Making Your Judgment More than Just a Piece of Paper

The owner of a plumbing company consults with his attorney because one of his customers has not paid for a large job that was successfully completed several months earlier. After sending out monthly invoices replete with late fees and monthly interest charges which caused the bill to escalate each month, the company has yet to receive any payment. The attorney prepares a demand letter threatening to sue and seek all outstanding charges, as well as any attorney’s fees that are incurred. The customer does not respond so the lawyer files suit. The litigation lasts for several months (over a year, in fact) until a jury returns a verdict awarding the plumbing company every penny sought. The trial judge enters a judgment for the full amount awarded. So is that it? Does the defendant (the customer who lost the case) in this case have to pay up immediately? If only it were so easy.


Unlike the criminal justice system where courts can induce criminal defendants to pay fines and restitution by threatening jail time if they don’t, the civil justice system does not. Debtor prisons in this country were prohibited a long time ago. Now when a party, like the plumbing company does obtain a judgment, they have succeeded in winning the case as far as the merits are concerned. What they have not done yet is achieve their ultimate goal: recovery of the funds that are owed.


To do so, the judgment creditor (the plumbing company) should first secure the judgment by having their attorneys properly file the written judgment in the county where any of the defendant’s property is located. Then the judgment creditor must seek to find out where the defendant maintains his or her assets such as bank accounts, real estate and other personal property. At that juncture, he or she can proceed to use one of four collection methods for recovering judgments in New Mexico:


(1)   Garnishment

(2)   Execution

(3)   Attachment

(4)   Foreclosure


Each of these procedures are fairly technical. A judgment creditor such as the plumbing company should rely on their counsel to implement one of these four procedures to finally secure the funds which the defendant owes. Any of these processes can take several months if not years until they are completed. A layperson would be ill-advised to attempt to employ one of these collection methods on his or her own without the assistance of legal counsel.


In Albuquerque, Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. has attorneys who can handle all aspects of these cases from initial filing through judgment collection. The firm represents many debtors and creditors in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, Raton, Farmington, Gallup, Grants, Roswell, Los Lunas,