Instant Court Case Lookup

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Legal Judgments

What Is a Legal Judgment?

A legal judgment is a court's official decision on the matters that parties of a civil case present before it. This court decision outlines people's rights and duties. It is usually the final stage of a court hearing, just before sentencing in the case of criminal proceedings or rulings in money judgments.

After the court has heard the evidence presented before it, the judge or magistrate is then required to make an appropriate ruling. This depends on the statutes of that particular state. After the judge delivers the verdict, he then sentences the defendant.

The judge delivers the decision immediately after the hearing ends. However, the judge can also reserve judgment. This means that they can take some time (days, weeks, or even months) to consider all aspects of the case before they make a declaration. Reserved judgments are written or given orally, although the latter is usually the case.

What Are the Different Types of Legal Judgments?

According to state law, there are six main types of rulings in the legal system. These legal actions include:

  • Confession of Judgment - This is when the debtor acknowledges the debt they owe, often in conjunction with a payment plan. The debtor offers the confession of judgment as "security".
  • Default Judgment - A default judgment occurs when a defendant fails to respond to a complaint. If the debtor fails to respond, the court will enter a default judgment for the same amount claimed, including any interest in the underlying agreement.
  • Summary Judgment - is accompanied by an affidavit from the creditor or plaintiff laying out the necessary evidence. This evidence will vary depending on the type of relief sought.
  • Declaratory Judgment - This outlines the rights and roles of each party in a contract. It has the same effect and force as a final judgment. These are also known as a declaration or declaratory relief. These rulings help to resolve disputes and prevent lawsuits.
  • Consent Judgment - This is a companion to the confession of judgment. Most often, it is a means of controlling litigation costs. This is when a defendant admits to their debts but cannot pay them at a specific point in time. The court awards a judgment lien, giving a creditor the right to possess the debtors' personal property, real property, or real estate.
  • Garnishment Judgment - In this type of ruling, the court directs that law enforcement seizes the money or property of a third party to satisfy a debt owed by a debtor to a plaintiff creditor.
  • Child Support Judgment - In a civil procedure, the judge makes this ruling when a parent owes unpaid child support. After this, several collection methods become available.
  • Judgment on the Pleadings - Defendants write a certified copy of a letter in response to being served or file an answer they fail to deny their debt. In both cases, the creditor elects to file a motion requesting Judgment on the pleadings. A judge then reads the complaint, reads the answer, considers any arguments, and enters into a ruling based on allegations and responses.
  • Writ of Execution - Typically, a court will issue a writ of execution to order law enforcement to take possession of a judgment debtor's property.

How Do Legal Judgments Work?

A legal judgment turns old, uncollectable credit into a collectible amount of money. For example, a statute of limitations may prevent lenders from collecting funds owed to them.

The lender may institute a lawsuit against the borrower, hoping that they'll ignore it - thus allowing them to receive a default judgment against the borrower through a court order.

A judgment creditor can apply for a court decision when a summons is issued, and the defendant cannot defend the summons or pay the amount claimed.

A judgment remains on an individual's credit report for up to 5 years or until the debtor pays in full. Another way to clear a credit report from a legal ruling is if the judge grants a rescission.

A judgment typically consists of the debt owed plus interest on that debt. The interest accumulates from the time of the decision until the debtor pays. Other charges to consider are supreme court or state court fees, attorney fees, and collection costs.

Once the defendant pays the debt in full, the court files a satisfaction of judgment document.

How Can a Legal Judgment Be Avoided?

If anyone is facing the possibility of a legal ruling, there are a few things to consider:

  • Seeking an attorney with experience in defending debt collection cases is essential. They have extensive knowledge of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
  • If one's credit card debt is exceptionally high, it will help to consult with a bankruptcy attorney.
  • It is crucial to get legal advice from the relevant state bar association, professional network, and trusted attorneys.
  • They can hand over copies of debt records and relevant information to their attorneys.
  • They can negotiate any lawsuits and settlements against them or plea an exemption.

Where Are Legal Judgment Records Found?

Legal judgment records can be found:

  • Online - Most courts store their documents electronically, available to anyone with appropriate access. Not all online court websites will contain the information sought after. What's more, not all records are public. However, one can access these records through the Public Access to Court Records service (PACER).
  • From the courthouse - If the legal judgment records are not available online, one can always physically visit the district court or other judicial branch where the case was filed and heard. The clerk of the court has access to these documents and can help anyone looking for them to access them.