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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.

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Article 39 thus took aim at adjudications outside the courts--what civilian commentators would call "extralegal" adjudication and what we would call administrative adjudication.
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Current law does not allow deferred adjudication for DWI offenses, and many first-time offenders either take jail time or plead guilty to other, lesser crimes.
Therefore adjudication was put on the statute book in 1996 as a dispute resolution process designed specifically for the construction industry.
The appellate court affirmed the decision of the circuit court holding that "when an adult defendant takes the stand and presents a false or misleading portrayal of himself to the jury, a juvenile adjudication may become admissible, in the trial judge's discretion, for the limited purpose of impeaching that testimony.
Recommendation: To improve the integrity of the asylum adjudication process, the Chief of the Asylum Division should explore ways to provide additional opportunities for asylum officers to observe skilled interviewers.
Summary: ALGIERS-- The National Mining Patrimony Agency (ANPM) launched Wednesday the 27th adjudication of 62 mining claims for exploration and exploitation of industrial mineral substances across 29 provinces.
Complainants not satisfied with the results of the adjudication process also can request that the board review their cases.