Judgment Defined and Explained
The declaration, by a court, of the rights and duties of the parties to a lawsuit which has been submitted to it for decision.12 min read
A court's official decision on the matters before it. The declaration, by a court, of the rights and duties of the parties to a lawsuit which has been submitted to it for decision. Can also include an "injunction" a specific order to do or not to do something.
A final decision made by a judge on a material issue during a case is termed a judgment. A judgment can provide all or a portion of the relief sought in a case, including property division, alimony, child support, custody or an injunction.
In most states, the court order granting a divorce and ruling on the issues associated with the divorce (alimony, child support, custody, visitation and division of property) is called a decree. Decrees can be temporary, interlocutory (semi-permanent) or permanent. For all practical purposes, a decree is the same thing as a judgment.
(2) The decision or sentence of the law given by a court of justice or other competent tribunal as the result of proceedings instituted therein for the redress of an injury.
Language of Judgments
The language of judgments therefore is not that 'it is decreed,' or 'resolved,' by the court; but 'it is considered,' that the plaintiff recover his debt, damages or possession as the case may require or that the defendant do go without day. This implies that the judgment is not so much the decision of the court as the sentence of the law pronounced and decreed by the court, after due deliberation and inquiry.
What Makes a Judgment Valid?
To be valid, a judicial judgment must be given by a competent judge or court at a time and place appointed by law and in the form it requires. A judgment would be null if the judge had not jurisdiction of the matter; or having such jurisdiction, he exercised it when there was no court held or but of his district; or if be rendered a judgment before the cause was prepared for a hearing.
The judgment must confine itself to the question raised before the court and cannot extend beyond it. For example, where the plaintiff sued for an injury committed on his lands by animals owned and kept carelessly by defendant, the judgment may be for damages, but it cannot command the defendant for the future to keep his cattle out of the plaintiff's land. That would be to usurp the power of the legislature. A judgment declares the rights which belong to the citizen, the law alone rules future actions. The law commands all men, it is the same for all because it is general; judgments are particular decisions, which apply only to particular persons and bind no others; they vary like the circumstances on which they are founded.
Litigious contests present to the courts facts to appreciate, agreements to be construed, and points of law to be resolved. The judgment is the result of the full examination of all these.
Four Kinds of Judgments
There are four kinds of judgments in civil cases, namely: 1. When the facts are admitted by the parties, but the law is disputed; as in case of judgment upon demurrer; 2. When the law is admitted, but the facts are disputed; as in, case of judgment upon a verdict; 3. When both the law and the facts are admitted by confession; as in the case of cognovit actionem, on the part of the defendant; or nolle prosequi, on the part of the plaintiff; 4. By default of either party in the course of legal proceedings, as in the case of judgment by nihil disit or non sum informatus, when the defendant has omitted to plead or instruct his attorney to do so after a proper notice or in cases of judgment by non pros; or as in case of nonsuit, when the plaintiff omits to follow up his proceedings.
These four species of judgments, again, are either interlocutory or final.
Various Types of Judgments
A list of various types of judgments follows:
JUDGMENT IN ASSUMPSIT is either in favor of the plaintiff or defendant; when in favor of the plaintiff, it is that he recover a specified sum, assessed by a jury or on reference to the prothonotary or other proper officer, for the damages which he has sustained, by reason of the defendant's non-performance of his promises and undertakings and for full costs of suit. When the judgment is for the defendant, it is that he recover his costs.
JUDGMENT IN ACTIONS ON THE CASE FOR TORTS, when for the plaintiff, is that he recover a sum of money ascertained by a jury for his damages occasioned by the committing of the grievances complained of and the costs of suit. When for the defendant, it is for costs.
Judgment OF CASSETUR BREVE or BILLA, is in cases of pleas in abatement where the plaintiff prays that his 'writ' or ' bill' 'may be quashed, that he may sue or exhibit a better one.'
JUDGMENT BY CONFESSION. When instead of entering a plea, the defendant chooses to confess the action; or, after pleading; he does, at any time before trial, both confess the action and withdraw his plea or other allegations; the judgment against him, in these two cases, is called a judgment by confession or by confession relicta verificatione.
CONTRADICTORY JUDGMENT. By this term is understood, in the state of Louisiana, a judgment which has been given after the parties have been heard, either in support of their claims or in their defence. A judgment is called contradictory to distinguish it from one which is rendered by default.
JUDGMENT IN COVENANT; when for the plaintiff, is that he recover an ascertained sum for his damages, which he has sustained by reason of the breach or breaches of the defendant's covenant, together with costs of suit. When for the defendant, the judgment, is for costs.
JUDGMENT IN THE ACTION OF DEBT; when for the plaintiff, is that he recover his debt and in general, nominal damages for the detention thereof. In some penal and other particular actions the plaintiff does not, however, always recover costs. When the judgment is for the defendant, it is generally for costs. In some penal actions, however, neither party can recover costs.
JUDGMENT BY DEFAULT, is a judgment rendered in consequence of tho non-appearance of the defendant and is either by nil dicit or by non sum informatus. This judgment is interlocutory in assumpsit, covenant, trespass, case and replevin, where the sole object of the action is damages; but in debt, damages not being the principal object of the action, the plaintiff usually signs final judgment in the first instance.
JUDGMENT IN THE ACTION OF DETINUE; when for the plaintiff, is in the alternative, that he recover the goods or the value thereof, if he cannot have the goods themselves and his damage for the detention and costs.
JUDGMENT IN ERROR, is a judgment rendered by a court ot error, on a record sent up, from an inferior court. These judgments are of two kinds, of affirmance and reversal. When the judgment is for the defendant in error, whether the errors assigned be in law or in fact, it is 'that the former judgment be affirmed and stand in full force and effect, the said causes and matters assigned for error notwithstanding and that the defendant in error recover $____ for his damages, charges and costs which he hath sustained,' etc. When it is for the plaintiff in error, the judgment is that it be reversed or recalled. It is to be reversed for error in law, in this form, that it be reversed, annulled and altogether holden for nought.' For error in fact the judgment is recalled, revocatur.
A FINAL JUDGMENT is one which puts an end to the suit. When the issue is one in fact and is tried by a jury, the jury at the time that they try the issue, assess the damages and the judgment is final in the first instance and is that the plaintiff do recover the damages assessed.
When an interlocutory judgment has been rendered and a writ of inquiry has issued to ascertain the damages, on the return of the inquisition the plaintiff is entitled to a final judgment, namely, that he recover the amount of damages so assessed.
AN INTERLOCUTORY JUDGMENT is one given in the course of a cause, before final judgment. When the action sounds in damages and the issue is an issue in law or when any issue in fact not tried by a jury is decided in favor of the plaintiff, then the judgment is that the plaintiff ought to recover his damages without specifying their amount; for, as there has been no trial by jury in the case, the amount of damages is not yet ascertained. The judgment is then said to be interlocutory. To ascertain such damages it is the practice to issue a writ of inquiry. When the action is founded on a promissory note, bond or other writing or any other contract by which the amount due may be readily computed, the practice is, in some courts, to refer it to the prothonotary or clerk to assess the damages. There is one species of interlocutory judgment which establishes nothing but the inadequacy of the defence set up this is the judgment for the plaintiff on demurrer to a plea in abatement, by which it appears that the defendant has mistaken the law on a point which does not affect the merits of his case; and it being but reasonable that he should offer, if he can, a further defence, that judgment is that he do answer over, in technical language, judgment of respondeat ouster.
JUDGMENT OF NIL CAPIAT PER BREVE or PER BILLAM. When an issue arises upon a declaration or peremptory plea and it is decided in favor of the defendant, the judgment is, in general, that, the plaintiff take nothing by his writ, (or bill,) and that the defendant go thereof without day, etc. This is called a judgment of nil capiat per breve or per billam.
JUDGMENT BY NIL DICIT, is one rendered against a defendant for want of a plea. The plaintiff obtains a rule on the defendant to plead within a time specified, of which he serves a notice on the defendant or his attorney; if the defendant neglect to enter a plea within the time specified, the plaintiff may sign judgment against him.
JUDGMENT OF NOLLE PROSEQUI, is a judgment entered against the plaintiff, where, after appearance and before judgment, he says, 'he will not further prosecute his suit.'
JUDGMENT OF NON OBSTANTE VEREDICTO, is a judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff, without regard to the verdict obtained by the defendant. The motion for such judgment is made where after a pleading by the defendant in confession and avoidance, as for example, a plea in bar and issue joined thereon and verdict found for, the defendant, the plaintiff on retrospective examination of the record, conceives that such plea was bad in substance and might have been made the subject of demurrer on that ground. If the plea was itself substantially bad in law, of course the verdict, which merely shows it to be true in point of fact, cannot avail to entitle the defendant to judgment; while on the other hand the plea being in confession and avoidance, involves a confession of the plaintiff's declaration and shows that he was entitled. to maintain his action. In such case, therefore, this court will give judgment for the plaintiff, without regard to the verdict; and this, for the reasons above explained, is called a judgment upon confession. Sometimes it may be expedient for the plaintiff to move for judgment non obstante, etc., even though the verdict be in his own favor; for, if in such case as above described, he takes judgment as upon the verdict, it seems that such judgment would be erroneous and that the only safe course is to take it as upon confession.
JUDGMENT BY NON SUM INFORMATUS, is one which is rendered, when instead of entering a plea, the defendant's attorney says he is not informed of any answer to be given to the action. .
JUDGMENT OF NON PROS. (from non prosequitur,) is one given against the plaintiff, in any class of actions, for not declaring or replying or surrejoining, etc. or for not entering the issue.
JUDGMENT OF NONSUIT, Practice, is one against the plaintiff, which happens when, on trial by jury, the plaintiff, on being called or demanded, at the instance of the defendant, to be present while the jury give their verdict, fails to make his appearance. In this case, no verdict is given, but the judgment of nonsuit passes against the plaintiff. So if, after issue be joined, the plaintiff neglect to bring such issue on to be tried in due time, as limited by the practice of the court, in the particular case, judgment will be also given against him for this default; and it is called judgment as in case of nonsuit. After suffering a nonsuit, the plaintiff may commence another action for the same cause for which the first had been instituted. In some cases, plaintiffs having obtained information in what manner the jury had agreed upon their verdict before it was delivered in court, have, when the jury were ready to give in such verdict against them, suffered a nonsuit for the purpose of commencing another action and obtaining another trial. To prevent this abuse, the legislature of Pennsylvania have provided, by the Act of March 28, 1814, 6:Reed's L. 208, that 'whenever on the trial of any cause, the jury shall be ready to give in their verdict, the plaintiff shall not be called, nor shall he then be permitted to suffer a nonsuit.'
JUDGMENT QUOD COMPUTET. The name of an interlocutory judgment in an action of account render that the defendant do account, quod computet.
JUDGMENT QUOD RECUPERET. When an issue in law, other than one arising on a dilatory plea or an issue in fact, is decided in favor of the plaintiff, the judgment is, that the plaintiff do recover, which is called a judgment guod recuperet. This judgment is of two kinds, namely, interlocutory or final.
JUDGMENT IN REPLEVIN, is either for the plaintiff or defendant.
For The Plaintiff. 1. When the declaration is in the detinuit, that is, where the plaintiff declares, that the chattels 'were detained until replevied by the sheriff,' the judgment is that he recover the damages assessed by the jury for the taking and unjust detention or for the latter only, where the former was justifiable, as also his costs. If the replevin is in the detinet, that is, where the plaintiff declares that the chattels taken are 'yet detained,' the jury must find, 'in addition to the above, the value of the chattels, (assuming that they are still detained,) not in a gross sum, but each separate article; for tho defendant, perhaps, will restore some, in which case the plaintiff is to recover the value of the remainder.
For The Defendant. 1. If the replevin be abated, the judgment is, that the writ or plaint abate and that the defendant (having avowed) have a return of the chattels. When the plaintiff is nonsuited, the judgment for the defendant, at common law, is, that the chattels be restored to him and this without his first assigning the purpose for which they were taken, because, by abandoning his suit, the plaintiff admits that he had no right to dispossess the defendant by prosecuting the replevin. The form of this judgment. is simply 'to have a return,' without adding the words 'to hold irreplevisable.' When tho avowant succeeds upon the merits of his case, the common law judgment is, that he 'have return irreplevisable,' for it is apparent that he is by law entitled to keep possession of the goods.
JUDGMENT OF RESPONDEAT OUSTER. When there is an issue in law, arising on a dilatory plea and it is decided in favor of the plaintiff, the judgment is only that the defendant answer over, which is called a judgment of respondeat ouster. The pleading is accordingly resumed and the action proceeds.
JUDGMENT OF RETRAXIT, is one where, after appearance and before judgment, the, plaintiff enters upon the record that he 'withdraws his suit;' in such case judgment is given against him.
JUDGMENT IN AN ACTION ON TRESPASS, when for the plaintiff, is that he recover the damages assessed by the jury and the costs. For the defendant, that he recover the costs.
JUDGMENT IN ACTION ON THE CASE FOR TROVER, when for the plaintiff, is, that he recover damages and costs. For the defendant, the judgment is, that he recover his costs.
JUDGMENT OF CAPIATUR. At common law, on conviction, in a civil action, of a forcible wrong, alleged to have been committed vi et armis, etc., the defendant was obliged to pay a fine to the king, for the breach of the peace implied in the act and a judgment of capiatur pro fine was rendered against him, under which he was liable to be arrested and imprisoned till the fine was paid. But the judgment of capiatur pro fine was abolished.
JUDGMENT OF MISERICORDIA. At common law, the party to, a suit who did not prevail was punished for his unjust vexation and therefore judgment was given against him, quod sit in misericordia pro falso clamore. Hence, when the plaintiff sued out a writ, the sheriff was obliged to take pledges of prosecution before he returned it, which when fines and amercements were considerable, were real and responsible persons and answerable for those amercements; but now they are never levied and the pledges are merely formal, namely, John Doe and Richard Roe.
JUDGMENT QUOD PARTITIO FIAT is a judgment in a writ of partition, that partition be made; this is not a final judgment. The final judgment is, quod partitio facta firma et stabilis in perpetuum teneatur.
JUDGMENT QUOD PARTES REPLACITENT. The name of a judgment given when the court award a repleader. When issue is joined on an immaterial point or a point on which the court cannot give a judgment determining the right, they award a repleader or judgment quod partes replacitent.