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What is a civil judgment?

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Quick Answer

A civil judgment gives the details of which party wins in a court case -- the plaintiff or the defendant -- and defines what that party gets from the other. A civil judgment is the official court record documenting the disposition of a civil case.

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A civil court case is between two parties, including the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff is the party starting the lawsuit. Generally, a lawsuit is brought because the plaintiff is in a dispute with the defendant. For example, a plaintiff may claim the defendant owes the plaintiff money. When a civil case is filed by the plaintiff, it is assigned to a judge, usually on a random basis. The judge manages the progress of the case, holds hearings, hears motions and sometimes attempts an informal resolution of the case by sending the case to mediation. Whatever the final decision in the case, whether in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant, the judge will enter a civil judgment detailing her decision in the case. If the case involved a jury trial, the civil judgment will reflect the jury’s decision. Each state has rules of civil procedure which define when and how the civil judgment is entered and what information it must contain. The federal court system also has a similar set of civil procedure rules.

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