Declaratory Judgment

Declaratory Judgment in the United States

A form of relief invoked when a plaintiff seeks a declaration of his or her rights. A declaratory judgment does not involve monetary damages, but rather is an assessment of a party’s rights prior to a damage occurring. It differs from a conventional legal action in that no specific order is issued by the court. It differs from an advisory opinion in that parties have a bona fide controversy in a declaratory judgment proceeding, although actual injury has not yet occurred. The federal courts are empowered to render declaratory judgments by the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act of 1934. In a declaratory judgment proceeding there must be a real controversy, but the plaintiff is uncertain of his or her rights and seeks adjudication of them. As in injunctive relief, a declaratory judgment request is a petition for a court to exercise its powers of equity. No jury is permitted. The judge is asked to declare what the law is regarding the controversy. The Supreme Court upheld, for example, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in South Carolina v. Katzenbach (383 U.S. 301: 1966). This case began with South Carolina seeking a declaratory judgment against the federal law.

See Also

Advisory Opinion (Apellate Judicial Process) Equity Jurisdiction (Apellate Judicial Process).

Analysis and Relevance

Declaratory judgment actions are a comparatively recent development in American jurisprudence. For many years they were considered the equivalent of advisory opinions, and the traditional concept was that courts could only act when a plaintiff was entitled to judicial remedy. A plaintiff may find it necessary, however, to determine if he or she is bound by contractual language that the plaintiff believes to be void or unenforceable. If the plaintiff should fail to comply, he or she is risking suit for breach of contract and for damages that flow from that breach. The declaratory judgment procedure is helpful to all parties because it circumvents the necessity of an actual breach and the lengthy litigation that such action invites. Contract disputes frequently form the basis of declaratory judgments. Courts are generally reluctant to issue them on broad public policy issues.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Declaratory Judgment from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Declaratory Judgment Definition

(or DEcree). In practice. One which declares the rights of the parties, without ordering anything to be done.

Declaratory Judgment in Foreign Legal Encyclopedias

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Legal Issue for Attorneys

(or DEcree). In practice. One which declares the rights of the parties, without ordering anything to be done.

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Notice

This definition of Declaratory Judgment Is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This definition needs to be proofread..

Practical Information

Note: Some of this information was last updated in 1982

An edict of the court (in U.S. law) that simply states the rights of the parties or expresses an opinion on a question of law. For example, a party would want a declaratory judgment to determine who has What is Declaratory Judgment?

For a meaning of it, read Declaratory Judgment in the Legal Dictionary here. Browse and search more U.S. and international free legal definitions and legal terms related to Declaratory Judgment.

Declaratory Judgment

United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled DECLARATORY JUDGMENTUntil the beginning of the twentieth century, most American courts would entertain lawsuits only when plaintiffs sought redress for harm already suffered or imminently threatened. Except in certain real property actions, the plaintiff was not deemed harmed simply because
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Declaratory Judgment in State Statute Topics

Introduction to Declaratory Judgment (State statute topic)

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Meaning of Declaratory Judgment

In plain or simple terms, Declaratory Judgment means: One which declares the rights of the parties or expresses the opinion of the courts on a question of law, without ordering anything to be done.

Declaratory Judgment Actions (Civil Procedure)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of declaratory judgment actions. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Civil Procedurein relation to declaratory judgment actions is provided. Note that a list of bibliography resources and other aids appears at the end of this entry.

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declaratory judgment in relation to Invention and Patent Law

A lawsuit filed to determine where the plaintiff is in doubt as to his legal rights. With respect to patents, this is a lawsuit filed by someone against the patentholder asking the court to declare that the inventors patent is invalid or that the plaintiff is not infringing the patent. The possibility of such a lawsuit is a source of concern for poorly financed patentholders who must be careful lest something they do be seen as accusing others of infringement requiring them to defend against a lawsuit often at a distant location and at great expense.

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