Confession of Judgment

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Confession of Judgment

A procedure whereby a defendant did not enter a plea, the usual response to a plaintiff's declaration in Common-Law Pleading, but instead either confessed to the accuracy of the plaintiff's claim or withdrew a plea already entered.

The result of a confession of judgment was that judgment was entered for the plaintiff on the confession alone without further proceedings being required.

A confession of judgment could also be accomplished if the plaintiff offered a cognovit actionem, a written confession made out earlier by the defendant. A creditor could demand that a borrower sign a cognovit note when the debtor first became indebted to the creditor. The cognovit note said in writing that the debtor owed a particular sum and voluntarily submitted himself or herself to the authority of the court. If the debtor later fell into arrears, the creditor could obtain a judgment against the debtor without even bothering to notify the debtor of the proceedings. A warrant of attorney served the same purpose as a cognovit note. The unfairness of the procedure has prompted most states to enact laws making agreements for the confession of judgment void.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

confession of judgment

n. a written agreement in which the defendant in a lawsuit admits liability and accepts the amount of agreed-upon damages he/she must pay to plaintiff (person suing him/her), and agrees that the statement may be filed as a court judgment against him/her if he/she does not pay or perform as agreed. This avoids further legal proceedings and may prevent a legal judgment being entered (made) if the terms are fulfilled by defendant.

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
At the outset of the appeal the court determined that the threshold question was whether the City could offer to confess judgment at all.
The Supreme Court of Nebraska looked to state statute and determined that only a defendant may offer to confess judgment and may do so "in an action for the recovery of money only." Thus, because the court determined that a condemnation proceeding is an action for the recovery of land, not money, the City's offer to confess judgment was invalid.
The court stated "it would not be hyperbolic to term [this defense] frivolous," (8) finding that the note at issue specifically allowed the plaintiff to designate "any attorney" to confess judgment and that Illinois courts have squarely held that the confession of judgment by an attorney of the same firm as plaintiff's counsel does not invalidate the judgment.
However, a lender can only confess judgment for money against a defaulting borrower if the loan documents expressly authorize the confession of judgment procedure, which is common for commercial loan documents in Pennsylvania.
Given these consequences, to voluntarily confess judgment or to allow judgment to enter by default is only likely to occur where something substantial is at stake and where the effort to collect a debt is real, not ministerial.