Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Financial, Wikipedia.


The legal process of resolving a dispute. The formal giving or pronouncing of a judgment or decree in a court proceeding; also the judgment or decision given. The entry of a decree by a court in respect to the parties in a case. It implies a hearing by a court, after notice, of legal evidence on the factual issue(s) involved. The equivalent of a determination. It indicates that the claims of all the parties thereto have been considered and set at rest.

Three types of disputes are resolved through adjudication: disputes between private parties, such as individuals or corporations; disputes between private parties and public officials; and disputes between public officials or public bodies. The requirements of full adjudication include notice to all interested parties (all parties with a legal interest in, or legal right affected by, the dispute) and an opportunity for all parties to present evidence and arguments. The adjudicative process is governed by formal rules of evidence and procedure. Its objective is to reach a reasonable settlement of the controversy at hand. A decision is rendered by an impartial, passive fact finder, usually a judge, jury, or administrative tribunal. The adjudication of a controversy involves the performance of several tasks. The trier must establish the facts in controversy, and define and interpret the applicable law, or, if no relevant law exists, fashion a new law to apply to the situation. Complex evidentiary rules limit the presentation of proofs, and the Anglo-American tradition of Stare Decisis, or following precedents, controls the outcome. However, the process of applying established rules of law is neither simple nor automatic. Judges have considerable latitude in interpreting the statutes or case law upon which they base their decisions.

An age-old question that still plagues legal theorists is whether judges "make" law when they adjudicate. Sir William Blackstone believed that judges do nothing more than maintain and expound established law (Commentaries on the Laws of England); other writers vehemently disagree. Some legal analysts maintain that the law is whatever judges declare it to be. Echoing those sentiments, President Theodore Roosevelt asserted that "the chief lawmakers in our country may be, and often are, the judges, because they are the final seat of authority. Every time they interpret … they necessarily enact into law parts of a system of social philosophy; and as such interpretation is fundamental, they give direction to all law-making" (Message to Congress [Dec. 8, 1908]). Supreme Court Justice benjamin n. cardozo, writing in The Nature of the Judicial Process, argued that the law is evolutionary and that judges, by interpreting and applying it to specific sets of facts, actually fashion new laws.

Whether judges are seen as making law or merely following what came before, they are required to operate within narrow strictures. Even when they are deciding a case of first impression (a question that has not previously been adjudicated), they generally try to analogize to some existing precedent. Judges often consider customs of the community; political and social implications; customs of the trade, market, or profession; and history when applying the law. Some, such as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo, thought that considerations of social and public policy are the most powerful forces behind judicial decisions.

A hearing in which the parties are given an opportunity to present their evidence and arguments is essential to an adjudication. Anglo-American law presumes that the parties to the dispute are in the best position to know the facts of their particular situations and develop their own proofs. If the hearing is before a court, formal rules of procedure and evidence govern; a hearing before an Administrative Agency is generally less structured.

Following the hearing, the decision maker is expected to deliver a reasoned opinion. This opinion is the basis for review if the decision is appealed to a higher tribunal (a court of appeals). It also helps ensure that decisions are not reached arbitrarily. Finally, a well-reasoned opinion forces the judge to carefully think through his or her decision in order to be able to explain the process followed in reaching it.

Adjudication of a controversy generally ensures a fair and equitable outcome. Because courts are governed by evidentiary and procedural rules, as well as by stare decisis, the adjudicative process assures litigants of some degree of efficiency, uniformity, and predictability of result.

Further readings

Cardoza, Benjamin N. 1960. The Nature of the Judicial Process. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press.

Lewis, William D., ed. 1922. Commentaries on the Laws of England. Philadelphia: Bisel.

Lucy, William. 1999. Understanding and Explaining Adjudication. Oxford Univ. Press.

Roosevelt, Theodore. 1908. Message to Congress. Congressional Record, December 8, pt. I:21.


Blackstone, Sir William; Cardozo, Benjamin Nathan; Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr.; Judiciary.


n. the act of giving a judicial ruling such as a judgment or decree. The term is used particularly in bankruptcy proceedings, in which the order declaring a debtor bankrupt is called an adjudication. (See: bankruptcy)


noun act of judgment, adjudgment, arbitrage, arbitrament, arbitration, authoritative decision, award, conclusion, decision, declaration, decree, deliberrte determination, determination, determination of issues, disposition, edict, final determination, final judggent, finding, irrevocable decision, judgment, judgment on facts, judicial decision, opinion, order, order of the court, proclamation, pronouncement, reasoned judggent, res judicata, resolution, result, ruling, sentence, settled decision, verdict
Associated concepts: adjudication of a court of competent jurisdiction, adjudication of bankruptcy, adjudication of guilt, adjudication of incompetency, adjudication of innooence, adjudication of insolvency, adjudication of liability, adjudication on the merits, adjudication under law, adjuuicative facts, judicial assessment
Foreign phrases: Novum judicium non dat novum jus, sed declarat antiquum; quia judicium est juris dictum et per judicium jus est noviter revelatum quod diu fuit velatum.A new adjudication does not promulgate a new law, but declares the old; because adjudication is the utterance of the law, and by adjudication the law is newly revealed which was for a long time hidden. Res judicata pro veriiate accipitur. A thing which is adjudicated is accepted or received for the truth.
See also: award, cognovit, conclusion, conviction, decree, determination, direction, finding of guilt, holding, judgment, opinion, order, res judicata, ruling, sentence, verdict


1 the process of determining judicially or ordering or pronouncing by law.
2 in immigration law, an adjudicator is an officer with the function of dealing with immigration appeals from decisions of the immigration authorities.
3 in the Scots law of DILIGENCE or legal enforcement, the process used against debtors to take away their heritable property. The action is raised in court and the decree registered. When this is done, the property thenceforward belongs to the creditor but is subject to a right of redemption in 10 years, known as the legal.
4 the new procedure for resolving disputes in building contracts in the UK. It is intended to be speedy and relatively informal;

an independent person is appointed - an adjudicator who is obliged to come to a decision in 28 days. That decision stands until the end of the works, and generally court action is prevented where it would circumvent payment.

ADJUDICATION, in practice. The giving or pronouncing a judgment in a cause; a judgment.

References in periodicals archive ?
We have spent months fighting off the false allegations cited by the main contractor and the adjudications prove our case.
It is reported that the Formby Independent Adjudication Inquiry Report (dated October 30th 2000) will be discussed by the Fire Authority in January 2002.
First, the Mayor's bill allows for an orderly phase-in of additional major administrative adjudication functions from District agencies, including the Office of Tax and Revenue's appeals function.
Two features of the final adjudication exclusion inure to the benefit of the insureds.
With such a judicial system for the adjudication of their disputes, it is no wonder that eighteenth-century rural French earned a reputation--corroborated by many cahiers as well as the judicial archives--for litigiousness, for lingering social resentment, for endemic violence and revenge.
The results of the second adjudication are expected within 28 days.
However the published form of the adjudication wrongly emphasised the complaint under Clause 4 (Privacy) or Clause 10 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Code which the Commission found unsubstantiated and of lesser importance.
Capitated provider organizations that do not process claims are utterly dependent on insurers until they acquire the ability to preprocess claims before sending them to the insurer for final adjudication and payment.
ATLANTA -- RelayHealth, a leading provider of healthcare connectivity services, and its Prospective Health Services business unit, today announced the general availability of ProSMART(TM), the healthcare industry's first on-demand pharmacy claims adjudication reporting solution for payers.
Harvard Clinical Research Institute (HCRI), a world-renowned academic research organization, has expanded its endpoint adjudication services and significantly reduced the timeline to complete the process by implementing eClinicalOS (eCOS), a multi-faceted, cloud-based clinical trials solution from the eClinical division of Merge Healthcare.
Until recently if you had carried out a straw poll among those in the provision of collateral warranties asking the question, 'can you use a construction adjudication to enforce a collateral warranty?
The three Collectorate including Model Collectorate of Customs (Preventive), Karachi; Model Collectorate of Customs (Appraisement), Karachi and Model Collectorate of Customs (PaCCS), Karachi would complete the process of adjudication and Order-in-Original would be issued for recovery of the short-paid amount of taxes by this company.