Six (6) Principal Types of Legal Judgment: Different kinds of judgments can be found in the legal system. The common understanding of the word “judgment” refers to the conclusion, opinion, or outcome that is reached after using a certain evaluation and line of reasoning. The everyday meaning of judgment is not too far from what it means in legal contexts. A legal judgment is an order that a court of competent jurisdiction issues in regard to a case that it has adjudicated upon. This order defines the rights and responsibilities of the parties in regard to which the order was issued, and it is known as a judgment in law.
In order for a court ruling to be considered legitimate, it needs to have ration decidendi (which is the reasoning upon which the decision was based). Judges are permitted to make statements in the course of their deliberations, even if they are only incidental. This is referred to as an obiter dictum, and an orbiter dictum is not considered to be a component of the ratio decidendi. Therefore, the use of an obiter dictum as the ground for an appeal is not permissible.
Every verdict handed down by a court must have a quality that can be described as finality. The ruling has a sense of finality in the sense that it effectively resolves the issue that was brought before it. In the same vein, a legal judgment cannot be made contingent on a condition; rather, it must be conclusive in nature. As soon as it hands down a verdict, the court is no longer required to hear further arguments about that particular case.
This makes the suit res judicata, which means that it cannot be tried again by the court that handed down the ruling unless there is an order from the appellate court for a new trial to be conducted (an order to begin a trial afresh). A judgment’s status as “final” does not stop the court from reconsidering the decision it previously made. However, this is only applicable in cases when the court is certain that the following conditions are met:
i. The court’s decision was based on a misrepresentation of material facts, which led to the court arriving at its conclusion on the basis of such a misrepresentation.
ii. There was clear evidence of unfair treatment.
iii. The court needs to provide some clarifications regarding the judgment.
iv. An order from the higher court instructing the lower court to start the trial over from scratch.
iv. In cases when the judgment was obtained by dishonest means.
v. in the event that the court does not have the authority to hear the case.
The judge may choose to withhold explaining their reasoning when they are handing down their verdict. This indicates that the judge may hand down a verdict without immediately providing an explanation of the reasoning for the decision. On the other hand, the reasoning behind the judgment will have to be provided at a later date.
In most cases, the claims that were made by both sides must be taken into consideration by the court before it can issue a verdict. However, the court maintains the authority and discretion to suo moto, which means that it can go beyond the scope of the parties’ claim in an effort to achieve justice; however, this discretion must be utilized with extreme caution. The ability of the court to hand down judgment is a power that is intrinsic to the institution. The conclusion of the legal process is represented by the judgment.
Read also: Top 7 Most Lucrative Areas of Law 2022
However, once the court begins to render judgment, the parties will no longer have the ability to file new pleadings or make any changes to the ones they have already submitted at any time during the course of their case. The decision or judgment of a court cannot be contested or called into question in front of the same court that made the decision or judgment (except in the cases already mentioned afore in this article).
The ruling of a court can more commonly be contested by lodging an appeal with the court that sits above it and acts in the capacity of an appellate court for the court that sits below it. The court also needs to have the authority to hear the case in order for the judgment it issues to be considered legitimate. This is the most critical need. The factors that go into determining whether or not a court has jurisdiction over a case are things like the nature of the dispute that is being litigated, the correct constitution of the court, the locus standi of the parties, conformity with procedural laws, and the principles of fair hearing.
Judgment can be given in relation to specific individuals (known as “judgment in personam”), or it can be given in relation to specific subject topics and interests (known as “judgment in rem”), or it can be given in relation to specific individuals, interests, and subject matters (quasi in rem).
On the condition that his interest and locus standi are established as a result of the application, any person whom the judgment of a court in regard to a particular suit is likely to affect may, upon application, be joined as a party in the suit. This is the case as long as the application is followed.
The decision that is handed down by a judge is binding and unquestionable. This was the case even when the decision was based on per incuriam evidence (in error). Therefore, disobeying a court order constitutes contempt of court, which is an offense that can result in a fine or imprisonment, depending on the circumstances.
Six (6) Principal Types of Legal Judgment
After providing an outline of the concept of a court judgment, it is important to note that there are several distinct kinds of judgment.
1. Interlocutory Judgment: Interlocutory is a legal term that can refer to an order, sentence, decree, or judgment that is given in an intermediate stage between the beginning and conclusion of a cause of action. This stage is used to provide a temporary or provisional decision on an issue. Interlocutory can also refer to a hearing that takes place between the beginning and conclusion of a cause of action. As a result, an interlocutory order is not final and cannot be immediately appealed to a higher court. An interlocutory judgment is not a final judgment; nonetheless, it does eventually dispose of a subject or matters that come up while the substantive complaint is still being litigated.
An interlocutory judgment does not permanently decide the parties’ legal rights or responsibilities. Examples of an interlocutory judgment include the following: the decision of the court in regards to the challenge of its jurisdiction (particularly where the court holds that it does have jurisdiction), an order of the court for suits having the same parties and substance to be consolidated, an order for retrial, an order of interlocutory injunction, interim injunction, an order for striking out, and other similar examples.
In most of the legal systems in the United States, interlocutory orders are not subject to appeal, with the exception of a few exceptional circumstances. Interlocutory orders are orders that are issued by a court while a case is still ongoing, prior to the final resolution of the case. In other words, they are orders that are issued before the case is completely resolved. After the case has been resolved, an appeal from the final judgment can be filed to challenge any part of an interlocutory order that was not rendered moot by the conclusion of the case. However, in other legal systems, such as those found in England and Wales, Hong Kong, and Canada, interlocutory orders in civil matters are able to be appealed if the appellate court grants permission for this to occur. The general rule in criminal cases in Canada is that there are no interlocutory appeals, with the exception of situations in which Parliament has expressly provided for them. In general, appeals against decisions made at earlier stages of a case are not encouraged by Australian courts and tribunals.
2. The Final Judgment: This is the judgment that puts an end to the substantive suit and decides the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved. In this scenario, the judge will rule in favor of the party who has shown his case in accordance with the requirements of the law, or the party who has demonstrated either explicitly or through necessary implications that the other party does not have a case that is substantive. In the event when both parties have claims but neither party was able to demonstrate their case, the court has the discretion to order non-suit, and such an order constitutes a final judgment in that regard.
When a final decision has been handed down, the statute of limitations for filing an appeal must to be met by the party that feels wrong in order for their appeal to be considered. In addition, the verdict of the court is put on hold while the appeal is being processed. When a court issues a ruling in response to the question of whether or not it has the authority to hear a particular case, the conclusion that the court does not have the authority to hear the case is conclusive and binding. A ruling that is considered to be interlocutory is one in which the court decides that it does not have the authority to continue with the case.
3. Default Judgment: A default judgment is a judgment that is delivered by the court in the event that any party to the complaint fails to comply with a summons to enter appearance and defend himself. A default judgment is a court judgment that is acquired in default of a party’s appearance in the given litigation. To put it another way, a default judgment is just a judgment. When a default decision is not overturned, the judgment that was reached is considered to be final.
A default judgment is not a judgment on merit. The following are some of the reasons why it might be disregarded:
i. When the court does not have the authority to hear the case
ii. The situation in which the party who had failed to come was not served.
iv. In the event that the party enters appearance not long after the judgment has been rendered and offers compelling explanations for his failure to appear in court or arguments as to why the verdict should not be overturned.
v. In the event that granting the application to have the ruling overturned will not cause any harm to the other party.
4. A consent judgment: is a ruling that has been handed down by the court based on the conditions of the settlement that have been agreed upon by the parties. In this scenario, the parties come to a mutually acceptable agreement on their own, either in front of or outside of the court, and then submit it to the court to be adopted as the final verdict.
When it is approved, a judgment reached by the parties through the process of consent wears the same garb as a judgment reached by a court. Appeals are the only way to have it overturned. However, if there is proof of fraud in the terms of the settlement, the court before whom it was accepted has the authority to set it aside on the grounds that it was fraudulent.
5. Declaratory Judgment: A judgment may consist of merely a declaration and may or may not be supported by an order of performance, compliance, cost, or damages. A declaratory judgment is a type of judgment that aims to state the position of the parties’ rights alone, without providing any more or less information than that.
For example, Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is requesting the court to declare that he is qualified to run for president while still serving in his current capacity as CBN Governor. He also wants the court to declare that the land in issue belongs to the plaintiff. If consideration is given to the effects that have been detailed thus far, there is no other action that needs to be taken besides the declaration. There is nothing that needs to be followed through on. The party that was favored is to go and take advantage of the benefits of the declaration.
6. A non-suit: is a judgment that a court issues when it concludes that neither of the parties to a dispute has established their case by evidence for the court to rule in their favor. This type of decision is known as a “non-suit”. Under certain conditions, a plaintiff (or another person bringing a civil action, such as a petitioner) may choose to withdraw his or her case, but this does not preclude the possibility of a subsequent lawsuit being filed based on the same set of circumstances.
A plaintiff suing a physician and a hospital for damages resulting from complications during surgery is an illustration of this type of lawsuit. In the event that the plaintiff reaches a settlement with the physician, the plaintiff would nonsuit the physician, which would mean that the physician would be removed from the suit; however, the plaintiff would continue to take action against the hospital, and the suit would proceed. If the plaintiff later reaches a settlement with the hospital before the trial, that would result in a nonsuit, which would end the case because all of the defendants have been released.
Alternative Methods of Judgment
a. Reserved Judgment: in this type of proceeding, the judge decides to delay the delivery of the verdict until a later time following the conclusion of the trial, as opposed to issuing the verdict right away. The judge may announce that judgment will be reserved at the conclusion of an oral hearing after all of the evidence and the parties’ final arguments have been presented. This indicates that the judge (or the Tribunal, if it is a full panel) will adjourn in order to deliberate privately on the evidence and the decision to be reached in the case. This is the verdict that was reached. The decision will be typed up once it has been rendered by the judge or the tribunal, and then it will be distributed to all of the relevant parties. This is the verdict that will be reserved.
The judge may announce that judgment will be reserved at the conclusion of an oral hearing after all of the evidence and the parties’ final arguments have been presented. This indicates that the judge (or the Tribunal, if it is a full panel) will adjourn in order to deliberate privately on the evidence and the decision to be reached in the case. This is the verdict that was reached. The decision will be typed up once it has been rendered by the judge or the tribunal, and then it will be distributed to all of the relevant parties. This is the verdict that will be reserved.
b. Summary Judgment: Summary judgment is a judgment that is entered by a court for one party and against another party summarily, which means that it is entered without a full trial. Summary judgment is also known as judgment as a matter of law or summary disposition. A summary judgment could be issued based on the merits of the entire case, or it could be based on the merits of a specific issue in the case. The formulation of the summary judgment standard is stated in somewhat different ways by courts in different jurisdictions. Specifically, each jurisdiction has its own unique set of rules. In the United States, for the presiding judge to rule that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” the judge must generally find that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact.”
This is when a court decides that there are no disputed questions regarding the facts of the case, but that there are issues regarding the law that require the case to be determined in favor of one party or the other. The court does not strictly conduct the trial in a summary trial; rather, it merely speeds up the processes by reviewing the pleadings that have been presented to it along with any other relevant circumstances. This may be seen in the Magistrate Court, which is because the Magistrate Court is a summary jurisdiction court.
C. Vacate Decision: This type of judgment is when an appellate court decides not to hear an appeal and instead orders a new trial to be held. When there have been significant legal mistakes made by a lower court that have an impact on the main aspects of the case, the higher court will make such an order.
A judgment that has Executory Powers: A judgment has executory power when it issues an order for the performance of an act that has not yet been executed.
A vacated judgment makes a previous legal judgment legally void. A judgment that has been vacated is typically the result of an appeals court judgment that overturns, reverses, or otherwise dismisses the judgment of a lower court. It’s also possible for an appellate court to overturn its own decisions. It is possible for a trial court to have the authority to overturn its own judgments in certain scenarios, the most common of which involve fraud or a lack of jurisdiction over the parties involved in a case.
A judgment that has been vacated may allow the parties to a civil case to re-litigate the issues that were the subject of the judgment that was vacated. If the defendant passes away before all of their appeals have been considered, then the judgment can be overturned under this circumstance as well. Notable defendants whose convictions were overturned as a result of this include Kenneth Lay, the former Chairman and CEO of Enron who passed away prior to being sentenced, and Aaron Hernandez, a former football player who committed suicide in jail before his appeals were exhausted. Both of these men were on the list of people whose convictions were overturned. In March of 2019, the previously vacated judgment against Hernandez was reversed, and his conviction for murder was maintained.  As a result of violations of his right to due process, the charges of sexual assault that had been brought against Bill Cosby were dismissed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on June 30th, 2021.
This article has been helpful with the six (6) principal types of legal judgment. However, the administration of justice is supposed to be the result of legal proceedings. Since judgment is the vehicle via which justice is carried into effect and enforced, there would be no enforcement if there were no judgment. The verdict and sentence handed down by the judge are binding and must be obeyed. It is composed of a variety of categories, the majority of which have been discussed on this page.