DC Judgments

August 10, 2023


This article summarizes certain Washington, DC judgment-related laws. Washington DC, formally the District of Columbia, and is sometimes called Washington D.C., “The District”, or just “DC”; is the capital of the United States. DC is on Federal land, and is not part of any State.

One of many judgment articles: I am a Judgment Broker, not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.

A judgment means the court orders that one person or entity owes another person or entity. In a civil or criminal or family court case, after a judge or jury decides to award a judgment, it is entered in the court’s records and may be enforced. However, the court will not make the debtor pay, and few debtors pay voluntarily.

In every State, a judgment lien can be attached to the debtor’s real estate property interests. Some states allow (usually judgment-related UCC) liens on the debtor’s personal property, for example a debtor’s toys, collections, art, jewelry, antiques, and other valuables.

In DC and every other State, if the DC debtor owns real estate property, the creditor can record a judgment lien on the property, and might get paid from the eventual sale of the judgment debtor’s property.

DC did not seem to have UCC liens until 2001; now in DC, UCC personal property liens are allowed. Note that without referencing a judgment, UCC liens usually have very little power.

In DC, to attach a judgment lien, the creditor files their judgment lien with the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds. DC judgment liens last for 12 years, even if the debtor’s property changes hands.

In DC, a creditor’s ability to collect with a judgment lien can be negatively affected by several factors. The first potential roadblock is the homestead (currently $67.5K) exemption and/or the (not as common) domicile exemption, if the property is the debtor’s primary residence. The homestead and domicile exemptions are fixed amounts of equity that cannot be reached by average creditors.

Other potential roadblocks are other liens and secured loans that may be in place, and foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings. For such complications, you may want to talk with an experienced DC debt or bankruptcy lawyer.

An important DC judgment law is the 2012 District of Columbia Code Section 15-101, which specifies the enforceable period of judgments, and when they expire.

As per D.C. Code 16-542: An attachment may be issued with a judgment (in some cases before a final judgment is issued) using a Fieri Facias, called a writ of execution in some other states. Most judgment-related costs may be added. (This law is truncated for article size.)

As per D.C. Code 16-546: An attachment shall be levied upon credits of the defendant, in the hands of a garnishee, by serving the garnishee with a copy of the writ of attachment and of the interrogatories accompanying the writ, and a notice that any property or credits of the defendant in his hands are seized by virtue of the attachment.

As per D.C. Code 16-547: Where the property or credits attached or sought to be attached are held by the garnishee in the name of or for the account of a person other than the defendant, the garnishee shall retain the property or credits during the period pending determination by the court of the propriety of the attachment or the rightful owner of the property or credits. During that period the garnishee shall incur no liability whatsoever for the retention.

As per D.C. Code 16-550: The court may make all orders necessary for the preservation of the property attached.

As per D.C. Code 16-552: In any case in which a writ of attachment is issued, the plaintiff may submit interrogatories in writing, in such form as may be allowed by the rules or special order of the court, to be served upon any garnishee, asking about any property of the defendant in his possession or charge, or indebtedness of his to the defendant at the time of the service of the attachment or between the time of service and the filing of his answers to the interrogatories. (This law is truncated for article size.)

As per D.C. Code 15-108: The interest rate at which judgments accrue, in an action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to recover a liquidated debt on which interest is payable by contract or by law or usage the judgment for the plaintiff shall include interest on the principal debt from the time when it was due and payable, at the rate fixed by contract, if any, until paid.

As per D.C. Code 28-3302: In an action to recover damages for breach of contract the judgment shall allow interest on the amount for which it is rendered from the date of the judgment only. In an action to recover damage for a wrong the judgment for the plaintiff shall bear interest.

As per D.C. Code 15-109: The rate of interest is 70% of the rate of interest set by the Secretary of the Treasury pursuant to section 6621 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for underpayments and overpayments of tax to the Internal Revenue Service…

Other DC judgment laws to check out are D.C. Code 16-551, D.C. Code 16-553, and D.C. Code 16-556.

If you need to find a DC judgment collection solution, contact a judgment broker, or visit the District Of Columbia Bar Association website at: www.ctbar.org

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