Today’s blog is about one of those Latin terms that lawyers and judges say and no one else really knows what it means, until today.
Res judicata, pronounced (Race Jude-ih-kah-tah), means the thing that has been decided or a matter already judged. It is usually used as a legal defense to a suit, wherein the Defendant, the person being sued, raises the defense and argues the Plaintiff, the person suing, cannot get the relief they are seeking because they previously sought and were granted relief, or previously sought and were denied relief or previously sought relief and should have included that claim at that time.
By way of example, this scenario may better explain Res judicata;
Mary sues Jim for divorce. As a part of the divorce Mary seeks the house and equitable distribution of the property, a fair division of the stuff. However, Mary does not seek alimony. The case is either settled or decided by the Chancellor. All issues raised by Mary are resolved. Upon settlement, or the Court’s ruling becoming final, the matter is closed. Mary then realizes her mistake and seeks alimony, either through a new action or through a modification. However, it is too late. That issue is Res judicata, even if Mary should have received alimony, even if the Court would have awarded it. It is barred because Mary could have brought it at the time of the divorce and should have, but did not for whatever reason.
It is important for parties involved in legal proceedings to know what their attorney is talking about and what those terms mean, some of them can really matter.
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney that knows some Latin terms and does not mind explaining them to his clients, even 2 or 3 times. Trust the Bow Tie.
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