Civil Jury Cases. Although a civil jury case may originate in another court, all civil jury cases are tried and adjudicated in the Superior Court. The verdict of the jury and the judgment subsequently entered thereon are two distinct steps in a judicial proceeding, and the judgment is ordinarily governed by the verdict.16 If the verdict is a general verdict for a specific sum of money or for a denial of all relief, the Prothonotary must enter the verdict in the judgment docket immediately without awaiting any direction from the court.17 When the jury announces a special verdict or a verdict accompanied by answers to interrogatories, the court must promptly approve the form of the judgment, after which the Prothonotary must immediately enter it in the judgment docket.18
Civil Non-Jury Cases. In civil non-jury cases, the order of the court constitutes the judgment.19 In the Superior Court or the Court of Common Pleas, when the court rules that a party shall receive only a sum certain and costs or that all relief is denied, the Prothonotary or clerk of the court must enter judgment on the docket immediately, absent any order of the court to the contrary. If the court’s judgment is for other relief, the Prothonotary may not enter the judgment until the court has approved the form of the judgment.20
In the Court of Chancery, the court signs the order which constitutes the judgment and sends it to the Register in Chancery, who assigns to it the next consecutive number in the docket of the case, enters in the docket under that number the date and tenor of the order and files the order along with the other papers on file in the case. This constitutes the entry of the judgment on the docket.21 However, a person affected by the order and with notice of it may be subject to being held in contempt if he or she violates the order, notwithstanding that it has not yet been entered in the docket by the Register in Chancery.
If the Court of Chancery enters a judgment for the payment of money, the court may direct, and the Prothonotary is required to follow such direction, that the judgment be entered in the same manner and form and in the same books and indexes as judgments entered in the Superior Court. Such a judgment will have the same force and effect as though the judgment had been entered in the Superior Court.22 If several judgments are entered against the same person on the same day, the first entered has priority. If it cannot be discerned from the entries which judgment was entered first, priority will be determined according to when the actions giving rise to the judgments commenced.23
In the Court of Common Pleas, all civil judgments are entered in an indexed judgment docket. This judgment does not constitute a lien on real property. However, upon motion by the judgment creditor, the court may order that a transcript of the judgment be filed in the office of the Prothonotary. In that event, the Prothonotary must enter into its docket the names of the parties, the amount of the judgment, the name of the court in which the judgment was recovered, the time from which interest runs and the amount of the costs with the true date of such filing and entry. The transferred judgment, as in the case of judgments originating in the Superior Court, becomes a lien on all real estate of the debtor located in the county in which the judgment is so entered from the date of entry and may be executed and enforced in the same manner as judgments of the Superior Court.24
In the Justice of the Peace Court, judgments are effective only when entered upon the docket. Immediately upon entry, the court must serve notice of entry upon the parties.25
In the Superior Court attorneys are not to submit forms of judgment except upon direction of the court, the direction of which is not to be given as a matter of course.26
In the Family Court, the Order of the court constitutes the judgment of the court.27 All records of proceedings before the Family Court are private and are available only to the court and its staff, the parties and their attorneys, other courts and public agencies, and other persons with a legitimate interest as approved by the court.28
16. Nelson v. Canadian Industrial Alcohol Co., 189 A. 591, 592 (Del. Super. 1937), aff’d, 197 A. 477 (Del. 1938).
17. Super. Ct. Civ. R. 58(1).
18. Super. Ct. Civ. R. 58(2).
19. Ch. Ct. R. 58; Super. Ct. Civ. R. 58(1, 2); Comm. Pls. Ct. Civ. R. 58; Fam. Ct. Civ. R. 58.
20. Super. Ct. Civ. R. 58(2); Comm. Pls. Ct. Civ. R. 58.
21. Ch. Ct. R. 58, 79(a).
22. 10 Del. C. § 4734. This enables a judgment to become an immediate lien on real property. 10 Del. C. § 4702.
23. 10 Del. C. § 4705.
24. 10 Del. C. § 1325(a).
25. J.P. Ct. Civ. R. 58.
26. Super. Ct. Civ. R. 58(3).
27. Fam. Ct. Civ. R. 58.
28. Fam. Ct. Civ. R. 90.1.
© 2010 David L. Finger