Understanding the Law
July 13, 2018
Judgments of the court

A judgment is the decision of the court that is given orally or written by the hearing officer. Black’s dictionary describes it as the “official and authentic decision of the court of justice upon the rights and claims of the parties to an action.” Written judgments are not superior to oral judgments. Whether oral or written, a judgment is the decision of the court and remains the decision until a court of superior jurisdiction overturns it.

In a judgment, the trier of the matter explains how the decision was reached based on written or oral testimony. It also states the winning position. In the case of the Court of Appeal, the majority decision is where the three judges agree to the decision, or where two of three agree to the decision. The majority decision rules. In a two/one judgment, one judge writes the judgment and the other concurs with the decision. The third judge dissents with judgment. That judgment is regarded as a dissenting judgment. The dissenting judge’s argument is given with the majority decision.

The Magistrate Court and the Family Court often make oral judgments. Written judgments are produced on rare occasions, but the president of the Family Court, and the magistrates in the Magistrate Court would be required to provide reasons for the decision when there is an appeal. This reason is filed by the appellant and appears in the record of the court. In the High Court, chamber judgments are generally oral, while open court decisions are, more often than not, written. There are different types of judgments of the court. The two main types of judgments are interlocutory judgment and final judgment.

Interlocutory judgment

Interlocutory judgment, otherwise known, as interim judgments are judgments on matters that arise before the main matter comes to a trial. They are intermediate in nature and have to be decided before the main matter is considered. An interlocutory matter decides a preliminary matter, or a default issue.

Final judgment

The judgment that comes at the end of the trial is often written. The final decision of the court resolves the dispute and determines the claims and obligations of the parties. The jury gives its decision of guilty or not guilty to the judge in a criminal matter, but the judge is in charge of the trial and it is the judge and not a jury that writes a judgment. Some decisions could be oral, but for a murder case the judge normally provides a written judgment. If the defendant loses, the judgment of the courts below will be available for the scrutiny of the Court of Appeal when the case is presented.

Consent judgment

This is a popular form of judgment. The court encourages consent judgment because the parties are actively involved making a decision that they want. Parties’ involvement helps to avoid long and tiresome court hearing, especially in simple matters. With a consent order the parties do not waste the court’s time. The court is always appreciative of parties who do not waste its time over simple matters. Consent orders are often used in matrimonial matters sometimes for property distribution or in custodial matters regarding children. Rather than going through trials and all the related inconveniences, parties may file a consent order acceptable to each party and the court will sanction it.

Default judgment

A default judgment is a judgment that is given when one party fails to plead (or present a defense) or where he fails to make an appearance on a matter.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com