DECREE (Lat. dreretum. judgment, from de cerncre, to separate one thing from another, to decide). In the Civil Law. an Imperial judgment in causes brought before the Emperor on appeal, or otherwise. These judgments were promul gated as law, and the principles enunciated iu them were binding on all the courts of the Em pire.. See Civil, LAW; CORPUS .KRIS; DECRETAL.
In English and American law, the judgment, or order, of a court of equity, the term "judg being properly restricted to the adjudica tion of a matter by the courts of common law. The difference between a judgment and a decree is fundamental, and springs out of the radical difference in the character of the jurisdiction ex ercised by the two classes of tribunals. The function of the law court is merely to decide the bare question in controversy between the litigat ing parties, awarding an unconditional judg ment to one or the other of them. The court of equity, on the other hand, undertakes to do sub stantial justice between the parties as to the whole matter submitted by them, and it may make such decree, or order, as justice may require, without being confined to the award or denial of the particular remedy sought by the complainant. Accordingly, it may, before the final adjudication of the case, grant an 'inter locutory' decree, which may or may not become the 'final' decree of the court, or it may issue a conditional order, which shall become absolute or void, according as the condition is or is not with.
A decree nisi (unless) is a conditional order, to become absolute 'unless,' before the date fixed therein, rood cause shall be shown to the court for vacating it. A decree for a temporary in junction, if drawn to become permanent, unless cause to the contrary be shown, is of this char acter. The phrase is not in common use in the United States, however, and in England it has come to be appropriated to a particular case in which a decree nisi is commonly employed, namely, in decrees for divorce not to take effect for a probationary period of six months or more, during which time any person may show cause why the decree should he vacated, and the parties reinstated in their conjugal rights.
In jurisdictions in which the law and equity systems have been merged, or in which they are administered by the same tribunals, the term judgment is often employed in a compre hensive sense to include decree; and when the law permits both legal and equitable remedies to be afforded in the same action, the judgment rendered may he both a judgment and a decree.
See DIVoRCE: CHANCERY: EQUITY; JUDGMENT: and the authorities there referred to.