samples from the complete judgment recovery guidebook

What is Judgment Recovery?

When a judgment is transferred, it is assigned. The person to whom the judgment is assigned is the Assignee. Enforcing a judgment can be done in several ways, and may be done by the Judgment Creditor, counsel (attorney) for the Judgment Creditor, or by the Assignee

Enforcing a judgment is the process of converting the judgment from words and numbers on paper into something tangible… cash or its equivalent.


Leave No Stone Unturned

Enforcing judgments is the practice of leaving no stone unturned to maximize collection of monetary damages awarded by the court. It is not being a thief or scoundrel. It is not taking something from someone without having just cause to do so, nor doing so without an order or writ from the court. It is also not violating a person’s rights nor failing to recognize the responsibilities that the person holding the judgment must treat the Judgment Debtor with all due respect. 

You Are The Key

  Judgments don’t enforce themselves. It takes effort and an amount of persistence to recover the amounts due on judgments. You should be prepared for the unexpected. The Judgment Debtor may attempt to conceal assets, and getting to the bottom of their financial condition is imperative. 

In this business, there are many twists, turns and surprises, most of them coming from one direction (the Judgment Debtor). 

If you are an Assignee, once you have secured the Assignment of Judgment, you should be prepared to enforce that judgment. There are certain things that an Assignee should have, either upon filing the Assignment of Judgment or soon afterward. They are:

· A conformed copy of the Assignment of Judgment

· A Writ of Execution or other similar levy/garnishment instrument

· An Abstract of Judgment or other document to record a judgment lien at the county recorder’s office

Completing court forms or typing out pleadings may be a somewhat intimidating at first. However, once you are past the stage of looking at the court forms and scratching your head, it becomes almost second nature. 

Learn to Understand the Law

A claim for a debt owed or obligation is just that. Until the claim is adjudicated and rendered to a judgment by a court of competent jurisdiction, the claim is not executable. Once the judgment is rendered, the claim has been converted into an intangible piece of personal property and may be executed against the Judgment Debtor. 

Damages in civil litigation (as opposed to criminal litigation) are generally a monetary award to the prevailing party (Judgment Creditor). Damages may be in the form of a tort remedy, extending to punishment (punitive damages), deterrence, and the preservation of private rights; or one in which the monetary award is extended to create equitable relief or to give compensatory damages. 

Many private rights are characterized by contracts, or agreements, which extend or transfer property rights from one party to another. Private rights may be established or otherwise transferred by written or oral contracts; or may be transferred by statute or court order (adjudication).

It’s important to understand how case law is made. Understanding the parts of an appeals court ruling is fundamental to this task. The origins of case law begin with the appeal of a ruling in the trial court. In your jurisdiction, the trial court may be referred to as the Justice Court, Municipal Court, District Court, Circuit Court, Superior Court, or another name.

The Judge, Jury, and the Other Players

For a Plaintiff, there’s a lot of decision making that goes into filing a lawsuit. The choice of court (if one can choose), the amount of damages (how much money is owed), and getting past the intimidating thoughts of having to appear before a judge and/or jury are just some of the factors in the decision making process. Explore how lawsuits are filed, and look at the three main players at the courthouse: the Clerk of the Court, the Sheriff (or Marshal or Constable) and Process Server, and the Judge. 

Attorneys may render legal advice or an opinion about a certain matter, and argue before the court, advocating their client’s position, but it will be the judge who is the final arbiter of whether or not what is asked for shall be granted. A trial by jury will make a finding and render a verdict awarding monetary damages in civil cases, but the judge is the final decision maker on a case. 

Finding the Debtor & Their Assets

Skiptracing is locating a person or entity that seemingly disappeared, or skipped. It is finding people who don’t want to be found. Nobody really disappears. Like playing Hide and Go Seek with my grandkids, where I would magically make myself “disappear” while hiding in plain sight, people do the same thing. They have habits, likes and dislikes that are usually traceable – called patterns of behavior. 

Following these patterns is usually what gives us clues to find the skip (the person hiding).

Skiptracing is done through a combination of data mining, then matching the data to build a file, taking that raw data, combining it with other information and resources (guile, wit, and just plain horse sense, to name a few), to actually locate the party or assets.

 Although much in skiptracing is reduced to formulae, the result often does not come only from the gathering of information, but the manner in which the information is used.  

Enforce the Judgment

 Be as effective (and reasonably aggressive) as you can in securing monies from the Judgment Debtor. You may not get a second chance.

Don’t execute against a leased vehicle. Vehicles with finance company liens on them may not have as much value as you believe because of the balance due on the loan. So, before you execute against a motor vehicle, get an idea of what the payoff is, subtract that from the wholesale book value, less the debtor’s statutory exemption, and judge for yourself if there is an asset to grab, there. 

Wage Garnishments are a basic tool in judgment enforcement against individuals earning a paycheck. In some states, a “wage” garnishment may also be applicable to those persons who are commissioned or “outside contractor” as well and should be used to levy on monies earned by the debtor for personal services rendered (whether called wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, or anything else). Just as the title implies, a wage garnishment takes part of a person’s paycheck to pay for a judgment. 

Under community property laws, each spouse equally owns all income and property acquired during the marriage. You may be able to garnish the non-debtor spouse’s paycheck if a) they live in a community property state, b) the judgment was obtained in that state or domesticated into that state and the community property estate was attached, and c) their assets (accounts) are co-mingled jointly.