Monday, November 15, 2010

The Life of a Judgment (Lien) in Florida

A recent case decided by the Fifth District Court of Appeals discusses the statutory framework for perfecting and maintaining a judgment lien on real property in Florida. The opinion, Sun Glow Const., Inc. v. Cypress Recovery Corp., --- So. 3d ----, 2010 WL 4536803 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010) is found here.

According to Fla. Stat. § 55.10, a judgment becomes a lien on real property in any county when a certified copy of it is recorded in the official records or judgment lien record of that county and operates as a lien for an initial period of 10 years from the date of the recording; and the judgment creditor may extend the 10 year period by complying with Fla. Stat. § 55.10(2):
"The lien provided for in subsection (1) or an extension of that lien as provided by this subsection may be extended for an additional period of 10 years, subject to the limitation in subsection (3), by rerecording a certified copy of the judgment, order, or decree prior to the expiration of the lien or the expiration of the extended lien and by simultaneously recording an affidavit with the current address of the person who has a lien as a result of the judgment, order, or decree. The extension shall be effective from the date the certified copy of the judgment, order, or decree is rerecorded."
The question presented in the Sun Glow Construction case was whether the judgment creditor could rerecord its judgment after the expiration of the initial 10 year period, and thereby establish a new lien on real property. Because the statute doesn't specifically foreclose this possibility, the court allowed the judgment creditor to do so. According to the court, the only effect of the judgment creditor's failure to rerecord the judgment prior to the expiration of the initial 10 year period was to cause the judgment creditor to lose the priority over subsequent lienholders created by the earlier recording and to establish priority only over liens established after the later recording.

This ruling discusses the ability to maintain a judgment lien on real property for the life of the judgment, but it does not discuss the life of the judgment itself. That matter is contained in a separate statute- Fla. Stat. § 95.11(1), which sets a 20 year statute of limitations on judgment enforcement actions. But the analysis doesn't end there. There is caselaw allowing a judgment creditor to file an action on a judgment prior to its expiration and actually renew the judgment, by way of a new judgment, good for another 20 years. See Petersen v. Whitson, 14 So. 3d 300 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009). And presumably, based on the Petersen court's rationale, when the second judgment is set to lapse, the judgment creditor may file another new suit and obtain a third judgment (and so on).

Based on these statutes and cases, read together, a judgment in Florida can essentially be good forever. Likewise, a judgment lien can be good forever, limited by its recording only in terms of its priority. This analysis applies equally to judgments originating in Florida, judgments entered in other states recorded in Florida pursuant to the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, see Haigh v. Planning Bd. of Town of Medfield, 940 So. 2d 1230 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006), and judgments entered in foreign countries recorded in Florida pursuant to the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act, see Nadd v. Le Credit Lyonnais, S.A., 804 So. 2d 1226 (Fla. 2001).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Upcoming Telephonic Seminar: Judgment and Fair Debt Collection Practices

Jorge Abril is scheduled to speak the afternoon of November 10 at a telephonic seminar sponsored by the Rossdale Group, entitled Judgment and Fair Debt Collection Practices. "This live telephonic seminar describes the laws governing the process [of judgment and debt collection] and outlines the best practices to avoid lawsuits from debtors. Our nationally recognized faculty will cover actions available to consumers and strategies for attorneys representing consumers. Our faculty will also discuss judgment collections, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, ethical rules, trust account procedures, other regulatory issues, and provide an opportunity for the audience to ask live questions." Jorge's lecture focuses on the following topics:
  • Judgment Liens and Perfection of Liens
  • Execution and Dormancy of Judgments
  • Garnishment of Wages
  • Compliance with Garnishment Laws
  • Bank Accounts
  • Obtaining Other Assets
  • Domesticating Foreign Judgments
A complete agenda, including registration instructions, can be found here. We have prepared a slideshow outlining Jorge's discussion.