If a judgement was awarded in small claims court, what is the proper protocol to collect on it?

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If a judgement was awarded in small claims court, what is the proper protocol to collect on it?

As a small business owner, I was awarded a judgement in a small claims court suit against another

business. The defendant defaulted. In terms of proper protocol, do I subpoena the defendant for his financial information and at the same time file a request for a court officer to manage acquiring the amount owed to me? The order is sketchy at best in the booklet that was handed to me by the court clerk.

Asked on June 24, 2017 under Business Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You send them an "information subpoena" to get information about their job, assets, bank accounts, etc. The defendant is obligated to provide this information; if they don't, you can make a motion to enforce litigant's rights, which can result in a court order that the sheriff arrest them for their failure comply.
At least that's the theory: in practice, given their obligations, sheriffs put those orders on the very bottom of their "to do" piles and rarely act on them; it is unusual for someone to actually be arrested for failure to comply with the information subpoena, which makes its value minimal.
Of course, you do not need an information subpoena is you already have their bank and account information (e.g. from doing business with them) or know of some physical asset they own (like a car, van,etc.). In those case, you may be able to have the sheriff levy on that account or asset even without the information subpoena. There are legal mechanisms for getting court orders directing the sheriff to take money from a known bank account or to seize a car, called seeking a "write of execution," but they are more-than-somewhat technical. You may wish to turn this matter over to an attorney specializing in collections--even if they take 1/3 or 1/2 of what is collected, let them do the hard, technical work, and anything you get is better than getting nothing at all.


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