Types Of Judgment in Law: The ordinary meaning of judgment is the conclusion, opinion or result arrived at based on a given evaluation and reasoning. The ordinary meaning of judgment is not far from its meaning in law. Judgment in law is an order of a court of competent jurisdiction made in respect of a matter which it has adjudicated upon, which determines the rights and liabilities of the parties in respect of which the order was made.
A court judgment to be valid must have ration decidendi (which is the reasoning upon which the decision was based). In the course of judgment, judges are at liberty to make statements in passing. This is known as obiter dictum, and an orbiter dictum does not form part of the ratio decidendi. Thus, an appeal cannot lie on the basis of an obiter dictum.
Every court judgment must be possessed with the element of finality. Finality in the sense that the decision actually disposes of the matter submitted before it. In the same vein, a valid judgment must not be made subject to a condition; it must be final. Upon rendering a judgment, the court becomes functus officio in respect of that particular suit.
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This renders the suit res judicata; it cannot be tried again by the court which rendered the judgment save by appellate court’s order of trial de novo (an order to begin a trial afresh). The finality of a judgment does not preclude the court from reviewing its decision. However, this is strictly applicable only where the court is satisfied that:
i. Material facts were misrepresented of which such misrepresentation formed the basis upon which the court arrived at its decision.
ii. There was manifest injustice
iii. The judgment needs some clarifications by the court
iv. An order of an appellate court to conduct the trial de novo.
iv. Where the judgment was obtained by fraud.
v. Where the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
While rendering judgment, the court can reserve its reasons for the decision. This means that the court can render judgment without giving the reasons for the decision instantly. However, the reason for the decision must be rendered later in time.
In rendering judgment, generally, the court is bound only within the claims made by the parties. However, the court still reserves the power and discretion to suo moto, go outside the parties’ claim in pursuit of justice, although this discretion must be cautiously exercised. The power of the court to render judgment is an inherent one. Judgment is the finality of the trial proceeding.
Parties are at liberty to file and amend their pleadings at any point during the continuance of their case, but this right becomes extinct the moment the court begins to render judgment. The judgment of a court cannot be challenged or questioned before the court that rendered that judgment (except in the cases already mentioned afore in this article).
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The judgment of a court is rather challenged by way of appeal to the court above it functioning as an appellate court to the court below. And most importantly, for the judgment of a court to be valid, the court must have the jurisdiction to entertain the suit. What determines the jurisdiction of the court includes the nature of the subject matter of the suit, proper constitution of the court, locus standi of the parties, compliance with procedural laws and the principles of fair hearing.
Judgment may be directed to persons (judgment in personam), or to subject matters and interests (judgment in rem), or to persons, interests and subject matters (quasi in rem).
Any person whom the judgment of a court in respect of a particular suit is likely to affect can upon application be joined as a party in the suit, as long as his interest and locus standi is established pursuant to the application.
The judgment of a court is sacrosanct and coercive. This is so even when the judgment was made per incuriam (in error). Thus, the disobedience of court order amounts to contempt of court; an offence which is punishable by imprisonment and or fine.
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6 Main Types Of Judgment in Law
Having presented an overview of the concept of court judgment, there are different types of judgment.
1. Interlocutory Judgment: An interlocutory judgment is not a final judgment, however, it finally dispose of a matter or matters that springs up during the pendency of the substantive suit.
Interlocutory judgment does not determine the rights and liabilities of the parties. Instances of an interlocutory judgment includes; the decision of the court pertaining to the challenge of its jurisdiction (particularly where the court holds that has jurisdiction), an order of the court for suits having the same parties and substance to be consolidated, an order for retrial, order of interlocutory injunction, interim injunction, an order for striking out, and so on.
2. Final Judgment: This is the judgment that disposes the substantive suit and determines the rights and liabilities of the parties. Here, the court renders judgment in favour of the party who has proved his case as required by the law or the party who has established expressly or by necessary implications that the other party has no substantive case. When both parties have claims and none of the parties were able to establish their case, the court may order non-suit, and such order is a final judgment in that regard.
Where final judgment has been rendered, an aggrieved party who wishes to go on appeal must do so within the time prescribed by law. And upon filing an appeal, the court judgment is stayed from operation. Where the court renders judgment in answer to the question of its jurisdiction to entertain a matter, the decision that the court lacks jurisdiction is final. However, where the court holds that it has jurisdiction to entertain the matter, it is an interlocutory judgment.
3. Default Judgment: Default judgment is a judgment rendered by the court where any party to the suit fails to comply with a summon to enter appearance and defend himself. Simply put, a default judgment is a court judgment obtained in default of a party’s appearance in the given suit. Where a default judgment is not set aside, the judgment is final.
A default judgment is not a judgment on merit. It can be set aside on the following grounds:
i. Where the court lacks jurisdiction
ii. Where the party in default of appearance was not served.
iv. Where the party not long after the judgment enters appearance and presents cogent reasons for his default of appearance or reasons while the judgment should not be set aside.
v. Where the grant of the application to set aside will not prejudice the other party.
4. Consent Judgment: This is a judgment rendered by the court based on the terms of settlement entered into by the parties. Here, the parties voluntarily reaches an agreement either before the court or out of the court, and then present it before the court for adoption as final judgment.
A consent judgment even though arrived at by the parties, wears the same garb as court judgment when adopted. It can only be set aside on appeal. Where however, fraud is evidenced in the terms of settlement, the court before whom it was adopted can set it aside based on that.
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5. Declaratory Judgment: Judgment may consist of mere declaration not accompanied by an order of performance, compliance, cost or damages. Declaratory judgment is a judgment that seeks to state the position of the rights of the parties only, without more or less.
For instance, Emefiele, the CBN Governor asking the court to declare that he is qualified to contest for presidential election while in his capacity as the CBN Governor, a declaration that the land in dispute belongs to the plaintiff. If judgment is given to the afore illustrated effects, nothing more needs to be done aside the declaration. There is nothing to be enforced. The favoured party is to go and enjoy the proceeds of the declaration.
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6. Non-suit: This is a court judgment made after the court has determined that neither of the parties to a suit has established their case by evidence for judgment to be given in their favour.
Here, the court dismisses the suit and declares it non-suit. Such declaration is a final judgment, although the parties can recommence the suit without being barred by the rule of estoppel per rem judicata.
Other Forms Of Judgment
a. Reserved Judgment: here, the court postpones rendering of the judgment to a later date after the trial as opposed to delivering the judgment immediately.
b. Summary Judgment: this is the determination by a court that factual issues are not in dispute, and that the legal issues require the case to be decided in favour of one party or the other.
In a summary trial, the court does not conduct trial strictly but merely accelerates processes by considering the pleadings before it and other necessary circumstances. Such is seen in Magistrate Court; for a magistrate court is a court of summary jurisdiction.
C. Vacate Judgment: this is a judgment whereby an appellate court dismisses an appeal and orders trial de novo. The court orders such where there are fundamental errors of law made by the court below affecting the substance of the case.
Executor Judgment: a judgment is executor where it orders for the performance of an act which is yet to be performed.
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The purpose of trial proceedings is for justice to be attained. Judgment therefore is the instrument through which justice is brought into effect and enforced, and without judgment there would be no enforcement. Court judgment is highly sacrosanct and coercive. It is comprised of different types of which most have been highlighted in this article.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.