A judgment or judgement, in a legal context, is synonymous with the formal decision made by a court following legal proceedings. At the same time the court may also make a range of court orders, such as imposing a sentence upon a guilty defendant in a criminal matter, or providing a remedy for the plaintiff in a civil matter.
In the United States, under the rules of civil procedure governing practice in federal courts and most state courts, the entry of judgment is the final order entered by the court in the case, leaving no further action to be taken by the court with respect to the issues contested by the parties to the lawsuit. With certain exceptions, only a final judgment is subject to appeal.
In other contexts, a judgment implies a balanced weighing up of evidence preparatory to making a decision. A formal process of evaluation applies. A judgment may be expressed as a statement, e.g. S1: ‘A is B’ and is usually the outcome of an evaluation of alternatives. The formal process of evaluation can sometimes be described as a set of conditions and criteria that must be satisfied in order for a judgment to be made. What follows is a suggestive list of some conditions that are commonly required:
- there must be corroborating evidence for S1,
- there must be no true contradicting statements,
- if there are contradicting statements, these must be outweighed by the corroborating evidence for S1, or
- contradicting statements must themselves have no corroborating evidence
- S1 must also corroborate and be corroborated by the system of statements which are accepted as true.
One should be cautious in attributing, without rigorous analysis, a rigid set of criteria to all forms of judgment. Often this results in unnecessary restrictions to judgment methodologies, excluding what may otherwise be considered legitimate judgments. For analogous difficulties in science and the scientific method see the Wikipedia entry on the scientific method.
From the criteria mentioned above, we could judge that “It is raining” if there are raindrops hitting the window, if people outside are using umbrellas, and if there are clouds in the sky. Someone who says that despite all this, it is not raining, but cannot provide evidence for this, would not undermine our judgment.
However, if they demonstrated that there were a sophisticated projection and audio system to produce the illusion of our evidence, then we would probably reconsider our judgment. However, we would not do this lightly, we would demand evidence of the existence of such a system. Then it would need to be decided again upon available new evidence whether or not it was raining.
Many forms of judgment, including the above example, require that they be supported by, and support, known facts which are themselves well supported, and its negation must be shown to be unfounded before it is accepted as well-founded.