An abstract of judgment is a summary of the outcome of a court case which provides basic information about the case, including who won and any damages which the loser must pay. This document is used to create a public record which will make information about the case readily available. In addition, it can be used as an enforcement tool in the event that someone needs to file a lien or a claim against a debtor who is not complying with the court judgment.
If, for example, a creditor sues a debtor in court and wins, the court will issue a judgment mandating that the debtor pay. The judgment may also include an award of interest, fees, and other damages which must be paid by the debtor. In the abstract of judgment, the terms of the judgment are spelled out, along with the identities of the parties in the case, and the document becomes part of the public record.
In this situation, if the debtor fails to comply with the judgment, the creditor can use the abstract of judgment to file a lien on the debtor's real property. The document can also be used to make a claim which is designed to allow the creditor to recover the funds awarded in the judgment. The court itself does not enforce the judgment, but the judgment from the court is used by the winner of the case to get satisfaction.
Once the judgment has been satisfied, the terms of any liens or claims are lifted; for example, a lien on real estate will be lifted, clearing the title and making it possible to sell. The abstract of judgment remains on file as part of the public record, however. Someone investigating a person's history could find the abstract of the judgment and get basic information about the case. This may be relevant in the case of banks preparing to offer credit and other situations in which people want more information about someone's reliability and past history.
There may be cases in which someone appeals the outcome of a case. In these situations, another abstract of judgment with the results of the appeal will also be issued and will become part of the public record as well. This ensures that, in cases where someone actually was not liable, this is duly recorded so that the person does not live with a bad mark on his or her history which might make it difficult to obtain credit or engage in other activities.