What is Declaratory Judgment?

Legal Definition
A declaratory judgment, also called a declaration, is the legal determination of a court that resolves legal uncertainty for the litigants. It is a form of legally binding preventive adjudication by which a party involved in an actual or possible legal matter can ask a court to conclusively rule on and affirm the rights, duties, or obligations of one or more parties in a civil dispute (subject to any appeal). The declaratory judgment is generally considered a statutory remedy and not an equitable remedy in the United States, and is thus not subject to equitable requirements, though there are analogies that can be found in the remedies granted by courts of equity. A declaratory judgment does not by itself order any action by a party, or imply damages or an injunction, although it may be accompanied by one or more other remedies.

A declaratory judgment is generally distinguished from an advisory opinion because the latter does not resolve an actual case or controversy. Declaratory judgments can provide legal certainty to each party in a matter when this could resolve or assist in a disagreement. Often an early resolution of legal rights will resolve some or all of the other issues in a matter.

A declaratory judgment is typically requested when a party is threatened with a lawsuit but the lawsuit has not yet been filed; or when a party or parties believe that their rights under law and/or contract might conflict; or as part of a counterclaim to prevent further lawsuits from the same plaintiff (for example, when only a contract claim is filed, but a copyright claim might also be applicable). In some instances, a declaratory judgment is filed because the statute of limitations against a potential defendant may pass before the plaintiff incurs damage (for example, a malpractice statute applicable to a certified public accountant may be shorter than the time period the IRS has to assess a taxpayer for additional tax due to bad advice given by the C.P.A.).

Declaratory judgments are authorized by statute in most common-law jurisdictions. In the United States, the federal government and most states enacted statutes in the 1920s and 1930s authorizing their courts to issue declaratory judgments.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
A binding judgment from a court defining the legal relationship between parties and their rights in the matter before the court. A declaratory judgment does not provide for any enforcement, however. In other words, it states the court's authoritative opinion regarding the exact nature of the legal matter without requiring the parties to do anything.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 57) and Title 28 of the U.S. Code govern declaratory judgments in federal court. For an example from case law, see Roe v. Wade 410 US 113 (1973).
Related terms:
Legal Definition
A declaratory judgment is one which simply declares the rights of the parties, or expresses the opinion of the court on a question of law, without ordering anything to be done.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
A judgment establishing the rights of the parties, but ordering nothing.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary