What does 'vacate the judgment' mean?

  • Vacate means to do away with. In court a judgment becomes final when the case is over and a judge has signed a piece of paper. The judgment is then effective until it is satisfied (by payment, or by doing whatever the judgment says) or until the judge has a legal reason to set the judgment aside. For instance if an appeal is filed, and some other judge says the first judge was mistaken, the second judge will vacate (put in suspense) the judgment. The judgment does not then have to be obeyed at that time. A court of appeals can reverse a case and change the judgment, or reverse the case and vacate the judgment (everybody starts over and you retry the case until you get a new judgment)
  • In the UK there is a phrase known as "set aside judgment". This phrase normally describes a procedure by which judgment has been granted to a Claimant because no Defence has been filed within a prescribed time period. If however, there was good reason for this - such as the Claim was not properly served then the Defendant can apply to "set aside judgment" and if this application is granted the Defendant can enter a Defence.