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When Judgment Enforcers Flake
This article is about what one can do in the unfortunate situation where one assigns a judgment to a non-vetted judgment enforcer and they disappear, and you wish to regain ownership of your judgment. This article covers my California opinions. Other states have different procedures and laws, and this article is not legal advice.
One reason people use Judgment Enforcers (JEs) is because they do not have to pay JEs anything to enforce their judgment. JEs who are not lawyers or collection agencies, must get your judgment assigned to them. This means that the JE will own your judgment. That is the only way anyone who is not a lawyer or a collection agency can enforce your judgment.
If you do not assign your judgment to a JE, you may have to pay to have your judgment enforced - even if it becomes throwing good money in after bad. Also, lawyers and collection agencies do not take every judgment, especially not small judgments. For these reasons, it is very popular to assign judgments to a JE.
Something that should not happen, but it does, is that a JE will recover your judgment, and then pocket the money and run off, stealing from you, the Original Judgment Creditor (OJC). This happens once in a while especially for judgment enforcers not screened by a judgment broker. If someone, including a Judgment Enforcer, steals from you, you can sue them.
With the economic meltdown, and with courts raising their fees, some JEs have gone out of business. Most of the JEs that go out of business do the right thing - and assign (return) all judgments back to the OJCs.
Few JEs would ever plan to abandon their responsibilities. Unfortunately some JEs move, get sick, exit the business, go bankrupt, or die - without assigning judgments back to the OJCs.
Few of us plan on getting sick or to die, but both sickness and death happen. A responsible JE plans in advance with both their families and others they have contracted with, for winding down their judgment business, should they become unable to continue.
If a JE dies or gets sick, one should be very patient before politely inquiring about the status of their judgment.
If you can locate the JE - ask them to return the judgment to you. If they have no valid reason to keep it, and they refuse to assign it back to you, you could attempt to sue them for the return of your judgment. Suing a JE is a last resort, so try to work out a compromise with them that involves getting your judgment back. Note - if a JE is making any progress, you should not ask for your judgment back.
Rarely, but more than once, a JE has moved, went bankrupt, or just abandons their business. Sometimes they move and cancel their phone, fax, and email address.
When your JE goes missing, you may want to get your judgment back. However, if your debtor is hopelessly broke or went bankrupt, there may be no logical reason to get your judgment back.
If you want to get your judgment back to you, and you cannot find the Judgment Enforcer (JE) you assigned your judgment to, first check with the court.
If the JE did not file the assignment of judgment at the court - the judgment still belongs to you, so you can enforce your judgment, or find a (more stable) judgment enforcer.
If the JE did file the assignment of judgment at the court, even if they ran off and cannot be found, they legally own your judgment. You have choices now. The easiest but most expensive choice is to hire a lawyer to handle this situation for you.
Your other choice is to fix it yourself. To fix it yourself, (keep in mind I am not a lawyer) there are two ways to go in the caption of your court document:
1) File a "Motion to Void Assignment of Judgment" with the court.
2) File a "Resumption of Rights as Creditor" with the court.
Basically, you state the judgment was assigned, and the JE disappeared, and now you, the OJC, wish to assert your right to resume ownership as the original judgment creditor.
The wordings with either option are almost the same, and both require you to prepare papers and a declaration, and get it signed with a notary's stamp, make copies of it, and then later appear in court at a hearing.
Both options require a noticed motion, which means getting a proof of service by mail done. You must get someone (not you) to mail a copy of your court papers to the last known address of the missing JE. If that address bounces, and you used due diligence in trying to find their last known address. If they cannot be found, that is not your problem.
For either option, prepare a court document, declaring the following:
A) The date, amount, and names on the original judgment, and that you were the OJC.
B) How you assigned the judgment, on what date, to who, with their last known address, pursuant to the laws in your state. (E.g. in California Code of Civil Procedure 673.)
C) How long the JE has been missing and, even with your best efforts, you are unable to locate them. State what you did to try to find them.
D) Because the JE is missing, you are stating for the record that you are asking the court to void the previous assignment of judgment. In the absence of the JE, you need the intervention of the court to do the equivalent of assigning the judgment back to you, by voiding the previous assignment of judgment.
With your papers, including a proposed court order, with your proof of service done, and copies made, bring the copies, and get on the court's calendar for a hearing. On that date, you appear and bring your copies to the court. If the judge asks you a question, you explain what you filed with the court.
Once this is completed, you can find another judgment enforcer. For best results, use JudgmentBuy to find a reliable and stable enforcer, agency, or lawyer. (See our Judgment Enforcer Out Of Business article).
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