Consent and Summary Judgments: What is the Difference?

Civil litigation is interesting, if nothing else. It is very different from criminal prosecution. Civil courts have their own ways of doing things. They are able to render unique decisions that don’t fit in a nice little box. As a result, people are often confused about civil decisions. Take the consent and summary judgments. They are quite different.

The starting point is understanding that a judgment is a decision rendered in civil court. Civil courts do not return guilty or innocent verdicts. They also don’t issue and enforce sentences. In essence, civil courts do nothing more than assign liability. With that liability comes corrective action.

Corrective action for both consent and summary judgments can involve a monetary award. One party is forced to pay the other party for debts owed, damages, or something else entirely. But beyond that similarity, there is very little else consent and summary judgments have in common.

Consent Judgments Are Settlements

Have you ever heard of two parties in a lawsuit settling out of court? That is basically what a consent judgment reflects. The two parties believe they have winning cases but still might not feel confident enough to go to trial. Or perhaps they just want to get the matter taken care of quickly. So instead of going to trial, they work out some sort of agreement between them.

That agreement is known as a settlement. Most states require court approval for settlements, so the two parties would submit their agreement to a court for review. Should the court approve the settlement, a consent judgment is rendered. It stipulates that both parties have willingly consented to the settlement and the court has agreed.

Enforcing a Consent Judgment

Consent judgments can be enforced just like any other type of judgment. But because the two sides agreed on an amicable settlement, enforcement is rarely an issue. Both sides live up to what they agreed to and that is that. Rare is the case when one party to a consent judgment needs to be forced to comply.

Summary Judgments Are Different

A summary judgment is a different kind of animal altogether. It is also rendered without having to go to trial, but there isn’t necessarily an agreement between the two parties. Rather, a summary judgment can be entered if a court believes:

  • The plaintiff doesn’t have sufficient evidence to bring a case; or
  • The two sides cannot bring anything to trial that would change the outcome.

A summary judgment is more or less a way to avoid conducting a trial over a matter that will in no way be affected by said trial. A case in point would involve collecting back rent from a deadbeat tenant. The facts have been established prior to trial. Furthermore, state law is clear about collecting back rent. The judge believes that a trial will add nothing further to the case, so he issues a summary judgment.

Enforcing a Summary Judgment

Although the parties involved in a consent judgment rarely need to be forced to comply, losing parties in summary judgments are a different matter. It is often necessary to take enforcement actions against them. Winning parties can take the actions themselves, turn the job over to their attorney’s, or bring in a professional judgment collection agency like Salt Lake City’s Judgment Collectors.

Neither consent nor summary judgments are rendered as a result of a trial. Both avoid trials altogether. Yet that is their only similarity. The two types of judgments are different in just about every way. Knowing the difference could be important if you plan to pursue civil litigation.