Is Judgment Recovery Legal? Yes! And here’s why…

I am often asked if judgment recovery is truly a legal business. I guess some folks just worry that if you’re not an attorney, using the courts to enforce a judgment that was awarded to someone else is somehow breaking the law. It’s also a common misperception that collecting any money judgment (even your own) through the court system without hiring an attorney can somehow land you in legal hot water.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is no court in the land that will not allow you to use the court system to collect your civil money judgment on your own behalf. Certainly, if you attempt to collect a judgment for someone else, and you are not an attorney, you are going to get yourself into trouble. So let me stress the most important term, and key point of this article: On Your Own Behalf

A civil money judgment is an asset which can be bought, sold, transferred, etc. If you want to get downright technical, a civil judgment is referred to as ‘a thing in action.’ When a judgment is assigned, the ownership of the judgment is transferred from the original judgment holder to the assignee (that would be you, in this case). From that point on, you own the judgment and anything you do to enforce the judgment is done on your own behalf. You will be legally recognized by the court as the judgment creditor, and you will have all the same rights and remedies at your disposal to enforce the judgment through the court as did the original judgment holder.

Once the judgment is yours, you are entitled to locate the whereabouts and assets of your judgment debtor using many investigative resources that are typically only available to private investigators, professional collectors and law enforcement agencies. You are not considered to be a private investigator because – again – you’re conducting an investigation on your own behalf.

As a judgment creditor, you will also have the authority to use special court procedures to find assets. Post-judgment debtor examinations are court-ordered proceedings in which the judgment debtor must appear in court and directly answer your questions about finances, income, assets and more. This can also be conducted with written interrogatories through the mail. You will also have the power of subpoenas. A subpoena is another type of court order that demands specific documents to be provided to you for your inspection. Post-judgment debtor examinations and subpoenas can be used with judgment debtors, as well as other third parties who may have information about your debtor’s employer, business(es), bank accounts, property or other assets.

Once you’ve identified what and where the assets are, you can then direct the court to seize those assets on your behalf as a judgment creditor. Generally assets are seized through what we call a levy. A levying officer will act on your specific instructions to seize the asset as directed. Anything collected through the levying process will be turned over to you – since you’re the owner of the judgment and the judgment creditor.

It really is that simple.

Let me finish by assuring you that enforcing a judgment through the court system on your own behalf never has – and never will – be illegal or require attorney
representation.

I realize that a lot of the above is a little ‘technical’ – so please – let me know if you have any questions or comments. Of course, if you would like to read articles about other specific topics, just ask!

Warm Regards,

Christina Smiley

13 thoughts on “Is Judgment Recovery Legal? Yes! And here’s why…

  1. I am in the process in buying the course, but I have a question as to get the records at the courthouse here is not simple, I live in san antonio texas and I went to look for the some judgements, but they do let you in everyhing is enclosed in and you will need the person’s name and they will get for you. Is there a way I can the judgments online? Or search for them online here in san antonio texas? thanks your response will be appreciated

    • At the time of my last check, Texas offers online access to civil case file information in the following counties: Angelina, Bailey, Bandera, Bee, Brazoria, Brooks, Cameron, Cherokee, Collin, Comal, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Grayson, Gregg, Guadalupe, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Hill, Hutchinson, Jefferson, Johnson, Kleberg, Maverick, McCulloch, McLennan, Midland, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Navarro, Nueces, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Refugio, Rockwall, San Patricio, Starr, Tom Green, Val Verde, Victoria, Washington, Webb, and Young.

      This is definitely subject to change, though, as new databases are constantly coming online!

      Even if your specific county doesn’t offer online access to case file information you’d still have several options at your disposal. There is certainly nothing to prevent you from recovering judgments in an area outside of where you are physically located. You’ll find that most courts will accept mailed or faxed filings. The only issue you’ll be facing by working in other areas/states is that you’ll need to become familiar with the forms and procedures in that state – they’ll vary slightly. Our judgment recovery training program also includes a State-By-State Civil Research Guide that will provide you with state specific judgment enforcement information for each state.

      There are also fee-based databases available for this information, usually based on an annual flat rate access charge. Or, you could market your services specifically to businesses in your area that tend to have multiple judgments being awarded on a regular basis; or, you could use advertisements that have been included in the training materials to market your business.

      Regards,

      Christina

      SIERRA JUDGMENT RECOVERY
      Professional Judgment Recovery Training

      http://www.recoverycourse.com

      Founding Member: SJR; CAJP; NAJEP
      Member: NCISS; BBB

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      We are not attorneys. We are not engaged in the rendering of legal advice or professional services. We are not a collection agency. If legal advice is required, the assistance of a competent, qualified legal professional should be sought.

  2. Dear SJR, Once you start the proceedings to start a levy on someone’s bank account or seize a vihicle or anyother big boy toy., what prcentage of the time does the judgment debtor happen to come up with the money? Also., is every judgment collection like pulling teeth? Meaning, do you always have to prceed with levy’s and leans? Thank you Kelly

    • Hi Kelly,

      It’s not unheard of for a debtor to want to work out some sort of voluntary payment plan after a major asset has been seized, primarily to avoid the hassle of any future asset seizures. Having said that, the majority of the judgments that we collect are done so through seizing assets through the court. I wish I could say that a larger percentage of them pay voluntarily – but we’re just not dealing with that type of debtor in this business.

      Regards,

      Christina

      SIERRA JUDGMENT RECOVERY
      Professional Judgment Recovery Training

      http://www.recoverycourse.com

      Founding Member: SJR; CAJP; NAJEP
      Member: NCISS; BBB

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      We are not attorneys. We are not engaged in the rendering of legal advice or professional services. We are not a collection agency. If legal advice is required, the assistance of a competent, qualified legal professional should be sought.

  3. Thank you very much Christina. I appreciate the extra time you go through to answer these questions that others have.

  4. I read that the AG in Indiana gave an opinion that collecting judgments that have been assigned per a contingency agreement with the original creditor constitutes “unauthorized practice of law.” Collecting a judgment assigned and bought outright for set amount would not be.

    I would not be surprised if the legal community attempts to outlaw collecting judgments assigned per a contingency agreement in order to eliminate competition for attorneys.

    • Hi Steven,

      Enforcing judgments in Indiana does not constitute unauthorized practice of law. This is because you will be taking over ownership of the judgment, and it is not practicing law unless you are enforcing for others, or representing another’s interests. An assignment of judgment transfers all right, title and interest from the original judgment holder to the assignee. Once the judgment is assigned, you are enforcing it on your own behalf. Also, we have not enforced judgments by way of a contingency agreement for several years, but rather a PURCHASE agreement.

      Regards,

      Christina

      SIERRA JUDGMENT RECOVERY
      Professional Judgment Recovery Training

      http://www.recoverycourse.com

      Founding Member: SJR; CAJP; NAJEP
      Member: NCISS; BBB

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      We are not attorneys. We are not engaged in the rendering of legal advice or professional services. We are not a collection agency. If legal advice is required, the assistance of a competent, qualified legal professional should be sought.

  5. I have enjoyed your recent newsletter on ” Sierra Judgement Recovery” and I was simply wondering if your training program provided the vital information allowing one to make recoveries in all 50 states since I am sure there are many differences in the laws from one state to another ? I am so very interested and appreciate your time and thank you in advance for your answer !

    Wendall

    • Hi Wendall,

      The training program includes the SJR State By State Civil Research Guide, which provides information and basic statutory laws that govern the enforcement of judgments in each state, as well as links to those statutory laws online. In addition, i’ve included an Online Access Guide providing links to courts throughout the US that offer online access to civil case file information.

      Regards,

      Christina

      SIERRA JUDGMENT RECOVERY
      Professional Judgment Recovery Training

      http://www.recoverycourse.com

      Founding Member: SJR; CAJP; NAJEP
      Member: NCISS; BBB

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      We are not attorneys. We are not engaged in the rendering of legal advice or professional services. We are not a collection agency. If legal advice is required, the assistance of a competent, qualified legal professional should be sought.

  6. Hi Christina,

    Can you tell me how you determine how much the original owner of the judgement will receive once you collect on the judgement?

    • This is all negotiated before the judgment is assigned. Routinely, we keep 50% of whatever we are able to collect on the judgment, including half of any accrued post-judgment interest.

      Regards,

      Christina

  7. Hi Christina,

    I am interested in starting a judgement recovery business in the Birmingham, Alabama area. I asked about getting a business license at the Jefferson County courthouse. They called their supervisor and told me that he said I would be treated as a collection agency. I really think that they do not understand the business model, and how it would operate. I tried to explain it to them, but with no success. Do you have any suggestions as to the best way to educate them on the business model, so that I can get properly licensed under a general county business license? I want to work out getting the license before I purchase the course. Thank you. Steven.

    • First, I can tell you with absolute certainty that a collection agency license is not required in Alabama to operate a judgment recovery business. I know that because we have active companies operating in your state who participate on our National Member Network, and I am familiar with the statutory requirements.

      Having said that, the easiest way to explain the nature of a judgment recovery business is to say: “I’m purchasing judgments, and enforcing them on my own behalf.”

      Most cities/states do not have any specific category for judgment recovery. Many will try to ‘pigeon-hole’ you into collection agencies simply because they do not understand the difference. For this reason, the majority of judgment recovery businesses are categorized as ‘OTHER’ or ‘MISCELLANEOUS.’

      I wrote an article on this blog in regard to licensing requirements for a judgment recovery business not long ago. If you’re interested in more detail about why we don’t typically require collection agency licensing (in most states), you can read that article here: http://recoverycourse.com/blog/?p=74

      Regards,

      Christina

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