Declaratory Judgment

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Declaratory Judgment

Statutory remedy for the determination of a Justiciable controversy where the plaintiff is in doubt as to his or her legal rights. A binding adjudication of the rights and status of litigants even though no consequential relief is awarded.

Individuals may seek a declaratory judgment after a legal controversy has arisen but before any damages have occurred or any laws have been violated. A declaratory judgment differs from other judicial rulings in that it does not require that any action be taken. Instead, the judge, after analyzing the controversy, simply issues an opinion declaring the rights of each of the parties involved. A declaratory judgment may only be granted in justiciable controversies—that is, in actual, rather than hypothetical, controversies that fall within a court's jurisdiction.

A declaratory judgment, sometimes called declaratory relief, is conclusive and legally binding as to the present and future rights of the parties involved. The parties involved in a declaratory judgment may not later seek another court resolution of the same legal issue unless they appeal the judgment.

Declaratory judgments are often sought in situations involving contracts, deeds, leases, and wills. An insurance company, for example, might seek a declaratory judgment as to whether a policy applies to a certain person or event. Declaratory judgments also commonly involve individuals or parties who seek to determine their rights under specific regulatory or criminal laws.

Declaratory judgments are considered a type of preventive justice because, by informing parties of their rights, they help them to avoid violating specific laws or the terms of a contract. In 1934 Congress enacted the Declaratory Judgment Act (28 U.S.C.A. § 2201 et seq.), which allows for declaratory judgments concerning issues of federal law. At the state level, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws passed the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (12 U.L.A. 109) in 1922. Between 1922 and 1993, this act was adopted in forty-one states, the Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Most other states have varying laws that provide for declaratory judgments. Most declaratory judgment laws grant judges discretion to decide whether or not to issue a declaratory judgment.

Further readings

Howard, Davis J. 1994. "Declaratory Judgment Coverage Actions." Ohio Northern University Law Review 13.

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

declaratory judgment

n. a judgment of a court which determines the rights of parties without ordering anything be done or awarding damages. While this borders on the prohibited "advisory opinion," it is allowed to nip controversies in the bud. Examples: a party to a contract may seek the legal interpretation of a contract to determine the parties' rights, or a corporation may ask a court to decide whether a new tax is truly applicable to that business before it pays it. (See: declaratory relief)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The third example involves a standalone cause of action, which, if plead in the declaratory judgment complaint, has the possibility of allowing the court to retain jurisdiction.
(263) Of these four major defenses, three have direct application to claims brought under the Declaratory Judgment Act and the retention of subject matter jurisdiction--invalidity, unenforceability based on inequitable conduct, and antitrust.
It also sought declaratory judgment as to whether the churches had agreed to merge and whether Grace complied with the agreement.
Should a trial court err in hearing an action for declaratory judgment, the proper remedy is to raise the point in the trial court and, if necessary, seek relief on appeal.
In point of fact, many forms of ostensibly "coercive" relief are virtually identical to declaratory judgments. Consider, for example, an "injunction" that resolves whether a trust has a duty under federal law not to submit to a levy for unpaid taxes from an agency of a state.
alternative' to an injunction." (61) Professor Matthew Adler describes the declaratory judgment as "intended in part as a less coercive technique for judicial invalidation of state statutes." (62) Other scholars contrast "weak remedies such as declaratory relief" with "strong remedies such as injunctions," (63) or speak of "the near-futility of declaratory judgments." (64) And many others make similar statements.
federal declaratory judgment by expressing disagreement with federal
GPhA had filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting MedImmune, based on the argument that without such declaratory judgments the introduction of generic drugs would be delayed.
The CAFC's reasonable apprehension of suit test requiring that a breach of contract must exist before the courts could have jurisdiction over declaratory judgment suits that seek to invalidate patents clearly flies in the face of the Altvater decision.
Moreover, this is consistent with the Palmer & Cay recognition that the preclusive effect of a Georgia declaratory judgment in Florida, although governed by Georgia law, will be determined by the Florida court's interpretation and application of that law.