I recently saw a judgment enforcer’s web site, where he brags that he takes all judgments – local, state, federal, tribal, international, and inter-galactic. That judgment enforcer was not a lawyer, did not own a collection agency, and he works out of his home. I think an individual has no business looking for judgments all over the galaxy. Some inexperienced judgment enforcers and collection attorneys take judgments too far away from them, and later find out they should have stuck to recovering judgments close to them.
This article is my opinion, 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. When recovering judgments, there are three basic reasons to only recover judgments local to you:
1) You get to know the court clerks, process servers, judges, and Sheriffs. Even though it should not matter, the better you know them, the smoother things will go for you in their courts or offices.
2) You get better opportunities to surveil your judgment debtor, will save travel time and costs, and will find it easier to schedule and attend judgment debtor examinations.
3) Each state and county is different, and there are idiosyncrasies with each county court system and Sheriff, which make local judgment enforcement important.
There is no need to be local when recording liens, because recording liens can be accomplished through the mail. However, active judgment recovery procedures will likely require at least an occasional appearance. Examples of active judgment recovery actions are wage garnishments, bank levies, oppositions to exemption or third-party claims; or perhaps contesting bankruptcy filings, especially when judgment debtors have concealed their assets.
In certain judgment recovery situations, distant recovery attempts might make sense if the court allows telephonic appearances, or if you are willing to hire an attorney to appear for you. Of course if the judgment is big and the debtor has lots of available assets, you might be willing to fly, and book a hotel close to the local court when necessary.
Some judgment enforcers only take easy judgments where the debtors are rich and probably will not fight levy attempts. In that situation, they may take judgments that are far away. Unfortunately, that means they reject the overwhelming majority of judgments they look at. Judgment enforcers might want to consider referring judgments they do not want, to a nationwide judgment broker.
Recovering a far away judgment can make sense if it is large enough to justify the cost of traveling, or paying an attorney to make appearances. Everything depends on the risk/reward ratio. If you have lots of money, this can make sense. If you cannot afford to travel, do not take distant judgments. The main reasons to work only local judgments is to reduce your costs and increase the chances for successful judgment recoveries.