A binding judgment from a court defining the legal relationship between parties and their rights in the matter before the court. A declaratory judgment does not provide for any enforcement, however. In other words, it states the court's authoritative opinion regarding the exact nature of the legal matter without requiring the parties to do anything.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 57) and Title 28 of the U.S. Code govern declaratory judgments in federal court. For an example from case law, see Roe v. Wade 410 US 113 (1973).
Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
A court decision in a civil case that tells the parties what their rights and responsibilities are, without awarding damages or ordering them to do anything. Courts are usually reluctant to hear declaratory judgment cases, preferring to wait until there has been a measurable loss. But especially in cases involving important constitutional rights, courts will step in to clarify the legal landscape. For example, many cities regulate the right to assemble by requiring permits to hold a parade. A disappointed applicant who thinks the decision-making process is unconstitutional might hold his parade anyway and challenge the ordinance after hes cited; or he might ask a court beforehand to rule on the constitutionality of the law. By going to court, the applicant may avoid a messy confrontation with the city -- and perhaps a citation, as well.
Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.
August 19, 2010, 5:14 pm