The American Bar Association (ABA) posted a 2021 piece explaining how attorneys can master the “art of judgment collection.” It’s an incredibly good piece from top to bottom. However, it does raise a legitimate question among creditors, attorneys, and collection agencies: is judgment collection truly an art to be mastered?
An important point in support of the argument is the complexity of civil law. Though many people believe civil law is not nearly as complicated as criminal law, that’s not really the case. Civil law is even more complicated in some cases. Judgments certainly qualify.
Judgments Are Court Decisions
If you’re not sure what a judgment is, no worries. It is actually quite simple in principle. A judgment is a court decision that wraps up a civil lawsuit. It determines which party prevails in the case. Though the concept itself is simple, actual judgments can be extremely complicated.
Comparing civil judgments against criminal convictions illustrate things easily enough. A criminal conviction is as straightforward as it gets. The defendant is found guilty of the charges against him and that’s that. It is up to the court to determine an appropriate punishment.
There is a whole lot more to consider in a civil judgment. Not only does a judgment determine who prevails in a civil case, it also determines a number of other things:
- The amount of liability assigned to both parties
- Financial restitution to be made by the losing party
- Any other forms of non-monetary restitution
- Additional obligations imposed by the court.
Judgments can be filled with all sorts of stipulations. They are not as simple as the verdict rendered in criminal court. Then there is the whole matter of enforcement.
That’s Where the Real Art Is
Enforcing a criminal conviction is pretty easy. A judge weighs his options against the crime and its circumstances, then comes up with an appropriate sentence. Enforcing a civil judgment is an entirely different matter in which courts do not involve themselves.
Judgment enforcement is where the real art is. In fact, that’s the point of the ABA piece. It’s all about collecting what is owed. Collections are the main mechanism of enforcement.
Creditors sometimes attempt to collect judgments on their own. Other times they leave the task to their attorneys or hire specialized judgment collection agencies, like Salt Lake City’s Judgment Collectors. No matter who handles it, collection is often a time-consuming matter.
Debtor’s Don’t Always Cooperate
The art of judgment collection lies in finding a way to encourage debtors to pay. The fact of the matter is that debtors don’t always collaborate. In fact, most of the time they don’t. They resist at every turn, whether out of belligerence, fear, or some other motivation.
Creditors do have options for going after debtors who will not pay. They can offer an olive branch by way of an installment arrangement, even agreeing to accept less than what is owed. If that doesn’t work, creditors can:
- garnish wages and bank accounts
- file liens against personal property
- seize property and sell it.
How does any of this relate to judgment collection being an art? Well, in addition to the multiple means through which creditors can extract payment, there are also multiple tools for tracking down debtors and their assets.
Judgment collection is an art in the sense that creditors or their representatives must finesse the tools and options in order to increase the chances of success. The goal is to get as much money as possible with the least amount of resistance. Doing so is as much an art as painting a masterpiece.
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