How Long Are Judgments Enforceable?

HOW LONG ARE JUDGMENTS ENFORCEABLE?

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I. Expiration of Arizona Judgments.

In Arizona, a judgment is initially effective for five (5) years from the date of its entry, and execution must be accomplished within that period.   A.R.S. Section 12-1551(B).  The five-year period is in the nature of a statute of limitations, however, and does not begin to run until the judgment can be enforced or sued upon, i.e., following a stay pending an appeal.  Groves v. Sorce, 161 Ariz. 619, 780 P.2d 452 (Div. 2 1989); Northstar Development Corp v. Wolfswinkel, 146 Ariz. 406, 706 P.2d 732 (Div. 2 1985).  Further, A.R.S. Section 12-1551(B) provides that execution or other process may not be issued upon a judgment after the expiration of five (5) years from the date of its entry unless the judgment is renewed.

II.   Renewal of Arizona Judgments.

A.      Renewal of Judgments on Real Property.

A judgment creditor who desires that a judgment become a lien on real property of the judgment debtor can accomplish that by recording a certified copy of the judgment in the office of the county recorder in each county in which the judgment debtor has, or might have, real property.  A.R.S. Section 33-961(A).  The certified copy of the judgment tendered for recording must contain the following information: (1) the title of the Court in which it was entered and the civil action number; (2) the date the judgment was entered and the docket record that reflects that; (3) the names of both the judgment creditor and the judgment debtor; (4) the amount of the judgment; and, (5) the judgment creditor’s attorney of record. Id.  Under A.R.S. Sections 33-963 and 33-964(A), a judgment that is recorded in the manner prescribed by A.R.S. Section 33-961 becomes a lien on the real property of the judgment debtor for a period of five (5) years from the date the judgment was given.  As discussed in the above section, a judgment may be renewed either by filing a suit on it or by filing an affidavit of renewal with the Clerk of the appropriate Court.  A.R.S. Sections 12-1611, 1612(A).  Such a renewal, however, does not automatically extend the judgment lien created by the recording of the original judgment.  Hall v. World Savings and Loan Association, 189 Ariz. 495, 943 P.2d 855 (Div. 1 1997).  In order to extend that judgment lien, the judgment creditor must record in the proper county recorder’s office an affidavit of renewal of the judgment. Id.; A.R.S. Section 12-1613(C).

B.        Renewal of Monetary Judgments.

Monetary judgments expire if not renewed every five (5) years.  Crye v. Edwards, 178 Ariz. 327, 873 P.2d 665 (Div. 1 1993).  According to A.R.S. Section 12-1611, a judgment may be renewed by instituting an action on it.  Further, a judgment may also be renewed for an additional five years by filing an affidavit for renewal which complies with the requirements of A.R.S Section 12-1612.  An affidavit of renewal of a judgment, if required, must be filed within ninety (90) days before, and not after, expiration of the judgment or a prior renewal.  Mobile Discount Corporation v. Hargus, 156 Ariz. 559, 753 P.2d 1215 (Div. 2 1988).  [emphasis added].  In accordance with A.R.S. Section 12-1612, the affidavit of renewal, which may be made by the judgment creditor or a personal representative or assignee of the judgment creditor, must set forth the following:

(1)  The names of the parties to the action in which the judgment was rendered;

(2) The name of the court in which the judgment was docketed and the number and page of the docket in which it was entered;

(3)  If the judgment has been recorded, the name of the county in which it has been so recorded and the number and page of the book in which it was recorded;

(4)  The name of the owner of the judgment and, if the owner is not the judgment  creditor, the source and succession of the owner’s title;

(5)  Whether or not any execution upon the judgment is outstanding and unreturned;

(6)  The date and amount of all payments upon the judgment, and a statement that such payments have been credited;

(7)  Whether or not there any set-offs or counterclaims in favor of the judgment  debtor and, if so, the amount thereof; and

(8)  The exact amount currently due upon the judgment after allowances for set-offs and counterclaims.

Id.  The renewal of judgment statutes clearly prescribe that the affidavit is to be filed with the clerk of the superior court in the same County in which the judgment was docketed so that it can be maintained with the other records concerning that judgment. Id.  [emphasis added]

C. Additional Procedural Requirements for Renewal of Judgments.

After January 1, 1997, any judgment or decree that requires the payment of money that is recorded, and any recorded renewal of such a judgment or decree, must be attached to a separate “Judgment Information Statement” which is to contain the following information: (1) the correct name and last known address of each judgment debtor; (2) the name and address of the judgment creditor; (3) the amount of the judgment; (4) the social security number, date of birth and driver’s license number of any judgment debtor who is a natural person; and, (5) whether enforcement of the judgment has been stayed and, if so, the date the stay expires.  A.R.S. Section 33-967.

D.        Other ways a Judgment Can Be Destroyed:  Dormancy.

The general rule is that a judgment, to be revived, must be dormant.  A dormant judgment is one upon which the statute of limitations has not yet run but which, because of a lapse of time during which no enforcement action has been taken, may not be enforced unless certain steps are taken by the judgment holder to revive the judgment.  BlackSections Law Dictionary.  In some respects, the dormancy of a judgment destroys its legal force and effect.  Therefore, if a creditor fails to renew a judgment within the statutory period for doing so, the judgment becomes dormant and execution cannot issue upon it unless the judgment is subsequently revived.  Goodwin v. Hewlett, 147 Ariz. 356, 710 P.2d 466 (Div. 1 1985).  Indeed, proceedings for the enforcement of a dormant judgment may be declared a nullity; however, the fact that a judgment is dormant, however, does not necessarily destroy security given to assure payment of the debt.  Bank of Metropolis v. Guttschlick, 39 U.S. 19 (1840).

III.    When Federal District Court Judgments Expire and the Renewal Process.

Case law indicates that the District Courts apply the applicable state law when determining how long judgments are effective and the ways in which parties can revive dormant judgments or renew judgments prior to the statutory limitations.  U.S. v. Tacoma Gravel & Supply Co., 376 F.2d 343 (9th. Cir. 1967) (applying Washington law in matter involving Washington judgment).

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