcement is regulated through the national Code of Civil Procedure. Judgment enforcement, on a conceptual level, is conducted in a similar way across different legal systems. Specific references to the judgment enforcement rules of Germany, Canada (Saskatchewan), and the United States (California) are made in this section.

The successful party may receive immediate payment from the unsuccessful party on the basis of the judgment and not require further action. If the successful party does not receive immediate payment, they must initiate a judgment enforcement process in order to collect the money or property that they are entitled to under the judgment.[35][36][37] Once this process is initiated, the successful party may be referred to as the judgment creditor while the unsuccessful party will be referred to as the judgment debtor in North America.[38][39]

The judgment creditor can register their judgment through the property registry system in their jurisdiction,[40] levy the property in question through a writ of execution,[41] or seek a court order for enforcement[42] depending on the options available in their jurisdiction.

The judgment creditor may also need to investigate the judgment debtor to determine whether they are capable of paying.[43] Understanding whether the judgment debtor is capable of fulfilling the judgment order may affect the enforcement mechanism used to recover the money or property under the judgment. Some steps are available in different jurisdictions to investigate or interview judgment creditors, and investigations may be conducted either by the judgment creditor or by a sheriff or bailiff.[44][45]

Different mechanisms of enforcement exist, including seizure and sale of the judgment debtor's property or garnishment.[46] Some jurisdictions, like California, also allow for additional enforcement mechanisms depending on the circumstances, such as suspending the judgment debtor's driver's license or professional license.[47] In Germany, a bailiff is responsible for enforcing the judgment and is empowered to use a number of different enforcement mechanisms.[48]

In Germany, the judgment creditor is entitled to enforce the judgment 30 years past the judgment date.[49] In California and Saskatchewan, the judgment creditor is entitled to enforce the judgment 10 years past the judgment date subject to exceptions which allow the judgment creditor to renew the enforcement for an additional 10 years.[50] [51]

Release of Judgments

Depending on the jurisdiction, the judgment debtor may be able to obtain a "satisfaction and release of judgment" document from the judgment creditor. This document affirms that the judgment debtor has fulfilled their obligations relating to the judgment.

For example, in California, a judgment creditor must file an "Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment"[52] where it has been paid in full by the judgment debtor within 15 days of the judgment debtor's request.[53] This document has the effect of formally closing the case[54] and terminating any ongoing garnishment arrangements or liens.[55] In Saskatchewan, upon either the satisfaction or withdrawal of a judgment, a judgment debtor can seek a discharge of judgment.[56] If successful, the judgment is removed from the Judgment Registry and detached from any property registered on the Personal Property registry, titles, or interests in land.[57]

Judgments by Legal System[edit]

The requirements for judgments share many similarities and some differences between countries and legal systems. For instance, while the civil law imposes a statutory requirement to provide reasons for judgment, the common law recognizes a contextual duty to provide reasons depending on certain circumstances. The following section provides some information regarding judgments in different jurisdictions as well as examples of their treatment of other types of judgments, where available.

Common Law[edit]

Canada Canada (excluding Quebec)

The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized a common law duty to provide "adequate" reasons for judgment and has stated that "the giving of reasoned judgments is central to the legitimacy of judicial institutions in the eyes of the public."[58] Determining whether reasons for judgment are adequate is a contextual exercise which may call for different information or depth of reasoning based on the circumstances of the case.[59] In general, Canadian courts are expected to provide reasons for judgment as a duty to the public at large,[60] to demonstrate that the judge or judges have engaged with the parties' pleadings,[61] to explain why the parties won or lost,[62] and to allow for meaningful appellate review (in the event that the case may be appealed).[63]

With the above guiding principles in mind, Canadian courts must "read [the reasons] as a whole, in the context of the evidence, the arguments and the trial, with an appreciation of the purposes or functions for which they are delivered..." to determine whether the reasons for judgment are adequate.[64] The reasons must tell the reader why the judgment was made, but do not need to tell the reader how the judge made the decision rendered in the judgment.[65]

Provincial rules of civil procedure provide further guidance relating to specific types of judgments. For example:

  • Declaratory Judgment: a declaratory judgment can be made by the court regardless of whether a remedy is being claimed.[66]
  • Default Judgment: a default judgment can be sought by the plaintiff where a defendant “has been noted in default” for certain claims. [67]
  • Summary Judgment: a summary judgment may be available if “there is no genuine issue requiring a trial with respect to a claim or defence” or “the parties agree to have all or part of the claim determined by a summary judgment and the court is satisfied that it is appropriate to grant summary judgment.”[68]

United Kingdom United Kingdom

The Court of Appeal of England and Wales (Civil Division) has affirmed a common law duty to give reasons for a judgment, subject to some exceptions (such as an oral judgment or a summary judgment).[69] The Court also noted that providing reasons for judgment "is a function of due process, and therefore of justice."[70] Interested parties must be able to determine why the court has made the decision in question. Furthermore, providing reasons for judgment serves a practical purpose insofar as it necessarily requires the court to engage in thoughtful consideration of the cases presented.[71] However, the Court also noted that the exercise of providing reasons for judgment is contextual and the standard of what is or is not acceptable for a judgment will vary depending on the circumstances.[72] The court appears to propose that the ultimate requirement is the court explaining, in some way, why it has made the decision in question.[73]

Furthermore, The Civil Procedure Rules 1998[74] state that a judgment or order takes effect on the day it is rendered unless the court specifies otherwise[75] and provide additional guidance on different types of judgments.

  • Consent Judgment: a consent judgment is available where the parties agree on the terms of the judgment or order that should be made.[76]
  • Declaratory Judgment: a declaratory judgment can be made by the courts regardless of whether a remedy is being claimed.[77]
  • Default Judgment: a default judgment is available where the defendant does not file acknowledgment of service or fails to file a defence.[78] A default judgment may be set aside or varied if he defendant demonstrates that they have “a real prospect of successfully defending the claim” or where exceptional circumstances apply.[79]
  • Summary Judgment: a summary judgment is made without requiring a trial.[80] A court may grant a summary judgment if (i) the claimant has no prospect of succeeding on their claim OR (ii) the defendant has no prospect of defending the claim, and (iii) “there is no other compelling reason why the case or issue should be disposed of at a trial.”[81]

United States United States

At the federal level, a judgment is defined in the United States Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as "a decree and any order from which an appeal lies" and does not include "recitals of pleadings, a master's report, or a record of prior proceedings."[82]

A judgment must address all of the issues raised with respect to the rights and liabilities of the parties. If a judgment is rendered without addressing all the rights and liabilities, the action is not ended and the claims of the parties may be revised before the entry of a judgment which determines all of the issues raised.[83]

  • Default Judgment: If the defendant fails to plead or otherwise defend against the action, a default judgment may be entered.[84] If the plaintiff's claim is for a specific sum, then the plaintiff can request that the clerk enter judgment for that amount along with costs against the defendant.[85] Otherwise, the plaintiff will be required to apply to the court to receive a default judgment.[86] If the defendant can demonstrate "good cause" in response to the default judgment, then the court may set aside the judgment at its discretion.[87]
  • Interlocutory Judgment: A party can seek an interlocutory injunction relating to a proceeding. The court must provide reasons for either granting or denying an interlocutory injunction.[88]
  • Summary Judgment: A party can seek a summary judgment on all or part of its claim.[89] The court will grant a summary judgment if the party seeking the judgment demonstrates that there is no real dispute regarding the facts.[90] The court must provide reasons for either granting or denying a summary judgment.[91]

A state Code of Civil Procedure will provide its own rules relating to judgments in state courts. For instance, California's Code of Civil Procedure provides some general rules regarding the purpose of and requirements for judgments[92] as well as rules relating to summary judgments,[93] default judgments,[94] and interim judgments.[95]

Civil Law[edit]

France France

A court's duties regarding judgments are outlined in the Code de procédure civile. A judgment "is given on behalf of the French people"[96] and must contain certain information, including the date, the names of the judges, the level of court, and the names of the parties involved.[97] A judgment must also describe the parties' claims and the grounds on which their claims are based, identifying both the final judgment and the reasons for the judgment.[98] In light of compliance with the rules of the Code and the absence of an appeal, a judgment is presumed to have been executed correctly.[99]

A court may either provide their judgment at the end of the hearing or defer the judgment to a specified date.[100] If an oral judgment is rendered, it must be read by at least one of the judges who heard the case.[101] Parties to the proceedings are entitled to receive "a certified copy of the judgement [sic] imprinted with an order of enforcement."[102] Once a judgment has been executed, it becomes res judicata.[103] A judgment will be enforced once it becomes res judicata subject to some exceptions.[104] A judgment can only be enforced once a certified copy imprinted with an order of enforcement is provided and the affected parties have been notified.[105]

  • Default Judgment: If one of the parties does not appear before the court, or one of the parties does not present their pleadings within the enumerated time limit, the appearing party is entitled to receive a default judgment on the merits of the case.[106]
  • Ex Parte Judgment: an ex parte judgment may be granted “where the petitioner has good reason for not summoning the opposing party.”[107]
  • Interlocutory Judgment: An interlocutory judgment, insofar as it gives rise to an investigation or an interim measure, stays the proceedings and does not equate to a final judgment.[108]
  • Summary Judgment: a summary judgment may be granted at the request of one party in order to provide an order quickly as an alternative to a full trial. [109]

Germany Germany

A court's duties regarding judgments are outlined in the Zivilprozessordnung.[110] A trial judgment must contain certain information, including the parties and their representatives, the court and judges involved in the decision, the date the proceedings finished, the merits of the case and the reasons for the judgment.[111] Specifically, the legislation requires "the claims asserted and the means of challenge or defence brought before the court, highlighting the petitions files. The details of the circumstances and facts as well as the status of the dispute thus far are to be included by reference being made to the written pleadings, the records of the hearings, and other documents ... [and] a brief summary of the considerations of the facts and circumstances of the case and the legal aspects on which the decision is based."[112]

An appellate court judgment must include the findings of fact in the contested judgment, including any changes or amendments, and the reasons for the court’s determination of the appeal.[113]

  • Default Judgment: a default judgment is rendered based on the defendant’s acknowledgment of their actions. A default judgment does not need to address the facts or merits of the case and does not require the provision of reasons.[114]
  • Interlocutory Judgment: an interlocutory judgment is rendered when the court has enough information to make a decision.[115] An interlocutory judgment is considered to be a final judgment and not subject to appeal unless the court deems further consideration necessary.[116]

Japan Japan

A court's duties regarding judgments are outlined in "民事訴訟法及び民事保全法の" (Code of Civil Procedure).[117] The Code states that a final judgment must be made "when the suit is ripe for making a judicial decision".[118] The judgment must contain the names of the parties, the court, the final date of oral argument, the facts, and the reasons for decision[119] subject to some exceptions.[120] A judgment must be rendered within two months of the conclusion of oral arguments unless exceptional circumstances apply[121] and becomes effective once it has been rendered.[122]

Other Civil Law Countries

Religious Law[edit]

Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia

A court's duties regarding judgments are outlined in The Law of the Judiciary.[124] Judgments must be pronounced in a public hearing[125] and must "include the grounds on which they were based and the legal authority thereof."[126] A judgment may be rendered unanimously or by a majority vote. If the judgment contains a dissent, the majority decision in the judgment must address the dissenting opinion, and the dissenting judge must explain why they are dissenting.[127]

Once a judgment has been issued, the judge or judges determine whether the parties involved agree with the ruling. If one party disagrees with the judgment, they have a set number of days to request a written appeal. An appellate body will then review the judgment in the absence of the parties.[128] If the appellate body agrees with the lower court's decision, they will stamp "final and enforceable" on the judgment without providing any reasons and will return the judgment to the trial court.[129] If the appellate body disagrees with the lower court's decision, they may either send the case back to the trial court for reconsideration or, less commonly, may call the parties to present further arguments and write their own judgment based on the information presented.[130]

References[edit]

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  64. ^ R. v. R.E.M., 2008 S.C.C. 51 at para. 16, [2008] 3 S.C.R. 3.
  65. ^ R. v. R.E.M., 2008 S.C.C. 51 at para. 17, [2008] 3 S.C.R. 3.
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  87. ^ Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c).
  88. ^ Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a)(2).
  89. ^ Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
  90. ^ Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
  91. ^ Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
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  93. ^ California Code of Civil Procedure, C.C.P. § 437.c-438.
  94. ^ California Code of Civil Procedure, C.C.P. § 1297.253.
  95. ^ California Code of Civil Procedure, C.C.P. § 1297.91-1297.95.
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  103. ^ Code de procédure civile [N.C.P.C.] (Fr.), art. 500, translated at http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/Traductions/en-English/Legifrance-translations (Select "Code of civil procedure-pdf" for English translation).
  104. ^ Code de procédure civile [N.C.P.C.] (Fr.), art. 501, translated at http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/Traductions/en-English/Legifrance-translations (Select "Code of civil procedure-pdf" for English translation).
  105. ^ Code de procédure civile [N.C.P.C.] (Fr.), art. 503, translated at http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/Traductions/en-English/Legifrance-translations (Select "Code of civil procedure-pdf" for English translation).
  106. ^ Code de procédure civile [N.C.P.C.] (Fr.), art. 468-69; 471, translated at http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/Traductions/en-English/Legifrance-translations (Select "Code of civil procedure-pdf" for English translation).
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  108. ^ Code de procédure civile [N.C.P.C.] (Fr.), art. 483, translated at http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/Traductions/en-English/Legifrance-translations (Select "Code of civil procedure-pdf" for English translation).
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  112. ^ Zivilprozeẞordnung [ZPO] [Code of Civil Procedure], § 313 (Ger.), translated at http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_zpo/englisch_zpo.html.
  113. ^ Zivilprozeẞordnung [ZPO] [Code of Civil Procedure], § 540 (Ger.), translated at http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_zpo/englisch_zpo.html.
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