A court judgment is an official pronouncement of a court of law. Judgments are issued by many types of courts, and for many types of issues. A court judgment is not an order compelling a party to act. It is the courts decision regarding factual information, statutes and legal precedence.
Courts have different names in various states and countries. There are various types of courts including civil, property tax, criminal, family, bankruptcy, probate, maritime, etc. This article focuses on civil courts. However, virtually all courts make and issue judgments, or decisions. Most civil court jurisdictions consist of “small claims” or “justice of the peace” courts. Although these are more familiar courts, other courts within the system include the county civil courts, district courts, state appeals courts, federal courts, federal appeals court and a the Federal Supreme Court.
Statutes set forth general propositions of law that specific courts apply to specific matters. The decisions of a court are binding only in a particular jurisdiction, and even within a given jurisdiction, some courts have more power than others. In other words, certain courts have jurisdiction to handle matters involving small amounts of money and simple matters, and other courts have jurisdiction to handle larger amounts of money and more complex issues.
Following is a summary of the jurisdiction allowed various Texas courts:
- Small claims or justice of the peace – Amounts up to $10,000.
- County civil courts – Amounts up to $100,000.
- County district courts – no statutory limit; Think Texaco / Pennzoil and billions of dollars.
Courts may only consider matters and render judgments for which they have statutory authority. Small claims courts can not consider bankruptcy, and the bankruptcy court would not consider divorces (unless perhaps one or both of the parties are in bankruptcy).
Hence a court judgment is the court’s decision, after considering fact and legal issues for a matter for which it has authority. A court money judgment is not a court order for the defendant to pay the plaintiff. It is simply a decision that the defendant owes the plaintiff money. While the courts can be helpful in collecting judgments, they are not responsible for collecting the judgment. They are simply responsible for ruling in favor of one party vs. another, rendering a decision of who is right. Collecting the judgment is completely separate from winning a judgment.