A judgment creditor in Texas can collect or enforce a judgment against a judgment debtor through a variety of methods, including post-judgment discovery, filing a judgment lien, requesting a writ of execution or garnishment, and requesting a turnover order.
One way a judgment creditor can collect on a judgment in Texas is through post-judgment discovery. Tex. R. Civ. P. 500.9. This process allows the creditor to obtain information about the debtor’s assets and liabilities to identify property that can be used to satisfy the judgment. Post-judgment discovery – including depositions, interrogatories, requests for production for documents, and requests for admissions – is not required to be filed with the court. The party requesting discovery must give the responding party at least 30 days to respond to a post-judgment discovery request. The responding party may file a written objection with the court within 30 days of receiving the request. If a judgment debtor refuses to appear at his or her post-judgment deposition, to answer the requested interrogatories, or to produce the requested documents, the judgment creditor can file a motion with the Court seeking to compel the debtor’s compliance with the discovery request. Tex. R. Civ. P. 215.
File a Judgment Lien
Another option is for the creditor to file a judgment lien. “Filing and recording an abstract of judgment creates a judgment lien as to a judgment debtor’s real property. ” Gordon v. West Houston, No. 01-09-00269-CV, at *8 (Tex. App. Apr. 28, 2011). In order to obtain a lien on a judgment, the judgment creditor must comply with the statutory requirements for creation of the lien. Id.; Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §§ 52.001- 52.007. The first step in creating a lien on a judgment is to obtain an abstract of the judgment. Id. (citing Citicorp Real Estate, Inc. v. Banque Arabe Internationale D’Investissement, 747 S.W.2d 926, 929 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1988, writ denied)). The purpose of an abstract of judgment is (1) to create a judgment lien in the first place and (2) to provide notice to subsequent purchasers of that lien’s existence. id.(citations omitted). An abstract of judgment must show:
(1) the names of the plaintiff and defendant;
(2) the birthdate of the defendant, if available to the clerk or justice;
(3) the last three numbers of the driver’s license of the defendant, if available;
(4) the last three numbers of the social security number of the defendant, if available;
(5) the number of the suit in which the judgment was rendered;
(6) the defendant’s address, or if the address is not shown in the suit, the nature of citation and the date and place of service of citation;
(7) the date on which the judgment was rendered;
(8) the amount for which the judgment was rendered and the balance due;
(9) the amount of the balance due, if any, for child support arrearage; and
(10) the rate of interest specified in the judgment.
Id. at 9; Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 52.003(a).
The clerk of the court in which the judgment was rendered typically prepares the abstract of judgment. Id. § 52.002(a). It is the judgment creditor’s responsibility, however, to ensure that the clerk abstracts the judgment properly. Id. (citations omitted). Because a judgment lien is created by statute, substantial compliance with the statutory requirements is mandatory before the lien will attach. Id. (citations omitted). Substantial compliance allows for a minor deficiency in a required element of the abstract of judgment but does not allow for the complete omission of a required element. Id. at 10. If an abstract of judgment substantially complies with the statutory requirements and the other statutory formalities are followed for filing the abstract, then a lien is created that is superior to the rights of subsequent purchasers and lienholders, and may be foreclosed on to satisfy the judgment. Id. The creditor can also request a writ of execution, which directs the sheriff or constable to seize and sell the debtor’s nonexempt property to satisfy the judgment.
A creditor can also obtain a writ of garnishment, which allows the creditor to collect from the debtor’s wages or bank account. Garnishment is an ancillary proceeding by which property or money of a debtor (or defendant) that is in the possession of a third-party garnishee is applied to the payment of a debt owed by the debtor to the garnishor (plaintiff or creditor). Pallida, LLC v. Uballe, No. 03-18-00365-CV, at *1 (Tex. App. Dec. 28, 2018) (citations omitted). Garnishment proceedings in Texas are governed by Chapter 63 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code and by Rules 657 through 679 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 63.001-.008; Tex. R. Civ. P. 657-679. Id. at 2. Because garnishment is a creature of statute, garnishment proceedings cannot be sustained unless they strictly conform to the statutory requirements and related rules governing such proceedings. Id. (citations omitted). If challenged, “garnishor must prove that it has a valid, subsisting judgment.” Id.
In Texas, unlike Arizona, current wages for personal service are constitutionally exempt from garnishment. See Collins v. Guilfoyle, No. 04-04-00200-CV, at *1 (Tex. App. May 4, 2005); TEX. CONST. art. XVI, § 28; see also Sloan v. Douglass, 713 S.W.2d 436, 440 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 1986, writ ref’d n.r.e.) (explaining the purpose of the exemption for current wages is to defray living expenses); Davidson Texas, Inc. v. Garcia, 664 S.W.2d 791, 793 (Tex.App.-Austin 1984, no writ) (holding this exemption should be liberally construed in favor of the wage earner and applied regardless of whether the compensation is called “wages” or “salary”).
A Turnover Order
Finally, a creditor can request a turnover order, which allows the court to order the debtor to turn over nonexempt property to the creditor or to a receiver appointed by the court. It is particularly useful when the debtor’s assets are difficult to attach or levy on by ordinary legal process. See Beaumont Bank N.A. v. Buller, 806 S.W.2d 223, 224 (Tex. 1991); see also Childre v. Great Sw. Life Ins. Co., 700 S.W.2d 284, 288 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1985, no writ)(where court applied the turnover statute to obtain corporate stock in the hands of third parties and held out of state Pursuant to Tex.Civ.Prac. Rem. Code Ann. sec. 31.002, commonly referred to as the “turnover” statute, the court may:
(1) order the judgment debtor to turn over the property that is in the debtor’s possession or is subject to the debtor’s control, together with all documents or records related to the property, to a designated sheriff or constable for execution;
(2) otherwise apply the property to the satisfaction of the judgment; or
(3) appoint a receiver with the authority to take possession of the nonexempt property, sell it, and pay the proceeds to the judgment creditor to the extent required to satisfy the judgment.
Id. The current version of the turnover statute ]eliminates any requirement that property “cannot readily be attached or levied on by ordinary legal process.” Now, the provision reads simply:
A judgment creditor is entitled to aid from a court of appropriate jurisdiction through injunction or other means to reach property to obtain satisfaction on the judgment if the judgment debtor owns property, including present or future rights to property, that is not exempt from attachment, execution, or seizure for the satisfaction of liabilities.
See Cross, Kieschnick & Co. v. Johnston, 892 S.W.2d 435, 438 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1994, no writ) (citing Senate Committee on Judicial Affairs, Bill Analysis, Tex. H.B. 1260, 66th Leg. R.S. (1979).
Advantage of the turnover statute include (i) the turnover order may broadly encompass the judgment-debtor’s nonexempt property, without identifying in the order the specific property subject to turnover, (ii) a creditor may apply for the appointment of a receiver to collect the debt that is owed, without the necessity of complying with Chapter 64 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code (see Holland v. Alker, No. 01-05-00666-CV, 2006 WL 1041785, at *7 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.], Apr. 20, 2006, pet. denied), and (iii) the judgment creditor is entitled to recover its reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, which most other collection remedies do not allow.
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