Declaratory Judgment

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A declaratory judgment is a binding judgment from a court defining the legal relationship between parties and their rights in a matter before the court.  

Typically, a party will first send a cease and desist letter prior to seeking declaratory judgment from a court. 

A declaratory judgment is often prior to the filing of a lawsuit, and as such, courts are sometimes hesitant to issue declaratory judgments, as they would prefer to see the case develop more before issuing a judgment. Further, under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, a federal court may only issue a declaratory judgment when there is an actual controversy.

Rule 57 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure  and Title 28, Section 2201 of the U.S. Code govern declaratory judgments in federal court.  

A declaratory judgment is also called a declaration.


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.  

Further Reading

For more on declaratory judgment, see this Louisiana State Univeresity Law Review article, this Wyoming Law Journal article, and this Oklahoma Law Review article