Definition of a Civil Judgement

A civil judgement is the final decision of a civil court at the end of a trial. The judgement is based upon the application of civil law to the pleadings and facts of the case. A civil judgement may be appealed by either party.


Civil law is a body of law that determines private rights and liabilities. The objective of civil law is to make the plaintiff whole again--for example, to enforce an agreement or settle a dispute. First, a plaintiff files a civil lawsuit with an appropriate court. Second, the defendant is served with process--legal notice that the defendant must respond to the lawsuit. After the defendant files an answer, the parties have a specified period of time in which each party can request or compel the production of documents and other evidence from the other parties. Next, the case may be settled through mediation or arbitration--if it is not, a trial will commence, which will end with a judgement.


A civil judgement is the final ruling of the court at the end of a civil trial. The judgement may be rendered by a jury or a judge. The judgement is based upon the application of the law to the pleadings and to the facts as they appear from the evidence in the case. Generally, a losing defendant will be ordered to pay the plaintiff monetary damages or perform their obligations on a contract. In contrast with criminal law, a defendant in civil litigation is never incarcerated.


The are multiple additional types of judgements that may be rendered by a civil court. A default judgement is entered for the plaintiff if the defendant is successfully served with due process and fails to enter an answer to the court. Summary judgement may be entered for either party if the judge is able to make a determination without a full trial--when the undisputed facts and applicable law make it clear that it would be impossible for one party to prevail if the matter proceeded to trial. Less commonly used judgements include declaratory judgements and directed verdicts.

Appeal Process

An appeal is a process for requesting formal review of an adjudicated court case. An appellate court is a court that hears cases on appeal from a lower court. Appellate jurisdiction is limited to a review of actions taken by the lower court. Typically, the person filing an appeal (the appellant) has the right to assert that the lower court made an error in judgement, so long as they preserved this right by objecting to the lower court's ruling during the original trial. Any issue not raised in the original trial may not be considered on appeal.

More About Appeals

First, determine whether the issue that you want to appeal was preserved so that it may be considered by the appellate court. Second, consider whether you have adequate grounds for appeal, including error in the application of law, court misconduct or incorrect finding of fact. Third, you must file a notice of appeal that conforms to the applicable rules of appellate procedure. Appellate procedures vary by jurisdiction and type of case--consult your state's governmental website to locate your state's rules of appellate procedure. The notice of appeal will prompt the lower court to prepare and forward a record to the assigned appellate court, commencing your appeal.

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