Obtaining a judgment is often not the end of the case, but just the beginning of post-judgment enforcement proceedings. In the vast majority of court cases in the United States, if a party loses that party will simply pay the judgment, particularly if it is a claim that is covered by insurance. But in a very substantial number of cases, the debtor doesn't pay. What then? The creditor is left holding a judgment and wondering whether it can be monetized.
What is a judgment worth? The value of a judgment is determined by the following formula:
- The face value of the judgment;
- Limited by what can be collected from the debtor; and
- Less the attorney's fees and other costs of collection.
Thus, a creditor may hold a judgment for $10 million against a debtor who is truly penniless; the value of that judgment is zero, or may even be negative if the creditor expends any significant money in a vain attempt to collect. Similarly, a judgment for $25,000 may also be worth nothing, or have a negative value, if the expenses to collect that judgment meet or exceed its value.
Note that post-judgment enforcement proceedings are often as alien to even highly-experienced litigators as Indian tribal law or proceedings in Admiralty. The post-judgment world has its own vernacular, its own discrete bodies of law, and assumptions made that certain things will pan out like they do pre-judgment are often wrong. Although any attorney holding a valid law license can practice post-judgment, in practice it is very much akin to a specialty area where those experienced in the area can hold a substantial advantage over those who are not.
This website focuses on the processes and techniques that are used to collect on unpaid judgments, based on the personal experience of the author as an attorney who represents both creditors and debtors in post-judgment enforcement proceedings. The statutory exemptions available to debtors and their strategies for minimizing collection are also discussed.
What this website does not generally consider in the post-judgment sector are four areas, which are left to those who regularly specialize in these fields:
- Bankruptcy Practice
- Consumer Collections
- Secured Transactions
- Family Law Support Collections
Information on these four topics will have to be obtained elsewhere, although there may of course be some overlap with what is considered herein.
This is a unique and fun area of law practice: I love it!
Overview Topics And Opinions
About The Author
Jay Adkisson is admitted to practice law in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1988 and was a member of the Oklahoma Law Review. Twice an expert witness to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Jay is also an honorary member of the California Association of Judgment Professionals and a lifetime member of the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. His books include The Charging Order Practice Guide (ABA 2019) and Asset Protection: Concepts & Strategies (McGraw-Hill 2004), and Jay is currently the Wealth Preservation commentator to Forbes.com. Jay has also served as an American Bar Association section adviser to the drafting committees of the following uniform acts:
- Uniform Voidable Transaction Act
- Uniform Protected Series Act
- Uniform Registration of Canadian Money Judgments Act
- Uniform Public Expression Protection Act
Jay's law practice is primarily in the area of creditor-debtor law, and he has served as a court-appointed receiver in two high-profile post-judgment enforcement matters: Gaggero v. Knapp Petersen and Wynn v. Francis. He was also the post-judgment enforcement counsel in Bay Guardian Co. v. New Times Media LLC which involved the collection of a $20+ million judgment against the parent entity of the Village Voice companies. His exploits in that case were later recounted in two articles:
- The Great West Coast Newspaper War, The Seattle Stranger (March 18, 2010); and
- Chasing the Money, California Lawyer (July, 2010).
Jay's office is in Las Vegas, but he practices throughout the Southwest United States and often consults with other attorneys on creditor-debtor matters nationwide.
- Jay D. AdkissonADKISSON PITET LLP6671 South Las Vegas Blvd. Suite 210Las Vegas, NV 89119Ph: (702) 953-9617EMail: jay [at] apjuris.com