It's a living legal community making laws accessible and interactive. Click Here to get Started »
Direction of a court or judge normally made or entered in writing, and not included in a judgment, which determines some point or directs some step in the proceedings.
The decision of a court or judge is made in the form of an order. A court may issue an order after a motion of a party requesting the order, or the court itself may issue an order on its own discretion. For example, courts routinely issue scheduling orders, which set the timetable and procedure for managing a civil lawsuit. More substantive orders, however, typically are made following a motion by one of the parties.
A motion is an application for an order. The granting or denying of a motion is a matter of judicial discretion. When a motion is granted, the moving party (the party who requests the motion) is ordinarily limited to the relief requested in the application. Although no particular form is required, a court order granting a motion should be sufficiently explicit to enable the parties to do whatever is directed. Though a court is not obligated to issue an opinion, in most cases a party is entitled to have the reasons for the decision of the court stated in the order. The order must be consistent with the relief requested in the motion, and it should set forth any conditions on which relief is awarded.
In trial courts the attorney for a party who obtains a favorable ruling usually has the responsibility of writing a proposed order. A copy of the proposed order is furnished to the other party so that he or she can propose amendments to it. It is then presented to the court for settlement and approval. Courts are free, however, to modify proposed orders or to write their own order. Appellate courts routinely write their own orders.
To take effect, an order must be entered, filed, or incorporated into the minutes of the court. An entry or filing must be made with the court administrator within the prescribed time limits.
Aside from scheduling orders and other orders that deal with the administration of a case, there are several general categories of orders. An interlocutory order is an order that does not decide the case but settles some intervening matters relating to it or affords some temporary relief. For example, in a divorce case, a judge will issue an interlocutory order that sets the terms for temporary child support and visitation rights while the case is pending.
A restraining order may be issued upon the filing of an application for an injunction forbidding the defendant to do the threatened act until the court has a hearing on the application. These types of orders are also called temporary restraining orders (TROs), because they are meant to be effective until the court decides whether to order an injunction. For example, if a neighborhood association seeks to prevent a land developer from cutting down a stand of trees, the association would seek an injunction to prevent the cutting and a TRO to forbid the developer from removing the trees before the court holds a hearing. If the association did not request a TRO, the developer could legally cut down the trees and effectively render the injunction request moot.
A final order is one that terminates the action itself or finally decides some matter litigated by the parties. In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff may make many allegations and legal claims, some of which the court may dispose of during the litigation by the issuance of an order. When the court is ready to completely dispose of the case, it enters a final order. As part of the final order, the court directs that judgment be entered, which authorizes the court administrator to close the case in that court.