In my job, all too often I hear complaints similar to “I assigned my judgment to Mr. Ed Enforcer, and now his web site is gone and his phone is disconnected”. I have written articles before about how to solve this kind of problem, however the solutions are not easy.
The usual remedies are to file a motion and schedule a hearing at the court, to either void the assignment of judgment, or for a resumption of rights for the creditor. My articles are my opinions, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
Many judgment owners do not have the funds, time, or patience it takes, to recover any judgment money. When a judgment is large and the judgment debtor is rich, it is easy to find a contingency collection lawyer or a judgment buyer; or any other kind of contingency expert, including a judgment enforcer or a collection agency. Unfortunately, very few judgment situations are like that. While the web is full of false promises of ways to get fast cash for judgments, there are only a few real options for owners of average judgments, which are all not instant ways to recover judgment money.
1) Enforce your judgment yourself, however that is a hassle, costs money, and is time consuming.
2) Sell your judgment for pennies on the dollar, or waste your time trying to get more than that on a cash upfront basis.
3) Find a collection agency. In the past, most collection agencies used the phone and the post office to do much or all of their work, and did not even try to do what is required to recover judgments. Some tried to transition into recovering judgments, and gave up when the judgment debtors did not respond to only letters and phone calls.
There are a few collection agencies that have very successfully transitioned into recovering judgments, and the best are owned by lawyers and/or use lawyers to recover judgments. The good news is you retain ownership of your judgment. (Many agencies take debts and then sue the debtors to get judgments.) The bad news is with a few exceptions, most collection agencies are not the best at recovering judgments. Still, some do not accept judgments at all, or not from individual judgment owners, unless first screened and referred by a judgment broker.
4) Find a collection attorney. You retain ownership of your judgment. Usually, you will have to pay them by the hour. Most people with average judgments will not find a contingency lawyer or a good collection agency to try to recover their judgment, unless they are first referred by a judgment broker. Even then, a judgment broker may refer you to a non-attorney judgment enforcer, if they have a better track record of collecting judgments than their attorneys have.
5) Assign your judgment to a judgment enforcer, which means you give up ownership of your judgment. Assigning your judgment means that you forfeit ownership of your judgment permanently. It is a one-way sale that cannot be reversed except by finding and obtaining the cooperation of the person you assigned it to; or working and paying for a court order voiding the judgment assignment to them.
Keep in mind, judgment recovery is usually a very slow process, and full recoveries are rare. If your judgment debtor is poor, it really does not matter that much what recovery choice you made/make, or whether or not you get your judgment assigned back to you.
While most judgment enforcers do the right thing, and return judgments they have no chance of enforcing, not all of them do. In this economy, the problem of flaking judgment enforcers is becoming very serious. I know of many instances where judgment enforcers will not release a judgment, even when they do absolutely nothing to try to recover it, not even recording a lien. This is not good, because anyone without a plan to enforce a judgment should not keep it long term. Memberships in judgment organizations seems not to guarantee anything. Judgment brokers know (the long term performance of) the best judgment experts.
There is one very good reason for a judgment enforcer not to return a judgment, and that is if they are making progress, or have a plan to make progress soon. Most judgment enforcers do the right thing, if they do not seem to do the right thing; these are the top four reasons judgment enforcers do not return judgments assigned to them:
1) When some judgment enforcers go out of business, they do not care enough about their obligations. They do not return judgments, and disconnect their phone and move.
2) When judgment enforcers run out of money they cannot make progress on any judgment. Some enforcers cannot even afford to pay the $10 notary fee required to assign the judgment back to you. In this case, offer to pay the judgment enforcer a modest sum to return your judgment.
3) When a judgment enforcer gets sick, finds a day job, has a death in their family, dies, files for bankrupt protection, goes to jail, etc. Sometimes the judgments assigned to them are the last thing they have on their mind.
4) When enforcers take all judgments that come in, when they have no plans or possibility of recovering them, and for some reason, they refuse to return any judgments when asked.
Be careful about assigning your judgment to a judgment enforcer not referred by someone that knows their long-term history and performance. Judgment brokers know future payment recovery experts that do not require you to assign your judgment – if your judgment is large.