The legal system, like any other system, is prone to making mistakes. Judges have a huge responsibility to interpret the law in view of past precedents if there are any. And sometimes, given the complexity of a case, the judge may get it wrong. What happens when a judge makes a mistake and can you take a judge to court?
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Types Of Judgments
Types of judgments are based upon a number of factors. These can include how the judgment is given, what rules or procedures did the litigants follow, the issues the court will consider before giving out a judgment, and the effect of the judgment. For instance, a judgment can be classified as an oral or a written judgment. An oral judgment is given at the end of a case where a quick judgment is desired or where the judge has a lot of cases to entertain. A written judgment is usually given in more complex cases, which carry the risk of being challenged by either party or where it is of importance to the general public, Written decisions can take weeks or months to be issued by the court.
When talking about the effects of the judgments or outcomes of the judgments, there are three main types involved: in personam, in rem, and quasi in rem. An in personam or personal judgment will require that a defendant does a ceratin action or abstains from another one. It thrusts a legal obligation on the defendant that has to be fulfilled. On the other hand, the judgment may also act as a personal judgment against the litigant, or prosecutor, absolving the defendant of all claims by the litigant. An in rem judgment is a judgment against a thing or property. For instance, a bank account may be seized in a bankruptcy case. Quasi in rem judgment is similar to judgment in rem, but in it is against the property or thing of a person who is absent from the jurisdiction of the court.
Some more types of judgments are briefly listed below:
- Summary Judgment: This is given without a trial, mostly when the defendant does not have a strong defense, when the facts aren’t in the dispute, or when the plaintiff requests a summary judgment keeping in view past cases. This judgment is common when the facts of the case are clear.
- Consent Judgment: A consent judgment is a judgment awarded after the defendant agrees to his obligations and the plaintiff grants him or her time to make up for the losses. Basically, the two parties consent to come to an agreement about the case, without taking it to trial. If the judge agrees to the terms of the agreement, he will sign and award a consent judgment.
- Default Judgment: When the defendant fails to appear in court, the judge may award the case in favor of the plaintiff in what is known as a default judgment. There is no trial.
- Judgment Not Withstanding the Verdict: This sort of judgment is in favor of one party, despite a previous judgment being against the same party. The judge has the jurisdiction in such a case to overturn the verdict by the jury if he or she feels that the decision reached by the jury does not have enough evidence to support it.
- Judgments on The Pleadings: If the defendant enters an answer in response to the plaintiff’s allegations, or submits a letter in response to the Complainant, the plaintiff may request a judgment on the pleadings. This is a request asking the judge to consider coming to a judgment based on the plaintiff’s allegations, the answer submitted by the defendant, the arguments of both the counsels, and the facts presented to the court. The judge issues out a notice to each party before issuing the judgment in an open court.
There may be other kinds of judgments as well which are awarded by special courts, like an arbitration award, trial by the bench, interlocutory judgment, etc. Can you file a complaint against a judge if you feel the judgment is not right?
What Happens When A Judge Makes A Wrong Decision?
The first thing to keep in mind is that declaring a judgment as a wrong judgment by a judge is a risky move and one that is not recommended. If the court feels you are being disrespectful of its decisions, it will hold you responsible in contempt of court, and slap a heavy fine on you.
When a judge makes a wrong decision, you may have the right to an appeal, depending on the circumstances of the case. You may not be able to go for an appeal if you are the plaintiff or the number of damages you are appealing for are not below a certain threshold, amongst other conditions. You cannot go for an appeal just because you do not agree to a certain decision, or find it hard to accept it, or ‘feel’ that the judge made a wrong decision.
The appeal has to be filed within a time limit. If you pass the deadline, the appellate court will simply reject your appeal outright. An appeal can not be filed until the judge enters the written decision in your case, which can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Your time to enter an appeal starts as soon as the judge enters the written decision – even though you may receive the decision in the mail later than that. You can have between 30 to 60 days to enter your appeal. This includes getting all your documents together, submitting the application in the appeals court, finding a reasonable ground of appeals, and as well as submitting all relevant evidence for the court to consider. An appeal is not a ‘second trial’, there will be no jury and the judge will only look at evidence that you submit with your application. Hence, you have to be very careful and precise with your application within a limited time period.
You may think that you’ve got it in the bag after you’ve filed your appeal. If only it were that simple. After you file your application, the appellate court will look at the reason you filed the appeal. Your appeal should be based on the argument that there is an error in how the judgment was made or how the law was interpreted. You could request the appellate court, with evidence, to review if the judge might have made an error as to the facts of the case, or he or she failed to take into consideration a fact or observation that was material to the case. The fact that was ignored should be such that the outcome of the case was affected by it. Further, you could argue that the judge was focused on and guided the trial in an irrelevant way, or acted upon a wrong principle.
If you as the plaintiff were on the losing side of a case and you think the case ended in wrong judgment by the judge, you would have to accept the court’s decision. Only defendants have the right to go for an appeal.
What Can You Do If A Judge Is Biased?
When you go to court, you are normally dealt with by an unbiased judge. Having an impartial judge ensures that justice is done in every case and is seen and accepted by all parties as well. In some cases, the judge may feel that he or she might be biased towards the outcome of the case or may be influenced by external factors. In these scenarios, judges generally recuse themselves from the case. In the judicial sense, recuse means to excuse oneself from hearing the case.
What can you do if a judge is biased and does no recuse himself from the case? Firstly, you and your attorney need to be on the same page about how you feel about the judge. The attorney will have to enter an application requesting that the judge should recuse himself from the case. If the judge does not do so, you can go for an appeal. Keep in mind that you need to have a solid reason and circumstances to show that the judge’s predisposition will affect the outcome of the case. For instance, the judge may have a relative who might benefit financially from the decision if it went a certain way. Or, you may show the judge’s association with a certain party that might affect the outcome as well. Another example can be the judge’s past association with an attorney who is on the case, or if you can prove that the judge has been communicating with any of the parties outside of the court.
Your attorney should know how to file for an appeal, and any timelines to follow. If you want a judge to be recused from your case, you must do that well in time before the proceedings start.
Can You Sue A Judge?
Judges have judicial immunity. This means that they cannot be sued for any judicial act they may perform. These judicial acts can include giving out sentences in criminal cases, giving out decisions in family disputes, or giving their judgment on rulings. You cannot sue a judge on judicial grounds. However, you can move to sue a judge on a non-judicial basis. For instance, if the judge routinely makes racial remarks about a party or ethnicity, making derogatory comments about a certain party who is somehow linked to the case, physically assaulting any of the parties in the courtroom or outside, or allowing assault or bias towards the party in the courtroom, then under these and similar circumstances you may move to sue a judge.
You’ll need to meet a lawyer and provide them with the evidence to show that the judge committed non-judicial acts of a nature that cannot be dismissed. Keep in mind that even if a judge acts in a malicious or corrupt way, they will still be protected under judicial immunity. Your case must be very strong before you file a complaint, otherwise, the judge can move to have the complaint dismissed under the immunity judges are granted under law.