A judgment is a legally consequential decision made by a court or some other legal entity regarding a matter brought before it. A judgment is the decision made by either the judge or the jury as to how the law answers the questions brought to it in proceedings. A judgment will include consideration of the relevant facts (established through evidence) and the relevant law (legislation and common law). Although in certain matters there are guidelines and precedents, judges maintain a certain level of discretion when formulating a judgment.
A judgment made in a court of law will also become an authority or have persuasive power:
- Ratio decidendi – Latin for ‘the rationale for the decision’, the ratio decidendi of a judgment is the part or parts of that judgment that establish a rule or principle from the case to be followed. The ratio decidendi is generally binding on lower courts as case law.
- Obiter dictum – Latin for ‘by the way’, the obiter dictum of a judgment is the part or parts of the judgment that do not form a necessary or binding part of the court’s decision, i.e., they are comments made for illustration, analogy or argument and are not essential to the judgment.