Slow Judgment Enforcers

August 13, 2023


I am not a lawyer, I am a judgment referral expert (Judgment and Collection Agency Broker). This article is my opinion, based on my experience in California, and laws vary in each state. If you ever need legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.

You found, or were referred to, a professional judgment enforcer, collection agency, or a contingency collections lawyer. They were highly recommended to you, yet they have not made any progress on recovering your judgment in over a month!

You even gave the judgment enforcer valuable information such as where your judgment debtor worked, and the debtor’s banking information. However, the “recovery specialist” still has not recovered any of your money. How could they not make any real progress when they have had your judgment for almost a whole month?

It has been about a month, and when you asked them what they were doing with your judgment, they said there was another levy ahead of theirs, so their wage levy attempt did not work. Or, that they are waiting for the Sheriff to serve a levy. Or, that they are still looking for assets. If they are professionals, how come they are not smart enough to get around such small roadblocks and force my debtor to pay?

These kinds of questions show that you do not know the realities of enforcing judgments. It sometimes takes a month for a court to approve a form, or for a Sheriff to have time to perform a levy, and anything can happen to prevent or delay success when attempting to recover a judgment.

It is rare for any action to recover a judgment to get a cash payout within one month. It can take that long just to get an assignment of judgment filed or other documents back from a court. Often, a demand letter is sent where required by law, or where there is any doubt about having identified the correctly named judgment debtor. Many times there is a 30 day waiting period for the judgment debtor to contest a debt, even a judgment debt.

Yes, I know, a judgment is not just a debt, and perhaps your judgment was not even related to a consumer debt. However, the FDCPA and FCRA laws are so strong, that many enforcers follow them out of habit. Some also follow 30 day waiting periods by habit, and perhaps they are being a bit over-cautious. The laws protecting debtors are so strong, many think that it is better to be too cautious, than not cautious enough.

There is a lot more work, expense, research, and waiting, than meets the eye in judgment recovery. Even when waiting for 30 days, often the judgment enforcers are looking for assets or recording liens. There are many things that can prevent a judgment from being recovered, these are the top four situations that can really slow down a judgment enforcement:

1) A poor debtor – no enforcer can recover assets that are not there.

2) Slow courts and civil Sheriffs – they are downsizing like crazy and delaying paperwork more than ever before.

3) Discovering available assets takes time. Private Investigator results can take weeks or longer, debtor and third-party exams can take months, or years when debtors and third parties are particularly stubborn or hard to serve.

4) Debtors that do not care about anything may slow recovery down, because only legal methods can be used to recover judgments. Some debtors do not care if their driving license gets suspended, if there are civil warrants for their arrest, liens on their upside down property, or that a judgment shows up on their credit report. When served, some debtors do not care or show up at court. And, in many places, contempt of civil court has no repercussions for judgment debtors that fail to show up in court, when they should be cited with a contempt of court charge by the court.

Also, the road to getting a contempt of contempt ruling is a game of degrees measured in several milestones along the way. You need to build a strong case for contempt over time if you have any hopes of prevailing. Your first big hurdle is to prove that the person alleged to be in contempt had actual notice of a court order, that the court order clearly directed the person to do or refrain from doing something, that is was within the power of that person to comply with the court order, and that they willfully disobeyed the court order. Civil contempt is a quasi-criminal proceeding, subject to a higher burden of proof than in ordinary civil proceedings (beyond a reasonable doubt vs preponderance of evidence). In small claims court, judges may not be interested in contempt, and Pro Tems and commissioners almost certainly will not be interested in deciding a contempt ruling.

Often, judgment owners that want help recovering their judgment have previously tried to recover it themselves first. You may have already tried to levy the judgment debtor’s wages and bank accounts, and spent lots of time and money with little or no result. Do not be shocked if a judgment enforcer later tries the same actions, and again gets very little results, because there are few cost-effective tools one can use to recover a judgment.

Most (especially JudgmentBuy-screened) judgment enforcers are very good, and have a long term record of recovering judgments. The problem usually is, you have a difficult or broke debtor. Judgment Enforcers are not magicians, they can only use legal methods to recover judgments, and sometimes re-trying steps you took in the past, cannot be avoided.

When there is another ongoing wage levy ahead of your levy attempt, your levy will not attach. When a debtor does not care if their license is suspended, what can be done? If you catch them driving without a license and report this to a police officer, they may not care; and even if the debtor does gets in trouble, that will not help get your judgment paid.

When your debtor has no available assets showing, the best judgment enforcers in the world usually will not make progress, especially on small judgments where the debtor is down on their luck, poor, does not care, or hides their assets.

If you got your judgment back from the judgment enforcer (they re-assigned the judgment back to you), it is unlikely you, or another judgment enforcer, could recover your judgment any faster. Judgment enforcers only get paid if they recover your money, so often the problem is with your judgment debtor.

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