Judgment Until It Is Entered
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Civil litigation can be difficult to understand. There are so many rules and regulations that keeping up can be a nightmare. For instance, do you know when it is possible to begin collecting a civil judgment entered in your favor? If you assume right away, you would be wrong. You cannot begin collecting until the judgment has been entered.

Rendering and entering judgments are two different things. Rendering occurs when the court issues its decision. The judge or jury reaches a conclusion and states that conclusion in court. The judge’s gavel falls and that’s that. A judgment has been rendered. A record of that proceeding then goes to the clerk, or another official with the proper authority, where it is entered into the official record.

Although rendering and entering are essentially two sides of the same coin, entering a judgment creates an official record of the decision. Judgment creditors cannot begin collection efforts until entry is complete.

How Long It Takes

There is no black-and-white timeline for getting from rendering to judgment entry. In a perfect world, a civil court would enter a new judgment into the docket almost immediately. But the world isn’t perfect. Courts have their own procedures and policies for entering judgments. Fortunately, it should not take more than a couple of days in most cases.

When a judgment is officially entered, the county clerk is compelled to provide both parties with a copy. That serves as a record for the respective parties. Because collection cannot begin until a judgment is entered, creditors and their attorneys wait for their copies to begin. Even at that, they may have to hold on for a while longer before proceeding.

Sufficient Time to Appeal

Although convincing a court to overturn a judgment is very difficult, defendants usually have the right to appeal. How this plays out in terms of collection varies by state. In some states, judgment creditors are prohibited from pursuing enforcement for a set amount of time – usually it is 30 days. They must wait 30 days to give the other party sufficient time to appeal.

Other states allow creditors to begin collecting immediately after a judgment is entered. But if the judgment is appealed, all collection efforts must cease until the appeal process is complete. Any monies that were collected must be returned in the event that a successful appeal overturns the original judgment.

Entering in Other Jurisdictions

One of the more curious aspects of entering judgments is related to other jurisdictions. For the purposes of illustration, we will turn to Judgment Collectors, a Salt Lake City collection agency that focuses exclusively on judgments. Imagine the agency wants to put a lien on a piece of property in a neighboring county.

The original lawsuit was filed against the debtor in the county in which he resides. But he owns a piece of property in a neighboring county. Before Judgment Collectors can utilize that property as leverage to collect, a copy of the judgment must be entered at the courthouse of the neighboring county. In other words, that neighboring county must have an official record of the judgment before any actions taken against the property can commence.

Entering a judgment is a mere formality in most cases. Nonetheless, everything is on hold until the task is complete. Without entering the judgment into the docket, all the two parties need to go on is the decision rendered in court. Yet that decision does not become official until it is entered. As strange as that may sound to most of us, that’s the way civil courts operate.

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