Abstract Of Judgment
So you have engaged in litigation and won your case
The judge or jury ruled that you are owed money. Congratulations. Many clients see the verdict as the culmination of the litigation process, essentially the end of a typically very long road. However, unless you are dealing with a large corporation, or a wealthy individual who can easily (and voluntarily) pay the damages they have been ordered to pay, the verdict is the beginning of a new journey, the journey of actually collecting the money that is now legally owed to you. The first step in the journey of collection is the abstract of judgment.
Abstract Defined. In Texas, a properly filed judgment lien acts as a lien on all of the judgment debtor’s nonexempt real property in the county of recordation. A judgment lien is created by the proper recording and indexing of an abstract of judgment (the “Abstract”). What exactly is the Abstract? It’s nothing more than a piece of paper containing information about the judgment. In Texas, it can be prepared by the judge, justice of the peace, the clerk of the court, or the judgment creditor or his agent, attorney, or assignee (except in justice of the peace courts, where the judgment creditor is not allowed to prepare the Abstract). The majority of Abstracts are prepared by the court clerk after receiving written notice, together with the proper fee (negligible amount), from the judgment creditor to do so..
As the attorney for my client that has successfully obtained a money judgment, I review the Abstract that is sent to me by the clerk to make sure it contains the information required by the Texas statute.
Contents of the Abstract
• names of plaintiff/defendant
• if available, birthdate/driver’s license number of defendant
• case number for the lawsuit
• defendant’s address
• date on which judgment was rendered
• amount of the judgment and balance due
• rate of interest as specified in the signed judgment
• mailing address for the plaintiff (judgment creditor)
Strict compliance is necessary and it is the burden of the judgment creditor to provide the correct information to the clerk at the time of issuance and recording. Since a deficient Abstract may result in no lien attaching, I pay as much attention to the accuracy of the Abstract as I did with respect to any other aspect of my client’s claim.
Recording the Abstract. I record the abstract in each county in which I know or suspect that the judgment debtor owns real property. The clerk is required to note on the Abstract the day and hour of recordation. Since Texas has 254 counties, there no reason to record the Abstract in all of them. However, if I have any reason to believe the judgment debtor has (or had in the past) association with a county, the Abstract will be filed there. For example, if the judgment debtor now lives in Harris County but I know he grew up in Jefferson County, I will file in Jefferson County just in case his family owns property there and he later acquires an interest in the family property. A perfected judgment lien attaches to property later acquired in the county where the Abstract is recorded and indexed. The only way the judgment creditor can get “lucky” later is by being thorough now.
Although the Abstract is not technically a post-judgment remedy, it should be the first order of business after the judge enters the final judgment.
Nothing in this post should be considered as legal advice. Let’s face it, you don’t know me and I don’t know you. My aim is to instead provide useful, but general, information about the topic indicated above. For a legal opinion that has teeth, consult a lawyer about your specific facts. Should you not have a lawyer, I can be there for you, but only if you take the first step.