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A decree is an order handed down by a judge that resolves the issues in a court case. Though a decree is similar to a judgment, it differs in a few key ways:

  • Historically, courts of equity, admiralty, divorce, or probate could make decrees while a court of law rendered judgments.
  • After the passage of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which largely dissolved the distinction between courts of equity and law, most courts can now consider all remedies, including decrees.
    • Note, however, that a decree is often still referred to as a judgment.
  • A decree follows an assessment of the rights of involved parties
  • In addition, a decree can be used to address a right that is not recognized by common law
  • Decrees may also include directions that guide how they are to be applied, which adds to their utility as flexible remedies.

Some other examples of a decree include:

See e.g., United States v. FMC Corp., 531 F.3d 813 (9th Cir. 2008)

[Last updated in September of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]