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Adjudication refers to the legal process of resolving a dispute or deciding a case. When a claim is brought, courts identify the rights of the parties at that particular moment by analyzing what were, in law, the rights and wrongs of their actions when they occurred.

To be decided, a case has to be “ripe for adjudication.” This means that the facts of the case have matured enough to constitute a actual substantial controversy warranting judicial intervention. Indeed, Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution does not allow courts to decide hypothetical questions or possibilities but only actual cases and controversies.

Adjudication also refers to the judicial decision itself. The effects of a judgment are determined by the doctrine of former adjudication. Under this doctrine, a final judgment in a prior action serves to bar re-litigation of the issues relevant to that determination. There are two types of former adjudication: collateral estoppel and res judicata.

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]