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There is no judgment like a judgment

As a rule, a judgment is a judgment for the parties to a court proceeding. And it is quite right to do so. There is no need to be concerned with whether the judgment is interlocutory or not and whether it is declaratory or constitutional in nature. However, these are often key concepts for proper representation by counsel. We will explain why.

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Chapters of the article

As we have mentioned, for the legal layman, concepts such as an adversarial judgment or the effectiveness of a judgment ex nunc have virtually no meaning. The court simply made a decision in some way and we are interested in the outcome and consequence of that decision. However, it is at least good to know that legal theory recognizes different types, forms and effects of judgments. You can prepare for court proceedings with a lawyer who knows all the nuances of decision-making and can use them to your advantage.

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But let’s at least briefly review the types of court decisions we are familiar with.

Types of decisions by form

On the basis of the form of the decision we distinguish:

  • (a) Judgment – a type of court decision which decides the merits of a case. We know judgments on divorce, on damages and dozens of others. Similarly, we also encounter judgments in administrative and criminal justice.
  • b) Decree – this is a simplified way of saying that the court decides where it does not decide by judgment. as a rule, these are various procedural matters – the commencement of proceedings, their terms, compensation for costs, etc.
  • c) Order for payment – is a special type of decision, issued in summary proceedings, where it concerns exclusively the issue of a certain sum of money.
  • d) Bill of exchange (cheque) payment order
  • e) Electronic payment order
  • (f) European order for payment

Tip: We have discussed payment orders, the conditions of their issue and their variants in the form of a bill of exchange or electronic payment order in our article.

Effects that the decision may have

We distinguish between declaratory and constitutional decisions (judgments) according to the effects that the decision may produce.

  1. A declaratory judgment authoritatively declares that a right exists or not. Thus, the right does not newly arise, only that for some reason its existence has not yet been fully apparent. This may be the case, for example, of a judgment on the establishment of paternity. It is clear that paternity itself arises from the birth or conception of a child. However, if, for example, the father disputes his relationship with the child, the court will decide, on the evidence adduced, that there is such a relationship.
  2. In contrast,a constitutional decision creates, cancels or modifies rights. In the light of the example mentioned above, this may subsequently be the case, for example, with regard to the determination of maintenance or the establishment of a child custody regime.

Content of the court’s judgment

Depending on the content of the judgment (or also on the type of action brought), we divide the judgment into status, determination, performance and superseding will.

Status – these occur in proceedings initiated by application and not by action. Decisions on them have constitutive effects and operate ex nunc (i.e. from now on), not retroactively. These may include, for example, a declaration that a marriage is void, a declaration that a person is dead, or a decision limiting legal capacity.

Determination – in an action for determination, a litigant seeks to establish whether or not a right exists. For example, it is not obvious who owns the property. According to the Code of Civil Procedure, the action must be formulated to determine the right or legal relationship, not, for example, to determine a legal fact. This is a distinction that is completely below the level of discernment of the ordinary citizen. However, incorrect wording in this case may cause the action to be unnecessarily dismissed, as the court cannot uphold it. Again, precise wording by an attorney pays off.

On performance – such a judgment is issued on the basis of an action which demands, for example, the payment of a certain sum (a debt) or the delivery of an item (property wrongfully withheld after a divorce).

A statement replacing an expression of will – this refers, for example, to situations where the law presupposes a certain agreement, or where the parties themselves seek it but are unable to reach it. Typically, this may involve co-ownership. Another situation may be when the parents are unable to agree on the name of the child, or one parent requires court approval for a certain medical procedure on the child that the other parent does not want to give. In a case where this type of judgment is to be obtained, particular care must be taken in the wording of what is known as the petition, i.e. the claim that is being made through the action. It is always worth drafting it together with a lawyer.

A judgment or decision goes through several stages from its inception. Once it has been issued, it is drawn up in writing and served on the parties. An important point of particular interest to clients is when the judgment becomes final. This is the point at which an appeal against it can no longer be lodged because the time limit for lodging an appeal has expired or the parties have waived their right to lodge an appeal. The judgment is thus final, binding and unalterable (by ordinary appeal). Even a final judgment can be altered in certain circumstances, but these are exceptional circumstances, i.e. with the use of exceptional remedies.

Tip: In exceptional situations, final judgments can be overturned. However, this is a fundamental violation of the rights of the parties. It should only occur in exceptional circumstances, such as fundamental procedural defects in the proceedings, or completely new evidence or facts that come to light after the judgment has been delivered. We have discussed such a situation in more detail in our article.

Special types of judgments

Default judgment – under the Code of Civil Procedure, this is a special type of judgment and is also called a default judgment (popularly referred to as a “default”). The court is entitled to issue a default judgment when the defendant fails to appear at the first oral hearing of the case before the court without a proper excuse, even though the defendant has been duly summoned and informed of the consequences of the failure to appear, the summons period has been observed and the summons has been served. However, there must also be a second condition, namely an express request by the applicant for a judgment of that type. Appeals against such a judgment are limited.

Judgment for recognition – is somewhat similar. Here, the defendant fully acknowledges the claim made by the plaintiff before the court. The second variant is essentially a fictitious admission of the claim. The defendant is served with what is known as a qualified notice, in which he or she is asked to set out everything relevant to the case and to attach evidence. If he fails to do so, a fiction of recognition of the claimant’s claim arises and the court may give a judgment of recognition.

Interlocutory Judgment – is typically found, for example, in damages proceedings. It decides the merits of the case. In this case, the court decides on the merits of the case, whether the presumption of liability for damages is met, the claim is not time-barred, etc., but does not yet decide on the amount of the damages themselves. This type of judgment may enable us to conduct proceedings more efficiently and economically.

By contrast,a partial judgment decides only some part of the claim, for example, the claim of only one of the claimants.

Other divisions of judgments

There are other subdivisions of judgments in legal theory, but they are not very important from the practical point of view of the parties. For example, the division according to the subject of the decision (court of first or second instance, or e.g. the Constitutional Court or other specialized institutions), according to the composition of the subject (i.e. whether a single judge – a “single judge” – decides, or whether a larger number – a panel – decides).

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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