Judgment In Law


An intermediate or final determination or adjudication of the rights of the parties to an action or proceeding by a court of justice. Judgments are usually termed contracts of record, although the designation is inaccurate. Where it determines some of the rights of the parties, but is intermediate or incomplete because all the questions raised by the issues are not settled or the extent of the relief fixed or defined, it is called interlocutory, as there is something reserved for future determination. For example, if A sues B and the court determines as a matter of law that A is entitled to recover, but the accounts are so complicated that the court directs a reference and an accounting to determine the exact amount due, an interlocutory judgment directing recovery and accounting will be entered, and after the amount due has been reported by the referee, a final judgment for such sum will be entered. Several codes of procedure have abolished the use of the term 'interlocutory judgment,' and designate as an order every direction or determination of the court which is not a final disposition of the action. Under the common-law practice, however, there is a distinction in that an order does not settle any principal question in controversy, but merely some point of practice or some question collateral to the main issue.

A judgment is final when it disposes of or concludes an action so that it is at an end, even though it does not settle all of the rights of the parties. It is usually rendered at the end of the trial of an action, but may be entered upon a default in pleading or as a result of the non-appearance of or abandonment of the action by either party, or on a confession of judgment.

In its more technical sense, the term judgment applies only to the adjudication of a court of law, the term decree being employed to describe the determination of a court of equity. Under most codes of procedure where the former material variances in practice in law and equity have been abolished, the term judgment is now generally used to designate the final determinations of the courts in all cases, both in law and equity; but both courts and attorneys constantly use the term decree as a matter of description in the older and more accurate sense.

Judgments are distinguished from findings of fact or law, in that the latter are only formal expressions of the conclusions of a judge or referee and do not award relief. Judgments are usually entered or docketed in the office of the clerk of the court in which they are rendered. This consists of an entry of a brief description of the judgment, containing the names of the parties, designating the successful party, the date of recovery, the date docketed, and the amount awarded therein. The book in which this entry is made is called the docket of judgments, and is a public record, accessible for examination by any person who cares to examine it. If an execution is issued, the return of the sheriff, whether it be 'satisfied,' meaning collected, or settled, or 'nulla bona' (no goods) or 'unsatisfied,' is entered opposite the description above referred to.

By statute in most jurisdictions a judgment, after being docketed, becomes a lien on the real property of the judgment, debtor. It is subject to all valid prior liens existing at the time it was docketed, but takes precedence over all subsequent liens of any character except those for obligations to the municipal, State, or Federal governments, such as taxes and assessments. The public docket gives legal notice of the lien to all persons, just as the record of a mortgage operates, and any intending purchaser who omits to search for judgments against the owner of the property in question does so at his peril, even though he has not actually learned of the judgment, as he is deemed to have constructive notice of all matters of public record. This lien is usually restricted to the jurisdiction of the particular court in which it is rendered, unless a transcript or brief description of the judgment is obtained from the clerk and filed in another jurisdiction in the same State, usually another county, in which case its force is extended to that county. The duration of this lien is usually fixed by statute, otherwise it continues as long as the judgment is in force, unless waived by the judgment creditor.In most States by statute there is a legal presumption that a judgment is satisfied after the expiration of twenty years, but usually it is provided that this may be rebutted by prof to the contrary.

Where a judgment is void or voidable because of lack of jurisdiction of the court, or because of fraud or some irregularity, it may be opened and set aside on motion of the judgment debtor. Where it is obtained by reason of a default in pleading or appearance, or by mistake of either party, the court may in its discretion vacate it,. direct the proper pleadings to be served or filed, and permit the cause to proceed to trial on the merits. This is usually granted on terms, such as payment of costs.

A judgment may be assigned by an instrument in writing, and the assignee will take all the rights and remedies of the judgment creditor. It will also descend as a part of the assets of a deceased owner. Upon payment of the amount of the judgment and accrued interest, the judgment debtor is entitled to a satisfaction piece. Consult: Black, The Law of Judgments (2d ed., Saint Paul, 1903); Freeman, The Law of Judgments (4th ed., San Francisco, 1892).


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Judgment In Law
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my Collection of Books: The New International Encyclopedia; 1902-1905 Dodd, Mead and Company-New York Total of 21 Volumes
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