Specific Document Requests

August 13, 2023

What if you need to examine some current and historical financial records related to your judgment debtor (person or company), or some third-party witness with knowledge about those those assets; to attempt to find out where, or more about, where the debtor’s business/assets/income is now, or where the assets went? Such discovery attempts must be done with subpoenas served on the parties; including document production requests, having a due date of the (previously scheduled) court date of the judgment debtor examination hearing. In California, judgment debtor examinations are abbreviated as ORAPs.

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.

Subpoenaed document production requests are often for lots of accounting-type paperwork. (As of 2013, paper is still used for many financial records.) After a party is served with your subpoena, consider your situation if they or their attorney; tells you to show up at their place before the examination hearing, and sort through their (e.g., 5) banker-sized boxes of files yourself; and make your copies prior to the date of the examination hearing. They might also say something like: “I’m not going to do any more than supply the records to you in my office for you to copy, and that is all we have to do. You cannot make us take time to copy the files and organize them as requested in your subpoena”.

This tactic is sometimes called paper dumping, a tactic occasionally used by attorneys representing judgment debtors. In response to a subpoenaed document production request, they supply way too many unsorted records.

In post-judgment proceedings, a judgment debtor or witness is required to do only the absolute minimum to comply; to avoid a possible contempt ruling, and is under no obligation to make things easy for their creditor.

In my opinion, there is no recourse to such a paper dumping tactic by a judgment debtor or a third-party witness; because post-judgment, this is a request for document productions for a hearing. In a prejudgment lawsuit situation, formal discovery requests would probably require the parties to produce copies to the deposition officer.

Often, it is a good idea to request a bit more than you think you need, because you might learn something more than if you asked for the minimum. However, when the third-party witness is a bank or some other entity, the law usually authorizes them to be reimbursed for their costs and/or fees, which can add up to a lot when you request a lot.

Instead of asking for all records for every possible asset or transferred asset for the last 5 years, perhaps (for example) ask for copies of any checks or other compensation paid to the judgment debtor between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012, in any amount more than $1,000. Another specific example would be for “all 2012 real estate transaction documents for real properties where the sale price was more than $350,000”.

When a creditor makes a very specific request, they will get either a quick response or a quick objection. If they request everything including the kitchen sink, then the creditor should expect no response or an unsorted mess inside of boxes or bags.

With boxes of documents situations, like that described above, consider taking advantage of their invitation, and copy everything possible. After that, review the documents at your leisure. Who knows, you may actually find some useful leads to potential assets. A portable scanner such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap 1500 and a laptop, makes a good copying solution; and the laptop would allow you to also copy CDs, etc. A wand scanner can be used to copy documents that cannot be fed into a conventional scanner. The Wolverine hand held portable scanner is also a good tool.

Usually, the creditor must arrange to copy, or pay to copy the subpoenaed documents. One option is to go to their office and copy the documents, the other option is to copy (or pay to have copied) everything at the examination hearing. If your judgment debtor or a third-party witness is paying their attorney to show up at the hearing, the second option would be very expensive for them.

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