Declaratory Judgment

A judge's statement concerning someone's rights. For example, a plaintiff has the option to seek a declaratory judgment that a certain statute, as written, violates a possible constitutional right.

Additional Sources

Answers.com

Judgment from a district court to establish the right of the parties or express the opinion of the court as to the question of law without ordering anything to be done.

Encyclopedia Britannica

In law, a judicial judgment intended to fix or elucidate litigants’ rights that were previously uncertain or doubtful. A declaratory judgment is binding but is distinguished from other judgments or court opinions in that it lacks an executory process. It simply declares or defines rights to be observed or wrongs to be eschewed by a plaintiff, a defendant, or both, or expresses the court’s determination of a contested question of law, without ordering that anything be done. Although a declaratory judgment must deal with a real as opposed to a hypothetical dispute, it is not necessary for an actual wrong, giving rise either to criminal liability or to a claim for civil damages, to have been done or even threatened or contemplated. The Declaratory Judgment Act established its use in U.S. law in 1934.

FindLaw

A judgment declaring a right or establishing the legal status or interpretation of a law or instrument.

Law.com Dictionary

If a defendant in a lawsuit fails to respond to a complaint in the time set by law (commonly 20 or 30 days), then the plaintiff (suer) can request that the default (failure) be entered into the court record by the clerk, which gives the plaintiff the right to get a default judgment. If the complaint was for a specific amount of money owed on a note, other money due, or a specific contract price (or if the amount due is easy to calculate) then the clerk of the court can enter a default judgment. If proof of damages or other relief is necessary, a hearing will be held in which the judge determines terms of the default judgment. In either case the defendant cannot speak for himself/herself. A defendant who fails to file an answer or other legal response when it is due can request that the default be set aside, but must show a legitimate excuse and a good defense to the lawsuit.

The Free (Legal) Dictionary

Individuals may seek a declaratory judgment after a legal controversy has arisen but before any damages have occurred or any laws have been violated. A declaratory judgment differs from other judicial rulings in that it does not require that any action be taken. Instead, the judge, after analyzing the controversy, simply issues an opinion declaring the rights of each of the parties involved. A declaratory judgment may only be granted in justiciable controversies—that is, in actual, rather than hypothetical, controversies that fall within a court's jurisdiction.

A declaratory judgment, sometimes called declaratory relief, is conclusive and legally binding as to the present and future rights of the parties involved. The parties involved in a declaratory judgment may not later seek another court resolution of the same legal issue unless they appeal the judgment.

Declaratory judgments are often sought in situations involving contracts, deeds, leases, and wills. An insurance company, for example, might seek a declaratory judgment as to whether a policy applies to a certain person or event. Declaratory judgments also commonly involve individuals or parties who seek to determine their rights under specific regulatory or criminal laws.

Declaratory judgments are considered a type of preventive justice because, by informing parties of their rights, they help them to avoid violating specific laws or the terms of a contract. In 1934 Congress enacted the Declaratory Judgment Act (28 U.S.C.A. § 2201 et seq.), which allows for declaratory judgments concerning issues of federal law. At the state level, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws passed the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (12 U.L.A. 109) in 1922. Between 1922 and 1993, this act was adopted in forty-one states, the Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Most other states have varying laws that provide for declaratory judgments. Most declaratory judgment laws grant judges discretion to decide whether or not to issue a declaratory judgment.

Wikipedia

A declaratory judgment is a judgment of a court in a civil case which declares the rights, duties, or obligations of each party in a dispute. It is commonly called a declaratory ruling, a term which also includes decisions of regulatory agencies. A declaratory judgment or ruling is legally binding as to the duties, rights, obligations and status of the parties. However, a declaratory judgment does not order any action or result in any award of damages to any party to the case. Unlike an advisory opinion, a declaratory judgment requires an actual case or controversy.

A declaratory judgment is typically requested when a party is threatened with lawsuit and the threatened lawsuit is not yet filed; or when it is thought by one of two (or more) parties that their rights under law and/or contract might conflict; or as part of a counterclaim to prevent further, similar lawsuits from the same plaintiff (for example, when only a contract claim is filed, but a copyright claim might also be applicable). It may also be sought in administrative law instead of prerogative writs such as certiorari or prohibitions.

In the United States, the federal government and most states have enacted statutes authorizing their courts to issue declaratory judgments. In some common law jurisdictions, declaratory judgment is a form of equitable relief.