Denver Bar Association
June 2003
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Collecting on Judgements

by Karen Bries

Editors’ Note: Ray Micklewright of Wolf & Slatkin presented "Getting Your Money After Judgment" at a Tuesdays at the Bar program in April. The Marines have since deployed Micklewright for one year. We send our thanks and prayers with him overseas.

The three simple steps to collecting judgments for your clients are: locating the debtor, searching for assets and using the legal process to seize assets. A few general guidelines to help out your cause are listed below.

Use your best resource: YOU

Perhaps the most tedious part of the process is locating debtors and searching their assets. But the good news is that an associate or paralegal can do most of this. Using a collection agency could be counterproductive; they are only allowed to make phone calls and send letters. As an attorney, you can file liens, seize bank accounts, force the sale of property and more.

Catch more flies with honey:

Be nice to the people you must go through to collect. Sheriffs’ officers are appreciative when you take interest in the process. Send thank you notes or bagels to anyone who can help you. Next time, they will remember your name.

Make a plan:

Once you’ve found your debtor, ask your client what they will be willing to give up to get the debtor to pay. Make sure you find this out before calling the debtor; it’s unlikely you’ll get him or her on the phone again.

Forms are useless:

Unless you specialize in them, generic forms won’t do you much good. To learn how to fill out forms, pull out the statute books and actually read them.

Find assets:

This is the most time-consuming part. Here are 11 good sources to find as much information as possible about the debtor during the case, particularly discovery. Make sure to get the Social Security number, phone number, employment and other personal information. The key to collecting on a judgment is identifying leads and following up. Here are 11 good sources:

  1. Your client will probably have good information if they did business with the debtor (canceled checks, mutual friends or business contacts). Also, go to the clerk’s office and pull the record of receipt to see how they paid the answer fee.

  2. Crisscross directories work with an address or phone number. For example, visit www.haines.com (uses street numbers) or use www.infousa.com to find free white and yellow pages listings.Your Best Legal Resource is You
  1. If the debtor moved in the last year, address a letter to the last known address and write "Do not forward—Address correction requested." You can get the letter back with a new address, if they left one.

  2. Marriage records are helpful if you know the city/county where the debtor was married. Witnesses are listed. Call them to find out how to get in touch with the debtor. The marriage address the debtor puts down is probably his or her parents’, who can also be a good source of info.

  3. Divorce records. Divorce creates a public record. If it was a messy divorce, the debtor’s ex-spouse may be willing to help.

  4. DMV provides, for a small fee, the debtor’s address, makes and models of cars they own.

  5. Fishing and hunting licenses provide information.

  6. Professional licenses are required for many professions.

  7. Interstate Commerce Commission. If your debtor is a truck driver, look in the phone book or on the Internet for a local branch. They will have your debtor on file.

  8. Boat Registration.

  9. Credit reports. As a judgment creditor, you can legally have a credit report pulled on your debtor.

Finally, don’t waste your time and money on debtors who have no assets, but do look him or her up every six months. Interest compounded annually on a judgment is eight percent yearly. It’s a good investment on your behalf to keep checking back.


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