A civil judgment is the final order of a court in a civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit is any lawsuit that is not a criminal lawsuit. Typically, a criminal lawsuit involves a government entity, such as a state or the federal government, and a private individual. A civil lawsuit, in contrast, involves two private parties, such as two corporations or two persons. When a court finally decides a civil lawsuit, the court's decision is referred to as a civil judgment.
Civil lawsuits are legal disputes between two private individuals, which include personal injury disputes, contract disputes, divorce cases, real estate disputes, employment discrimination lawsuits amongst others. Basically, anything that is not a criminal lawsuit is a civil lawsuit.
When a court resolves a civil lawsuit, the court renders a civil judgment. The civil judgment is the final decision on the dispute between the two private parties. For example, if you and a friend enter into a contract by which you agree to mow your friend's lawn, and your friend agrees to pay you $10 for mowing the lawn, but your friend fails to pay you after you mow the lawn, you might sue your friend for the $10 in a civil lawsuit. The court will, of course, side with you and decide that your friend owes you $10 based on the contract. The civil judgment will order your friend to pay you $10.
Read More: How Long Do Judgments Stay on Public Record?
Enforcing Civil Judgments for Money
Most civil judgments involve the payment of money from one party to the other. In the lawn mowing example, your friend has been ordered to pay you $10. If your friend does not obey the civil judgment, then your friend can be held in contempt of court. Additionally, you have the chance to enforce the judgment. You can, for example, garnish your friends wages if your friend has a job, or you can seize your friend's bank account and pull out $10. You may even be able to sell your friends home to pay off the $10 debt.
Other Civil Judgments
Some civil judgments have nothing to do with money. In a divorce case, for example, a civil judgment might award custody of a child to one of the parents. This civil judgment obviously has nothing to do with money, but can still be enforced by holding the noncomplying party in contempt of court.
When you file a lawsuit, you might expect a quick solution to your problem. However, you should know that it takes a long, long time before your lawsuit will result in a civil judgment. The phrase "the wheels of justice grind slowly" should not be taken lightly. Many cases go on for multiple years before a civil judgment is ever issued.
The Constitution Guru has worked as a writer and editor for "BYU Law Review" and "BYU Journal of Public Law." He is an experienced attorney with a law degree and a B.A. degree in history with an emphasis on U.S. Constitutional history, both earned at Brigham Young University.