Monday, April 24, 2017

Show me the money!


Money is never boring
The other day, this guy comes into the law library happy as a clam.  Seems he had filed a civil action and, subsequently, won a judgment against his arch enemy (his ex-muther-in-law) and was now looking to collect on the judgment. See, just because you win a case doesn't mean that you will get anything.  Most people don't like to hand over their cash; so sometimes you have to press the issue.  While most law libraries have resources on how to collect on a judgment such as:
...I was able to point guy to what he needed to deal with his collection issues (because I used to do this stuff...you know, before I was an omnipotent law Librarian).  For those, who find themselves trying to collect a debt, following are some ways to help you collect a judgment:
  1. Levy execution on the debtors wages.  Typically called a "wage garnishment," this order tells the debtor's employer to give the sheriff the money out of the debtor's wages (who then give it to you). To do this, complete a Writ of Execution for and submit to the court clerk (who will issue the order). You will also have to pay the fee for the Earnings Withholding Order.  This one is embarrassing to the debtor and annoying for an employer (who may then want to fire the debtor making it harder for you to collect money).
  2. Levy execution on the debtor's checking or other bank account (i.e. Bank Levy).  Basically, you're taking money from the debtor's band account.  Get a Writ of Execution from the clerk and pay the fee.
  3. Record an Abstract of Judgment.  Filed against land owned by the debtor, this instrument places a lien on the land so that if they land is ever sold, you will get your judgment before the seller (i.e. the debtor) gets any sales proceeds.  At least, that's how it's supposed to work, in theory.  Request an Abstract of Judgment from the court clerk and pay the filing fee.
  4. Have the sheriff do a "till tap."  If the debtor is a business with a cash register, the sheriff can go to the business and tap the till - basically, take out the amount of the judgment.  Complete and Writ of Execution, have the clerk issues it, pay the fee, and take it to the sheriff.  If there isn't enough cash when the sheriff taps the till, you can instruct the sheriff to go back (of course, you'll have to pay a fee each time the sheriff makes an attempt).
  5. Put a "keeper" in the business.  Actually, this one is a bit iffy because no one likes having a stranger on premises taking their money. What happens is that you pay to have a person to stay on the premises and collect cash, checks and bank credit card drafts as money comes into the business.  You'll need a Writ of Execution, have the clerk issue it, and take it to the sheriff.
  6. Conduct a "Judgment Debtor's Examination."  In this case, the judgment debtor is ordered to appear in court to answer your questions about their salary, bank accounts, property, and anything else that can be used to pay the judgment.  You can subpoena the debtor's bank books, property deeds, paycheck stubs, and other similar documents and require the debtor to bring them to the hearing.  Based on the answers to your questions, you can have the judge order the debtor turn over their assets to cover the judgment.  You'll need to pay a fee and complete a Subpoena Duces Tecum and an Application and Order to Appear for Examination form.  The Application and Order form must be served on the judgment debtor and the debtor must be within 150 miles of the court for the court to have jurisdiction over the debtor.
  7. Suspend debtor's driver's license.  While this doesn't actually collect any money, it does have the effect of annoying the living heck out of people into getting you your money.  In the instance where you were in a car accident and obtained a judgement for $750 (or less) and the judgment wasn't paid in 90 days after the judgment becomes final, you can complete form DL 17 and file it with the Department of Motor Vehicles.  This will suspend a license for 90 days.  If the judgment is over $1,000, the suspension can last indefinitely until the judgment is paid.
  8. Submit an Abstract of Judgment with one of the three credit reporting companies.  While this may not get you your dough any time soon, it will have the effect of preventing the person(s) owing the money from ever renting an apartment (few landlords like renting to deadbeats with judgments on their record).
So, there you have it.  You need answers to questions, we have answers to questions.  It's just that simple.  So, head on over to your local county law library to get on your path of financial enlightenment.