By Rudy Serra
Q: I HAVE A JUDGEMENT AGAINST SOMEONE and they still refuse to pay. They drive a nice car, have top-of-the-line phones and computers, and constantly spend money on expensive jewelry. What can I do?
ANSWER: A court speaks only through its written orders and a judgment is an order of the court. Unless it is enforced, it is only a piece of paper.
The practice of “collecting” on a debt is now highly regulated. Debt collectors are subject to many limitations.
The process of getting a court “judgement” is one of the steps that must be taken to collect a debt without the cooperation of the debtor. Once you have the judgement, there are other steps required.
Before you can get the court to help you seize property, you need to know where it is located and who really owns it. The court rules provide a “creditor’s examination” procedure to allow creditors to question a debtor under oath about bank ac-counts and other assets. Titles to vehicles are easily proven and other personal property can be connected to the debtor in other ways.
Assuming the target of your judgement is “collectible” and you know they have valuable personal assets not real estate), you usually must wait 21 days after the judgment is issued. Then, you can go back to the judge who entered it and file a “request and order to seize property.”
A “request and order to seize property” applies to “personal property” and allows a court officer or deputy sheriff to seize the defendants’ personal property, such as cars, tools, jewelry, business equipment, cash and bank accounts.
The order allows the court officer to sell property after ten days, deduct their statutory fees and expenses, and return the remaining funds to the plaintiff. Court officers and deputy sheriffs sometimes are involved in property seizures and often do such work by contract. Some counties have a unit in the sheriff’s department for this purpose. The amounts deducted are spelled out by law, and again, other requirements exist to seize real estate.
JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. We welcome questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.