A valuable tool for attorneys seeking to resolve a client’s issues is found in the Declaratory Judgment Act.1 It can be a direct and cost-effective alternative to a civil complaint.
The statute allows Courts of record (usually Courts of Common Pleas) to exercise the power to declare the rights, status, or other legal relations whether or not (emphasis supplied) further relief is or could be claimed. The respondent may not object on the ground that a declaratory judgment or decree is prayed for.
The declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and effect, and declarations have the force and effect of a final judgment or decree2.
This statute is especially useful for a litigant asking the Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising from a deed, will, or written contract, or a litigant whose rights, status or other legal relations are affected by a statute, municipal ordinance, contract, or franchise.3
The Court may refuse to render a declaratory judgment or decree where such judgment or decree would not terminate the uncertainty or controversy that gave rise to the proceeding. However, the Act does provide that the existence of an alternative remedy shall not be a ground for the refusal to proceed under the Declaratory Judgments Act.
Thus, this effective statutory tool shall be considered in any proceeding where declaratory relief is sought, and the judgment or decree will terminate the controversy or remove an uncertainty.
In Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler famously stated, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Asking a Court of appropriate jurisdiction to render a decree or judgment related to a declaration concerning the issue at hand will not allow a defendant to plead that response.
1. 42 Pa. C.S.A. Judiciary and Judicial Procedure 7532 et seq.
2. 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 7532
3. 42 Pa. C.S.A § 7533