Judgment, in law, the reasons were given by a court or tribunal for the order that it proposes to make. A typical example is at the end of a civil claim for damages, where the judge will review the evidence, make findings of fact, and announce the final award of damages. The award itself is not the judgment. Judgments may be given orally or in writing. An extempore judgment is one that is given without preparation; a reserved judgment is one in which the judge adjourns the case to prepare and deliver a more formal judgment at a later date.

The term is also used to mean the judicial determination of the rights and obligations of the parties to a civil action. Judgments are generally classified as final judgments and interlocutory judgments. In a final judgment, a court or referee makes a complete and definitive disposal of all issues in the action; final judgments made in cases in which the defendant (the person against whom the action is brought) offers no defence to the complaint made by the plaintiff (the person who brought the action to court) are called default judgments. In an interlocutory judgment, the court determines some of the rights of the parties, but reserves for future determination the unsettled issues in the action and the extent of the relief to be given the plaintiff. The party to whom relief is given in the form of a judgment for money damages is called a judgment creditor and the adverse party is called a judgment debtor.

As well as money judgments, the court may issue an injunction. A failure to comply with the injunction is a contempt of court, and the person in contempt may be brought back before the court to be penalized. Enforcement of a judgment debt takes a number of forms. An early step is to question the judgment debtor in court as to his or her resources. Subsequently, enforcement may be the attachment of property or earnings, by garnishee proceedings—diverting a debt owed by another party to the judgment debtor (most commonly a bank balance)—or by putting a charge on land owned by the judgment debtor.

Reviewed By:
Simon Levene

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