A judgment is the official decision made by the court at the end of a lawsuit, criminal trial, or other legal proceeding. In certain cases, a party to the proceeding may make a “motion for judgment, requesting that the court make a decision. After issuing a judgment, the judge may impose a sentence on a guilty defendant, award damages to the prevailing party in a civil lawsuit, or issue a broad range of orders. To explore this concept, consider the following motion for judgment definition.
Definition of Judgment
- A judicial decision given by a court of law.
- The act of judging, forming an opinion, or making a decision.
Late 13th century Old French jugement
Motion for Judgment
In most jurisdictions, entry of judgment is the final action taken by the court in a legal proceeding, and in most cases, only the final judgment is subject to appeal. While there are several types of judgment that may be entered by a court, certain judgments are issued as a result of a Motion for Judgment filed by either party.
- Consent Decree – a final, and legally binding, judgment entered in a case in which the parties have agreed to a specific outcome.
- Declaratory Judgment – a judgment of the court in a civil matter that spells out the rights, duties, and obligations of each party to the lawsuit.
- Default Judgment – a legally binding judgment made in favor of the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit when the defendant has not responded to the Summons, or has not shown up for trial.
- Summary Judgment – a judgment made by the court without a full trial.
- Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict – a judgment entered in favor of a party despite a verdict returned by a jury in favor of the opposing party. This overrules the jury’s verdict.
- Vacated Judgment – a judgment made by an appellate court that overturns, sets aside, or reverses the judgment of a lower court.
Documenting a Judgment
Because a judgment is the court’s official and final declaration of its decision in the legal action, it must be provided in writing, clearly stating its decision on all of the issues in the case.
A judgment must specifically state which party has won the case, and what remedies are awarded or ordered. Such remedies vary between criminal and civil matters, but may include the award of monetary damages, the award of control over certain real or personal property, the issuance of injunctive relief, or sentencing of a criminal defendant. A judgment must contain very explicit descriptions of awards and other remedies, with monetary judgments expressed in words rather than figures, and real property judgments containing the explicit, legal description of the land to ensure it is correctly identified.
The written judgment is dated and signed by the judge, then filed with the court clerk’s office. Modern courts record all judgments in a computer database that indexes the information for easy identification by others seeking the information. Judgments are a matter of public record.
Amending a Judgment
A judgment may be amended by the court to correct an inaccuracy or ambiguous wording, correcting such errors as mistaken inclusions, omissions, and vague or flawed descriptions. A party who was not part of the original action cannot be added to the lawsuit or judgment through an amendment. Both federal and state courts allow for amendment of judgments when a motion requesting a change is filed by either party within a specific time limit.
Once all of the evidence has been presented at trial, and all witnesses heard, a party (usually the defendant) may make a motion for summary judgment asking that the court make an immediate judgment in his favor. The jury trial equivalent to a summary judgment is the “directed verdict,” in which the judge is asked to make a judgment without giving the matter to the jury. This is considered a judgment as a matter of law, in which the moving party states that there are no material facts or convincing evidence on which to base any other decision. Summary judgment or directed verdict may be made as to the entire case, or only certain issues or charges.
Release of Judgment
In some jurisdictions, a party against whom a monetary judgment has been entered may request a “Satisfaction and Release of Judgment” once the judgment has been paid in full. If issued, the original action is effectively dismissed, the judgment vacated, any lien imposed removed, and the damaging record removed from the party’s public record and credit history.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
- Monetary Judgment – A court order awarding a specified amount of money to a person for damages suffered due to the acts of another.
- Omission – The act of excluding or leaving something out; a failure to do something, especially something for which there is a moral or legal obligation to do.
- Prevailing Party – A party to a legal action who is successful in bringing or defending the action. The prevailing party is the party receiving a favorable judgment or verdict.
- Public Record – Any information kept by a governmental entity that is accessible to be viewed by the public. Such information may be anything from a recorded deed to a civil or criminal judgment.
- Remedy – The enforcement of a right, or imposition of a penalty by a court of law.
- Summons – An order or citation to appear in court, or to appear before a judge or magistrate.