Definition of DECREE in Black's Law Dictionary 4th Edition – Legal dictionary – Glossary of legal terms.

Definition of DECREE

In Practice

The judgment of a court of equity or admiralty, answering for most purposes to the judgment of a court of common law. A decree in equity is a sentence or order of the court, pronounced on hearing and understanding all the points in issue, and determining the rights of all the parties to the suit, according to equity and good conscience. 2 Daniell, Ch.Pr. 986; Wooster v. Handy, C.C.N.Y., 23 F. 49, 56; Motion Picture Patents Co. v. Universal Film Mfg. Co., D.C., N.Y., 232 F. 263, 265; Bull v. International Power Co., 84 N.J.Eq. 209, 93 A. 86, 88; Alford v. Leonard, 88 Fla. 532, 102 So. 885, 890. It is a declaration of the court announcing the legal consequences of the facts found. Robertson v. Talmadge, Tex.Civ.App., 174 S.W. 627, 629.

A decree, as distinguished from an order, is final, and is made at the hearing of the cause, whereas an order is interlocutory, and is made on motion or petition. Wherever an order may, in a certain event resulting from the direction contained in the order, lead to the termination of the suit in like manner as a decree made at the hearing, it is called a "decretal order." Brown.

A judgment at law, as distinguished from a decree in equity, was either simply for the plaintiff or for the defendant. There could be no qualifications or modifications. But such a judgment does not always touch the true justice of the cause or put the parties in the position they ought to occupy. This result was attained by the decree of a court of equity which could be so moulded, or the execution of which could be so controlled and suspended, that the relative duties and rights of the parties could be secured and enforced. Bisph.Eq. § 7.

The words "judgment" and "decree," however, are often used synonymously; Finnell v. Finnell, 113 Okl. 269, 230 P. 912, 913; especially now that the Codes have abolished the distinction between law and equity; Henderson v. Arkansas, 71 Okl. 253, 176 P. 751, 753. But of the two terms, "judgment" is the more • comprehensive, and includes "decree." Coleman v. Los Angeles County, 180 Cal. 714, 182 P. 440, 441.

Decision of an administrative board though based on facts adduced on a hearing, Dal Maso v. Board of Com'rs of Prince George's County, 182 Md. 200, 34 A.2d 464, 466, or rescript from reviewing court are not decrees. City of Boston v. Santosuosso, 308 Mass. 189, 31 N.E.2d 564, 568.


Decrees in equity are either final or interlocutory. A final decree is one which fully and finally disposes of the whole litigation, determining all questions raised by the case, and leaving nothing that requires further judicial action. Sawyer v. White, 125 Me. 206, 132 A. 421, 422; Draper Corporation v. Stafford Co., C.C.A.Mass., 255 F. 554, 555; Burgin v. Sugg, 210 Ala. 142, 97 So. 216, 2177 An interlocutory decree is a provisional or preliminary decree, which is not final and does not determine the suit, but directs some further proceedings preparatory to the final decree. It is a decree pronounced for the purpose of ascertaining matter of law or fact preparatory to a final decree. 1 Barb. Ch. Pr. 326, 327; Wooster v. Handy, C.C. N.Y., 23 F. 49, 56; Beebe v. Russell, 19 How. 283, 15 L.Ed. 668; Cornely v. Marckwald, 131 U.S. 159, 9 S.Ct. 744, 33 L.Ed. 117. Where something more than the ministerial execution of the decree as rendered is left to be clone, the decree is interlocutory, and not final, even though it settles the equities of the bill. Lodge v. Twell, 135 U.S. 232, 10 S.Ct. 745, 34 L.Ed. 153.. The difficulty of exact definition is mentioned in McGourkey v. Ry. Co., 146 U.S. 536, 13 S.Ct. 170, 36 L.Ed. 1079. See, also, Keystone Manganese & Iron Co. v. Martin, 132 U. S. 91, 10 S.Ct. 32, 33 L.Ed. 275; Leyhe v. McNamara, Tex.Com.App., 243 S.W. 1074, 1076.

In French Law

Certain acts of the Legislature or of the sovereign which have the force of law are called "decrees"; as the Berlin and Milan decrees.

In Scotch Law

A final judgment or sentence of court by which the question at issue between the parties is decided.

In General

Consent decree. One entered by consent of the parties; it is not properly a judicial sentence, but is in the nature of a solemn contract or agreement of the parties, made under the sanction of the court, and in effect an admission by them that the decree is a just determination of their rights upon the real facts of the case, if such facts had been proved. Allen v. Richardson, 9 Rich.Eq., S.C., 53; Schmidt v. Mining Co., 28 Or. 9, 40 P. 1014, 52 Am. St.Rep. 759; Hodgson v. Vroom, C.C.A.N.Y., 266 F. 267, 268; Barnes v. American Fertilizer Co., 144 Va. 692, 130 S.E. 902, 911. It binds only the consenting parties; Myllius v. Smith, 53 W.Va. 173, 44 S.E. 542; and is not binding upon the court; Ex parte Loung June, D.C.N.Y., 160 F. 251, 259. Parties thereto must be competent to contract. Consaer v. Wisniewski, 293 Ill.App. 529, 13 N.E.2d 93, 94.

Decree dative. In Scotch law. An order of a probate court appointing an administrator.

Decree nisi. A provisional decree, which will be made absolute on motion unless cause be shown against it. In English practice, it is the order made by the court for divorce, on satisfactory proof being given in support of a petition for dissolution of marriage; it remains imperfect for at least six months, (which period may be shortened by the court down to three,) and then, unless sufficient cause be shown, it is made absolute on motion, and the dissolution takes effect, subject to appeal. Wharton. It effects a conditional divorce, becoming absolute only upon the happening of a prescribed contingency. Grant v. Grant, 84 N.J.Eq. 81, 92 A. 791, 793.

Decree of constitution. In Scotch practice. A decree by which a debt is ascertained. Bell. In technical language, a decree which is requisite to found a title in the person of the creditor, whether that necessity arises from the death of the debtor or of the creditor. Id.

Decree of distribution. An instrument by which heirs receive property of a deceased; it is a final determination of the parties to a proceeding. Fischer v. Dolwig, 29 N.D. 561, 151 N:W. 431, 432; In re Bradford's Estate, 128 N.J.Eq. 372, 16 A.2d 268, 270.

Decree of forthcoming. In Scotch law. A decree made after an arrestment (q. v.) ordering the debt to be paid or the effects of the debtor to be delivered to the arresting creditor. Bell.

Decree of insolvency. One entered in a probate court, declaring the estate in question to be insolvent, that is, that the assets are not sufficient to pay the debts in full. Bush v. Coleman, 121 Ala. 548, 25 So. 569; Walker v. Newton, 85 Me. 458, 27 A. 347.

Decree of locality. In Scotch law. The decree of a teind court allocating stipend upon different heritors. It is equivalent to the apportionment of a tithe rent-charge.

Decree of modification. In Scotch law. A decree of the teind court modifying or fixing a stipend.

Decree of nullity. One entered in a suit for the annulment of a marriage, and adjudging the marriage to have been null and void ab initio. See Nullity.

Decree of registration. In Scotch law. A proceeding giving immediate execution to the creditor; similar to a warrant of attorney to confess judgment.

Decree pro confesso. One entered in a court of equity in favor of the complainant where the defendant has made no answer to the bill and its allegations are consequently taken "as confessed." Ohio Cent. R. Co. v. Central Trust Co., 133 U.S. 83, 10 S.Ct. 235, 33 L.Ed. 561; Equity Rules 16, 17, see Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. rules 6, 55, 28 U.S.C.A.; Freem. Judg. § 11; 1 Dan.Ch.Pr. 5th Am. ed. 517, n. It is merely an admission of the allegations of the bill well pleaded. Remington v. Barney, 35 R.I. 267, 86 A. 891, 892; Majure v. Johnson, 192 Miss. 810, 7 So.2d 545, 549.

Deficiency decree. In a mortgage foreclosure suit, a decree for the balance of the indebtedness after applying the proceeds of a sale of the mortgaged property to such indebtedness. Commercial Bank of Ocala v. First Nat. Bank, 80 Fla. 685, 87 So. 315, 316.

For "Execution of decree," see Execution of Judgment or Decree.

That's the definition of DECREE in Black's Law Dictionary 4th Edition – Legal dictionary – Glossary of legal terms. Courtesy of

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