Vacated judgment

Last updated

A vacated judgment (also known as vacatur relief) makes a previous legal judgment legally void. A vacated judgment is usually the result of the judgment of an appellate court, which overturns, reverses, or sets aside the judgment of a lower court. An appellate court may also vacate its own decisions.


A trial court may have the power under certain circumstances, usually involving fraud or lack of jurisdiction over the parties to a case, to vacate its own judgments.

A vacated judgment may free the parties to civil litigation to re-litigate the issues subject to the vacated judgment.

Another means of having a vacated judgment would be if the defendant dies prior to all appeals being exhausted. Notable defendants having their convictions vacated under this include Kenneth Lay, the former Chairman/CEO of Enron who died before sentencing, and Aaron Hernandez, a former football player who killed himself in jail before his appeals were exhausted. In March, 2019, the vacated judgment of Hernandez was itself overturned, and his murder conviction upheld. [1] On June 30th, 2021, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby due to violations of his right to due process.

United States

"Relief from judgment" of a United States District Court is governed by Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. [2] The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has noted that a vacated judgment "place[s] the parties in the position of no trial having taken place at all; thus a vacated judgment is of no further force or effect." [3]

One form of a vacatur in the United States legal system was established by United States v. Munsingwear, Inc. 340 U.S. 36 (1950), otherwise known as the Munsingwear vacatur. This approach is used when while a case is being held on appeal, whether at the Circuit Court or Supreme Court level, underlying factors make the case moot. The higher court will vacate the lower court's ruling, send the case back to the lower court, and have them render the case moot. Certain conditions must be met before the higher court can give a Munsingwear vacatur, generally allowing this vacatur to be used in three situations: in the matter of "happenstance" (such as the death of a litigant), through a settlement of the parties, or a unilateral action by the prevailing party in the lower court. [4] [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Appellate procedure in the United States National rules of court appeals

United States appellate procedure involves the rules and regulations for filing appeals in state courts and federal courts. The nature of an appeal can vary greatly depending on the type of case and the rules of the court in the jurisdiction where the case was prosecuted. There are many types of standard of review for appeals, such as de novo and abuse of discretion. However, most appeals begin when a party files a petition for review to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision.

Mootness Legal term on the status of a matter

In law, the terms moot and mootness have different meanings in British English and American English.

In the United States, a state court has jurisdiction over disputes with some connection to a U.S. state. State courts handle the vast majority of civil and criminal cases in the United States; the United States federal courts are far smaller in terms of both personnel and caseload, and handle different types of cases.

A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil court of law. The archaic term "suit in law" is found in only a small number of laws still in effect today. The term "lawsuit" is used in reference to a civil action brought by a plaintiff demands a legal or equitable remedy from a court. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint. If the plaintiff is successful, judgment is in the plaintiff's favor, and a variety of court orders may be issued to enforce a right, award damages, or impose a temporary or permanent injunction to prevent an act or compel an act. A declaratory judgment may be issued to prevent future legal disputes.

In law, a judgment, also spelled judgement, is a decision of a court regarding the rights and liabilities of parties in a legal action or proceeding. Judgments also generally provide the court's explanation of why it has chosen to make a particular court order.

Case law, also used interchangeably with common law, is law that is based on precedents rather than law based on constitutions, statutes, or regulations. Case law uses the detailed facts of a case that have been resolved by courts or similar tribunals. These past decisions are called "case law", or precedent. Stare decisis—a Latin phrase meaning "let the decision stand"—is the principle by which judges are bound to such past decisions.

Court of Cassation (France)

The Court of Cassation is one of the four courts of last resort in France. It has jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters triable in the judicial system, and is the supreme court of appeal in these cases. It has jurisdiction to review the law, and to certify questions of law, to determine miscarriages of justice. The Court is located in the Palace of Justice in Paris.

In law, a summary judgment is a judgment entered by a court for one party and against another party summarily, i.e., without a full trial. Summary judgments may be issued on the merits of an entire case, or on discrete issues in that case. The formulation of the summary judgment standard is stated in somewhat different ways by courts in different jurisdictions. In the United States, the presiding judge generally must find there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." In England and Wales, the court rules for a party without a full trial when "the claim, defence or issue has no real prospect of success and there is no other compelling reason why the case or issue should be disposed of at a trial."

<i>Res judicata</i> Claim preclusion in law

Res judicata (RJ) or res iudicata, also known as claim preclusion, is the Latin term for "a matter decided" and refers to either of two concepts in both civil law and common law legal systems: a case in which there has been a final judgment and is no longer subject to appeal; and the legal doctrine meant to bar relitigation of a claim between the same parties.

Prejudice is a legal term with different meanings when used in criminal, civil, or common law. In legal context "prejudice" differs from the more common use of the word and thus has specific technical meanings.

The writ of coram nobis is a legal order allowing a court to correct its original judgment upon discovery of a fundamental error that did not appear in the records of the original judgment's proceedings and would have prevented the judgment from being pronounced. The term "coram nobis" is Latin for "before us" and the meaning of its full form, quae coram nobis resident, is "which [things] remain in our presence". The writ of coram nobis originated in the courts of common law in the English legal system during the sixteenth century.

Remand is when higher courts send cases back to lower courts for further action.

In law, the standard of review is the amount of deference given by one court in reviewing a decision of a lower court or tribunal. A low standard of review means that the decision under review will be varied or overturned if the reviewing court considers there is any error at all in the lower court's decision. A high standard of review means that deference is accorded to the decision under review, so that it will not be disturbed just because the reviewing court might have decided the matter differently; it will be varied only if the higher court considers the decision to have obvious error. The standard of review may be set by statute or precedent. In the United States, "standard of review" also has a separate meaning concerning the level of deference the judiciary gives to Congress when ruling on the constitutionality of legislation.

2005 term per curiam opinions of the Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States handed down sixteen per curiam opinions during its 2005 term, which lasted from October 3, 2005 until October 1, 2006.

In United States law, remittitur is a ruling by a judge lowering the amount of damages granted by a jury in a civil case. The term is sometimes used where a judgment exceeds the amount demanded by the prevailing party, or for a reduction in awarded damages even when the amount awarded did not exceed the amount demanded but is otherwise considered excessive. The term originally denoted a procedural device in English common law, although it has long fallen into disuse in England and other common law jurisdictions, and it has evolved in American use to serve a different function than it originally performed in England.

Greenlaw v. United States, 554 U.S. 237 (2008), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that a federal appeals court may not sua sponte increase a defendant's sentence unless the government first files a notice of appeal.

Appeal Resort to a superior court to review the decision of an inferior court or administrative agency

In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed by a higher authority, where parties request a formal change to an official decision. Appeals function both as a process for error correction as well as a process of clarifying and interpreting law. Although appellate courts have existed for thousands of years, common law countries did not incorporate an affirmative right to appeal into their jurisprudence until the 19th century.

In law, post conviction refers to the legal process which takes place after a trial results in conviction of the defendant. After conviction, a court will proceed with sentencing the guilty party. In the American criminal justice system, once a defendant has received a guilty verdict, he or she can then challenge a conviction or sentence. This takes place through different legal actions, known as filing an appeal or a federal habeas corpus proceeding. The goal of these proceedings is exoneration, or proving a convicted person innocent. If lacking representation, the defendant may consult or hire an attorney to exercise his or her legal rights.

Abatement ab initio is a common law legal doctrine that states that the death of a defendant who is appealing a criminal conviction vacates the conviction. Abatement ab initio was the subject of two United States Supreme Court decisions, Durham v. United States (1971) and Dove v. United States (1976). The former extended the doctrine to cases where certiorari was pending and not yet granted, and the latter excluded discretionary appeals.

Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U.S. ___ (2020), was a U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that guilty verdicts for criminal trials be unanimous. Only cases in Oregon were affected by the ruling, because every other state already had this requirement. The decision incorporated the Sixth Amendment requirement for unanimous jury criminal convictions against the states, and thereby overturned the Court's previous decision from the 1972 case Apodaca v. Oregon.


  1. Tony Marco; Ray Sanchez. "Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction reinstated by high court". CNN.
  2. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Dec. 1, 2012)
  3. United States v. Williams, 904 F.2d 7, 8 (7th Cir. 1990) (citations removed).
  4. Millett, Pattie (June 10, 2008). "Practice Pointer: Mootness and Munsingwear Vacatur". SCOTUSblog . Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  5. Schoen, David (April 3, 2014). "Consequences of Mootness on Appeal". American Bar Association . Retrieved November 5, 2018.