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Judgement Search

New York judgment records are documents that contain information on judgments entered in the state court system. These records are more prominent in civil court proceedings or actions, where two or more parties bring a dispute for adjudication by a court of law.

In New York, the courts preserve these records in a permanent court folder. A typical judgment file will bear the date of the entry of judgment, the parties for and against whom the judgment was given, the facts of the case, the court and county in which the judgment was entered, the court's ruling (and the reason behind it), the case number, the total award (for money judgments).

Apart from serving as a basis for appeal, the courts keep judgment records to enhance transparency and accountability in the judicial system. New York residents and other interested persons can request these records and other New York court records from the official custodians (the county clerks).

What is a Judgment?

Section 5011 of New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) defines the term judgment as "the determination of the rights of parties in an action or special proceeding."

Generally, a judgment clarifies who wins and loses a case, and what remedy the winning party should receive. This can be either money or the return of property. At the same time, it can be an order for a case party to perform or refrain from an action (also known as "injunctive relief"). However, money damages are the more common remedies, as a dollar amount can be placed to many legal disagreements.

Per the law, a New York judgment can be interlocutory (non-final) or final. Interestingly, several types of final judgments can be rendered in a New York civil court, depending on the court process that spurred the ruling. Some examples are the default judgment, summary judgment, judgment on the pleadings, consent judgment, judgment by confession, declaratory judgment, and deficiency judgment. Notwithstanding, before any judgment can be valid in the state, it must be approved (signed) by a competent judge. It must also be in writing, even if the ruling was initially made orally, and filed with the relevant court clerk.

New York Judgment Laws

New York's judgment laws are set out in the Civil Practice Law and Rules. These regulations direct the rendering, enforcement, and payment of judgments, as well as judgment appeal procedures.

What is Judgment Lien?

At the closing of a typical civil case, a New York court will enter a judgment that orders one side of the lawsuit (the judgment debtor) to pay money to the other side (the judgment creditor) as compensation for a loss, injury, or damage.

Collecting this judgment is the creditor's responsibility. No state court can act on the creditor's behalf and force payment from the debtor. When debtors fail to pay voluntarily, creditors have a range of tools available to secure payment. One is a judgment lien.

A judgment lien is a legal claim against a debtor's real or personal property. It allows a creditor to use the property to satisfy a judgment debt, usually by retrieving the owed amount from the proceeds of the sale of the property.

What is a New York Summary Judgment?

Not all civil actions initiated in a New York court result in a bench or jury trial. In fact, many cases are resolved without a trial, either because a trial is unnecessary, one side settled or dropped the case, or the court dismissed the case.

When a trial is not required because there are no facts in dispute or no cause of action or defense, a party can ask the court to rule in their favor. Any judgment rendered upon such a request is called a summary judgment.

What is A Summary Judgment Motion In New York?

A summary judgment motion in New York is a request for the court to grant a judgment in one's favor without a trial. The laws directing the procedures for these motions are outlined in the Civil Practice Law and Rules, sections 3212 and 3213.

According to CPLR 3212, a motion for summary judgment can be filed by a plaintiff or defendant. Parties may file this motion after an answer has been filed but before the trial date.

Typically, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating that there are no disputed facts and that, per the law, such a person is entitled to judgment. However, before the court grants this motion, it must find that there is no actual dispute in the case, and the moving side deserves a judgment summarily (without a trial).

Once a summary judgment motion is granted, it means that the case is over. If the court denies the motion because there are indeed disputed facts, the case will proceed to trial.

New York Judgment Record Search

Interested individuals can find New York judgment records via the websites of the county or court clerks. There is usually an "online record search" tool provided to the public on those sites.

Depending on the county, an individual may access images and transcripts of judgments. These documents contain information about a judgment, such as:

  • The case parties' names and addresses (including representing attorneys)
  • A note on whether the judgment has been satisfied or is still unpaid
  • Date of entry of judgment
  • Judgment type (e.g., default judgment)
  • The court and county in which the judgment was issued.
  • The total damages awarded

However, the county clerk's site should be the first place to check as that office maintains case records of the Supreme Court and County Courts. Case in point, the clerks of Albany County, Dutchess County, Westchester County, Cayuga County, and Suffolk County maintain judgment record search tools on their online sites.

Some counties allow people to search and view or print judgment records at no cost. However, others require a fee per document or monthly subscription. Also, note that judgment records available online are from a certain year to the present date. For prior records, it may be necessary to visit the courthouse to use public access computers or ask the court staff to search for those records. (There is a fee involved if the court staff performs the search.)

How Do I Look Up a Judgment In New York?

In New York, judgments are open to the public. As such, any interested person can obtain information about a judgment remotely (as explained above) or directly from the court. Since remote access only provides unofficial judgment records, anyone who wants to look up (inspect) an official and complete version must request it from the court where the case was heard. This can be done by visiting the court or sending a request by mail.

However, it is best to go to the court during regular office hours as complete court files are not always accessible by mail request. At the court, the requester can use the free public viewing terminals to view images of a judgment or obtain the document from the court clerk. An individual can also send someone else to review the document on their behalf. There is no fee assessed to look up a judgment.

The court locator box on the New York judiciary website can be used to find the phone and fax numbers, addresses, websites, and hours of operation of the courts.

What Happens if You Have a Judgment Against You in New York?

Judgments entered in New York are legally binding on the involved parties. As a result, anyone who loses their lawsuit must follow the court's orders — whether it is to pay money to the winning side, return property, or perform or stop the performance of an action.

Generally, a debtor should satisfy their debt quickly so that the creditor does not have to resort to other means to ensure payment. For instance, the garnishment of the debtor's salary or attachment of a judgment lien on the debtor's property.

In cases where the losing side wishes to reverse the trial court's decision for a valid reason, the party can start an appeal within 30 days of receiving a notice of entry of judgment (35 days if the notice came by mail). However, this will not stop the creditor from collecting or enforcing the judgment. To stop collection efforts because of an appeal, the debtor will have to request a stay order from the court. The court may grant this order, but the debtor may have to pay the full judgment amount to the court as an undertaking.

How Do I Find Out If I Have Any Judgments Against Me In New York?

Typically, when a New York court enters a judgment against a person, that person (now the judgment debtor) will receive a notice of entry of judgment in their mail, or it will be handed to them in court. Failing that, the individual can contact the county or local court clerk's office to find out if any judgments have been entered against them. This is because the lawsuit for which the judgment was rendered will most likely be initiated in one's county of residence.

However, since there are several courts in a county, finding the appropriate one can be tasking. Hence, another way to know if a judgment exists in one's name is when collection activities begin. The debtor's wages may be garnished, bank account frozen, and assets seized and sold.

How Long Does A Judgment Stay On Your Record?

A judgment is a permanent court record. As such, it cannot be erased like a criminal conviction or sealed unless the case record itself is confidential by law or court order. While a judgment may remain in a court file, it will typically not affect a person’s life unless it remains unsatisfied.

How To Enforce A Judgment In New York

Winning a judgment in New York does not imply that the losing side will automatically pay up. The judgment only specifies who is liable to pay for the injury or loss. It cannot force the loser to pay the damages.

Because the debtor may be unwilling to satisfy the judgment, the creditor (the winning party) can enforce the judgment to recover the debt. Usually, this involves retrieving the judgment amount from the debtor's income, money, or property.

Nevertheless, the creditor must first know where the debtor's assets are located to enforce a judgment. To do this, the creditor can use an information subpoena to compel the debtor to reveal their assets or try to find that information via the internet, through a government office, or by contacting certain private organizations. For example, a county clerk's office, the debtor's bank, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. The creditor can also hire asset search experts.

After discovering the debtor's assets, the creditor can ask an enforcement officer (sheriff, village constable, local police officer, or city/county marshal) to request an execution from the court. This permits the officer to seize money or property from the debtor to satisfy the judgment. However, there is a fee for the officer's services, regardless of if the parties settle after communicating with the officer.

How To Collect A Judgment In New York

Collecting a judgment in New York is the same as enforcing it. Both terms refer to efforts made by a judgment creditor to ensure that a debtor (side who lost the lawsuit) pays the money due or returns the property formerly in dispute. Collection tools that creditors can use include:

  • Freezing the debtor's bank account.
  • Taking part of the debtor's salary (also known as wage garnishment).
  • Attaching a lien to the debtor's real or personal property.
  • Collecting the judgment from a pending lawsuit to which the debtor is party
  • Suspending the debtor's driver's, professional, or business license. (More information about the process can be obtained from the New York judiciary's courthelp site.)

What Happens if a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment in New York

Serious consequences await defendants who do not pay their judgments in New York. Although choosing to file a civil case in the court is purely optional, the court's final ruling (judgment) is not. Therefore, it is futile to assume that the creditor will not collect their winnings or wait until the statute of limitations expires. It will usually end badly for such a person, given that the creditor went to such lengths to obtain the judgment from the court and that New York's laws are pretty generous to creditors—giving them several tools and enough time to collect/enforce their judgments.

Upon failing to pay a judgment, a defendant can become subject to debt recovery actions, including the seizure of property and earnings. Also, as judgments accumulate interest each year, the defendant will have to pay the principal judgment amount and any interest accrued from the debt.

What Personal Property Can Be Seized in a Judgment in New York?

In New York, a creditor can seize a debtor's personal property to satisfy a judgment. However, although a creditor can take a debtor's motor vehicle, stocks, and bonds, not every personal property can be confiscated to pay a judgment.

New York has an extensive list of personal properties legally exempt from execution or attachment under CPLR 5205. Such exemptions include everyday household appliances, worker's compensation, rent and utility security deposits, public assistance, retirement benefits, stoves, domestic animals, family pictures and portraits, religious texts, etc.

New York Judgment Interest Rate

The judgment interest rate in New York is 9% per annum (CPLR 5004). Every unsatisfied judgment accumulates interest at this rate until paid off by the debtor.

What is a Default Judgment?

When a defendant in a lawsuit fails to appear or plead, the plaintiff can seek a judgment in their favor from the court. This is called a default judgment.

In New York, a default judgment allows plaintiffs to collect the amount they originally asked for from defendants, plus interest and court costs.

How to File a Motion To Set Aside Default Judgment in New York

When a default judgment is entered against any person in New York, that individual can ask the court to nullify the judgment. However, they must have a good reason for their default (failure to appear in court or answer a summons) to make the request. Some states refer to this process as "setting aside a default judgment," but New York calls it "vacating a default judgment."

File Motion To Vacate Judgment in New York

Anyone who wants to undo a default judgment entered against them in New York can file a motion to vacate with the court that rendered the ruling. This legal procedure is governed by CPLR 3215.

Ordinarily, no court will vacate the judgment unless the default occurred due to bad service or the petitioner has a valid reason for the default and can demonstrate why the other side should not succeed in the lawsuit. The legal forms to file such motions and more information about the process can be obtained from the state judiciary's courthelp page.

How To Remove A Transcript Of Judgment In New York

In New York State, a judgment can become a lien on a debtor's real or personal property if the creditor files a transcript of judgment (also known as an "abstract of judgment" in some states) with the clerk of the county in which the debtor owns the property.

A transcript of judgment is a document bearing vital information about a judgment. This document must be certified by the clerk of the court that entered the judgment and filed with the applicable county clerk(s) to establish a judgment lien. More information on filing this transcript can be obtained from the state judiciary's Making a Judgment Work page.

A judgment lien allows a creditor to clear a judgment debt by collecting funds obtained from the sale of the debtor's property. The lien can also cause the debtor to be denied a credit card until the judgment is paid. The only way to remove this attachment, other than the statute of limitations expiring, is to pay the judgment.

According to CPLR 5203 (a), New York judgment liens remain attached to a debtor's real property for 10 years, regardless of if the property changes ownership. However, this deadline can be extended for 10 years if the creditor renews the judgment under CPLR 5014.

How Long Is a Judgment Good For In New York

A judgment issued by a New York court is valid for 20 years. This period begins to count from the entry date of the judgment.

New York Judgment Statute of Limitations Law

New York's judgment statute of limitations law is established under Section 211 (b) of the state's Civil Practice Law and Rules. Under this law, judgments are enforceable for 20 years.

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