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United Kingdom

An abstract is a brief summary of a judicial judgment, usually written by a Barrister or academic for publication in law reports.

Abstracts are of particular use in legal research because they condense the essential points of long, complex judgments into a few paragraphs. A researcher can use abstracts to investigate how relevant a particular case is to the issue at hand, and hence to decide whether he or she should go on to read the entire judgment.

United States

The term "abstract of judgment" may be used in a generic sense to describe a condensed summary of a court case, but it is chiefly used in a technical sense to describe a document produced by a court which describes the judgment rendered in a case.


Criminal law

An abstract of judgment is a clerical document containing a summary of court proceedings which may be useful though not conclusive in proving a prior conviction for the purposes of enhancement. United States v. Gutierrez-Ramirez, 405 F.3d 352, 357 - 58 (5th Cir. 2005) (finding a sentencing court could not rely on an abstract of judgment to determine whether a prior conviction qualifies to enhance a sentence); United States v. Navidad-Marcos, 367 F.3d 903, 908 - 09 (9th Cir. 2004) (holding an abstract of judgment did not "unequivocally" establish that a defendant entered a guilty plea); see also United States. v. Price, 366 U.S. App. D.C. 166, 409 F.3d 436, 445 (D.C. Cir. 2005).

Property law

In some states, such as Texas, an abstract of judgment is a specific type of document provided either by the court clerk or by an attorney which is used to prove that a judgment has been rendered. The abstract may then be filed in another jurisdiction, where it constitutes notice of a "judgment lien" on the debtor's real property, thereby preventing the transfer of that property until the judgment has been paid. This process was described by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1987:

See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 52.002 (1984) (directing clerk to issue an abstract of the judgment "on application of a person in whose favor a judgment is rendered"; no exception for superseded judgments); Thulemeyer v. Jones, 37 Tex. 560, 571 (1872). The bond's only effect would be to prevent Pennzoil from executing the judgment and obtaining Texaco's property.

Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 5 (U.S. 1987)


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