Collecting Your Judgment

Congratulations on winning a judgment against your Defendant! Even in the glow of your victory, take note that winning a judgment doesn’t automatically mean you get a check. Getting the judgment, no matter how much work you or your attorney put into getting it, can be the first step to getting paid, or what is referred to as a “satisfaction” of the judgment.

If your Defendant pays immediately, great! The judgment is then “satisfied”.money gavel

But what happens when the Defendant doesn’t pay the judgment?

Note, even though there is expense and time involved, you can pursue satisfaction through judgment collection. The Court may or may not grant you a judgment increase to cover your collection costs. Thus you must decide how far you are willing to go to collect your judgment. It is your decision to decide if the expense and time of pursuing your judgment is worth the effort to collect.  For many plaintiffs – it is!

An initial step towards satisfaction is garnishing the Judgment Debtor’s wages. In Tennessee, employers even those of 1099 independent contractors, are required to garnish the Debtor’s wages or be responsible for the payment of the debt. A percentage of the Debtor’s wages is collected until the judgment debt is paid in full. It takes a while, but eventually, you will be paid in full – so long as they remain employed with that employer.

What if your Judgment Debtor is self-employed? You can still collect on your judgment but it will likely take more time and expense. Your Tennessee judgment will last ten years and can be revived to last even longer – so you’ve got time if you have the patience.

First, you need to do some reconnaissance and maybe post-judgment hearings to determine what property your Judgment Debtor owns. Maybe he owns real property (land) and personal property like cars, A.T.V.s, motorcycles, a truck, heavy equipment, or other property.

Second, if the Judgment Debtor still refuses to pay, the County Sheriff can seize the personal property and sell it at auction to satisfy the judgment. If the proceeds are not enough to pay the judgment, a lien can be placed on the real property. That lien (the judgment) must be satisfied first or at the time of closing before the property can be sold. Ultimately, this means you finally get your money!

You may have a Judgment Debtor who is “judgment proof”. This means essentially they do not have an employer from whom you can seek garnishment and don’t have any real or personal property of value. If so, this may mean your judgment may be difficult to collect and will require a lot of patience.  Nothing but time and pressure make a diamond – and your wait can pay off – especially since Tennessee’s judgment interest rate keeps rising.  That means your judgment amount will keep growing.  And, your judgment is good for 10 years (you can renew the judgment before it expires).

So, while getting your judgment is the first step towards adding to your bank account and the process can take time, ultimately you can receive satisfaction in more ways than one!

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Officer under fire for alleged social media posts

T. Leigh Hearn-Rushton of The Rushton Law Firm represents Officer Lockard who was referenced recently in the media regarding an alleged social media post. See the link below. Officer Lockard is an exemplary employee with a stellar record in law enforcement with both Lebanon and Metro Nashville Police Departments.Facebook_Headquarters_Entrance_Sign_Menlo_Park

Disappointingly, these accusations are also made at a time when it has never been more difficult to serve as a police officer. Our men and women in blue are under a microscope, and sometimes fire, both within and without. It is disappointing that accusations have arisen and Officer Lockard is being tried inaccurately via the media. The “alleged facts” as reported to news stations are not accurate.

We believe the facts will show Officer Lockard did not violate city or departmental policy and we will vigorously defend his reputation.

We look forward to a speedy resolution to this situation so that Officer Lockard may continue to serve the citizens of Lebanon, Tennessee.

Link to Tennessean article:  http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/wilson/lebanon/2016/07/14/2-lebanon-officers-leave-social-media-posts/87079376/

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How to Pick a Contractor

Nashville, Tennessee was just named the number one housing market in the United States, surpassing Honolulu and Los Angeles.  That much growth means a lot of contracts for builds, expansions and/or redesigns here in Middle Tennessee.

Contract with Caution!contractor problem

Starting a construction project can be daunting even for experienced consumers. Whether you are planning an extension, a redesign, or a whole new building, pool or other project, knowing which contractors to avoid will go a long way to eliminating potential problems before you even start.

Here are some good tips to eliminate potentially problematic contractors during the bidding process:

Google them.  Really, it can be that simple. The internet is a wealth of information just waiting to be tapped, and most of it is free.  Sources like Yelp, HomeAdvisor, the Better Business Bureau, and others can tell you all you want to know (and more) about your potential contractor.  Any company can have an “impossible-to-please-customer”.  But, when you see numerous complaints online or hostile responses from the contractor, it is likely better to move on to another potential contractor.

Be Nosey.  Keep in mind though, some businesses can and do quickly change business names or use different names of people in the business to avoid being tracked.  Is that illegal?  No, but it is likely a bit shady.  Find out the license number of the contractor you are investigating and do a little online research with the number.  In other words, Google it!  You will discover the name of any business that contractor has been associated with up to several years or more.  Does the name change frequently?  Buyer beware.

Trust your Gut.  If your spidey sense is tingling, use caution!  If something doesn’t sound right,  make sense or is wildly out of line with other bids, odds are it is best not to proceed.  Doing so could be to your detriment.

License Check.  Is your contractor actually licensed?  The Contractor Licensing Board keeps a list of licensed contractors in Tennessee.  Visit http://verify.tn.gov/ and look for your contractor.  Note, you do have to correctly “classify” the contractor from the drop down menu to be able to find them.  It can be a bit tricky.  If you need help, call the Contractor Licensing Board directly at the number on the website.  

Visit the Courthouse.  You may be able to call instead, depending on how many contractors you are researching, but simply checking with the courthouse in your county – or neighboring counties – can reveal if your contractor has been sued previously – and how often.  Remember to look for both the name of the business, the sales person, or business owner.  And, you will need to check BOTH with the General Sessions Clerk (this court has jurisdiction over cases under $25,000) and the Circuit Court Clerk (this is not the County Clerk where you get your car tags) as well.  It is a little more legwork but the peace of mind is worth it.

Reference Check.  Ask for references and check them!  A former client hired a contractor who appeared to have great references.  They checked with some of the references.  Things seemed fine.  But, the one they didn’t call could have prevented a lot of trouble had they checked with her.  Turns out, the contractor listed her as a reference without her permission and who, if called, would have given them a terrible reference.   Do your due diligence and cover your bases.  You will be glad you did.

Check the “Problem Contractors” list.  And, you can simply check the “Problem Contractors” list with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.   The link is http://www.tn.gov/commerce/article/consumer-problem-contractors .

These few short tips can save you a lot of money and trouble when you are looking for a general contractor, electrician, roofer and otherwise in the Nashville, Tennessee / Middle Tennessee area.

And if you do have a problem, please contact us.  We will be glad to help you towards your goal of achieving a just resolution to your case.

TLHR

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Spousal Abuse & Literal Payback

domestic violenceLast month, an Ohio Court awarded Jennifer Kershaw $1,580,000 in compensatory damages and $20 million for punitive damages.  The  Defendant was her former spouse, Jerry Bailey.  The lawsuit was over physical injuries she received from being punched in the face repeatedly by Mr. Bailey while the two were still married.  Mr. Bailey was fined $100, sentenced to two years probation, and served a mere two days in jail after a conviction of misdemeanor domestic violence for his then wife’s broken facial bones.  Two days in jail.  $100.  Probation.   Case over?  Not yet.

Genesis 2, verse 24 reads  “… man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”  Aside from the spiritual aspects this invokes, it is the “one flesh” that was used indirectly to deny women the right to vote, to own property, and other core rights we as women now take for granted.  Women were considered part and parcel of their husband’s person and even property, depending on the time and culture.  If the two were “one flesh”, a woman’s individual rights merged with of those of her spouse.  The rights belonged to him alone, not her individually.  And to be fair, men could not sue their wives either.

Times change.  Tennessee abolished interspousal tort immunity in 1983 with Davis v. Davis, 657 S.W. 2nd 753 (1983).  In Davis, a wife sued her husband for injuries she received from his negligent operation of a boat.  That case opened the door for suits against spouses in Tennessee, but that open door has not turned into an open flood gate.  While relatively few, it is still possible to pursue an action in tort against a spouse in Tennessee.

While the Kershaw judgment will be reduced under Ohio’s caps for punitive and non-economic damages, the case sends a message that domestic abuse – by either spouse – is not okay and will not be tolerated.

Whether you are male or female, if you are facing domestic abuse, get help.  Being hit is never “your fault”.  Filing suit is not your first  step – but getting and staying safe is.  We can assist you with Orders of Protection, filing for divorce, custody or suit when you are ready.

Click here and here for Nashville area resources.

Click here to read more about Ms. Kershaw’s case.

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The California Raisins on Truth, Lies, Dating and Divorce

People say believe half of what you see.  Son, and none of what you hear.  I can’t help being confused.  If it’s true, please tell me dear.”

Okay, so maybe it was actually Marvin Gaye who vocalized that famous line in his song “I heard it through the grapevine”, but it still holds true.  California RaisinPeople are not always…. uh, forth coming about past marriages and especially the divorce(s).  If you have assets or children to protect, a little caution can go a long way towards protecting both your finances and your heart.

So, if you can’t believe half of what you see and none of what you hear, how do you know what the “truth” is?

A phone call to your local clerk’s office (which court houses divorce information differs by state) in the county where your love lives  or was divorced in, can reveal if your significant other has filed for divorce, is actually divorced and more.  The records also contain number of prior marriages, indicate who filed for divorce, the property division and more.  They are public records and the clerk’s office, depending on the size of the file, may be able to email or snail mail the document to you.

If the divorce was amicable or if the parties were committed to keeping their privacy, then the filings (the documents describing the position and responses of the parties in the case) will likely be short, concise, and “clean”.

If the divorce was not amicable, then the filings will likely be extensive and contain a lot of “dirt” on the marriage, the parties, and contested issues. Details regarding abuse, instability, drug use, affairs, poor parenting, financial issues, bank records, and so forth will be laid out in (embarrassing) detail.  Reviewing the full case file, including subsequent lawsuits between the parties, will give you a good idea of who your significant other is under pressure and an idea of their character as well.

What you do with this information?

It is up to you.  What is seen cannot be unseen.  Either way, you will be able to make informed decisions regarding your relationship and won’t be hearing the news through the grapevine.

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Cell phones require a search warrant

These days, we live on our cell phones.  All our calls are there.  Who we talk to, text with, facetime, email and or game with are all right there in one iphone brokenconvenient spot.  Our cell phones offer an in depth snapshot (snapchat?) of our daily real and virtual lives.  Any damage or malfunction to our precious device automatically sends us rushing to the Apple store or madly googling how to correct the issue.  We protect our phones with special and costly cases and add super secret squirrel access codes to keep our data safe.  And in 2014, the Supreme Court also added another layer of protection by prohibiting warrantless searches of your password-protected cell phone.

A few years ago,  a young man was wrongfully detained/arrested and held overnight.  While he and a friend were being arrested, officers took each young man’s iPhone, along with keys and anything else they had in their pockets.  During his interrogation, he was repeatedly asked for his iPhone access code.  He repeatedly refused.  His friend, though, provided the access code to his iPhone.

Both young men were released the next morning.  However, their iPhones were missing from the inventory of what they had on their person when they were arrested.  After several minutes of “You didn’t have a phone when you were arrested”, an unusual sound filled the room – the friend’s custom-made ring tone – coming from his iPhone.  Officers followed the sound to a desk drawer in the back of the room and discovered both iPhones.  The friend received his ringing phone back,  the other was shattered, destroyed.

Officers denied damaging the phone, but when confronted with both civil rights and due process violations, the police department replaced the phone and the arrest record disappeared for both young men.

When asked why he didn’t give the officers the access code, my client said he didn’t think they had any business looking at his private phone.  A few years later, the Supreme Court agreed with him stating the police must obtain a warrant before searching a cell phone seized during an arrest.  See link for relevant cases and links to the opinions.

Again, while we protect our phones with fancy cases and access codes to keep our data safe, the United States Supreme Court also offers additional level of protection no amount of Apple Care can provide, freedom from warrantless searches!

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Don’t take a Selfie with the Judge

cell phone banCan you take your cell phone into court?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  In Wilson County, Tennessee?  Definitely not.  Upon approach, you will see multiple signs announcing cell phones or other recording devices were banned from the building.

Suspecting a good story behind the heavily advertised ban, I asked the ladies in the clerk’s office what prompted the zero tolerance policy.  Apparently, in at least one instance, spectators in the courtroom texted witnesses waiting outside what the witness on the stand said.  On top of that, judges did not like spectators taking pictures of the proceedings or of the judge personally.  I imagined a witness snapping a quick selfie with the judge in the background and Aunt Susan snapping a picture of cousin Jack’s latest arraignment to share instantly with Mama and ’em or possibly on facebook.

A judge may make rules for her or his court.  Failure to follow those rules could result in contempt of court which could carry a fine or jail time.  See our article on pajamas in the courtroom or other cell phone-related contempt of court rules for Circuit Court in Davidson County, Nashville, Tennessee.  To be safe, you should always check local rules for your court to ensure you follow the rules perfectly.  A quick internet search on your phone could help you keep that phone.

According to this article, a violator is subject to a 10-day jail sentence and/or forfeiture of their cell phone.  And, as the cell phone is also a status symbol, some of them can be pretty costly (some iPhones retail in excess of $800+).  That is a pretty heavy investment to simply be locked away in a vault.

The moral of this story is simply don’t bring your cell phone or recording device into the Wilson County Justice Center in Lebanon, Tennessee.  The justice there is swift, the folks there are friendly, but they take the cell phone ban seriously… and so should you.

 

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Petition for Civil Contempt of Court

You know it is coming, or at least you should. You were involved in a lawsuit but thankfully, you reached a signed settlement agreement that dictated what each party would do to resolve the litigation permanently. But…. time passed and you didn’t do some or any of the things you agreed to do. Why? That’s not the point now. What matters is you have been served with a Petition for Civil Contempt of Court and it is time to deal with the repercussions of your delay. civil contempt of court

What do you do now? Do what you agreed to do in the settlement agreement – and do it quickly! Sheer refusal or lame excuses will not go well with the court. Assuming you knew you had a duty to perform (you did sign the agreement) and you have the current ability to perform the task, your refusal or failure to perform under the settlement agreement can carry civil or criminal penalties. Yes. You. Jail. Not only could you get a dressing down by the Judge, you may also get a few days behind bars to think it over and “purge yourself of contempt”. In other words, you may not get out of jail until you perform under the settlement agreement. In fact, we are familiar with one local case where a former spouse failed to pay alimony under a Marital Dissolution Agreement (the settlement agreement) and was “housed” by the court for over two months until he made a substantial down payment on the overdue alimony.

If you have legitimate reasons for failing to perform – you can’t sell the house because it was destroyed by a tornado or you can’t deliver 10,000 widgets as agreed because a widget blight destroyed the entire international widget crop – then you have some room to work with here. Your attorney can confer with opposing counsel to determine if substitute action will suffice or perhaps all parties could modify the settlement agreement to reflect the substantial change of circumstances.

So, either way, it is time to act.  Doing so will save you time, expense and anxiety over the case.  Do what you need to do, get it behind you and move on with life.

Peace of mind is priceless.

-TLHR

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Collecting the Erin Andrews Judgment.

Erin Andrews got her judgment.  Now what? Often, getting the judgment is just the first step. Collecting the judgment is the real work. The below link is a great article to give you a quick overview of the collection issues represented in Ms. Andrew’s case.

A judgment has a 10-year life span in Tennessee and can be renewed indefinitely.  And that is good news because this could take a while.  There is still the possibility of appeal to reduce the judgment.  Even so, if the judgment stands and is recorded, Ms. Andrews has at least 40 more years (four judgment renewals) before the Judgment debtor Defendant  property could revert to Vanderbilt. If the judgment is kept alive, and something tells me it will be, it will be an encumbrance on the land until it is paid.  Ms. Andrews could be in for a long wait.  Perhaps her Attorneys who will finally get to deliver the big check to her may or may not yet be in elementary school.

Then again, as the author points out, this hotel is in a prime location.  With the speed of construction/renewal/growth/redevelopment Nashville enjoys, there could be a fairly quick turnover and a speedy payment….. with perhaps twenty new townhomes squeezed into the footprint the hotel currently occupies or maybe a new commercial tower to rival the batman building downtown.  Either way, Nashville’s growth could increase both its own and Ms. Andrew’s economy.

Erin Andrews Judgment May Not be Easy to Collect Against Hotel Defendants

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Cell Phone-Related Contempt of Court

cell phone gavelYou thought you put your cell phone on silent – but then it happens.  RING! RING!  In a movie theater, this error would garner you a lot of dirty looks, at least.  But, in court, a ringing cell phone could mean contempt of court with “state-sponsored accommodations” for the evening or a monetary fine.

But how do you know if you can even use (that includes texting) a silenced phone while in the courtroom?

Before the docket is called, the Bailiff (the court officer) will advise those entering the courtroom if they are properly dressed (hats or sunglasses removed, low hanging pants held up, etc.)  The Bailiff may, depending on the court’s rules, may also advise you to end your call or turn off your cell phone.  Or, there may be a sign prominently displayed on the courtroom door.

In Circuit Court for Davidson County, Tennessee, the local court rules are also posted online.  These rules require “noise generating devices” to be turned off in court or during the taking of a deposition.  The Davidson County General Sessions Court doesn’t have this prohibition – yet.

It is always a good idea to check local rules and follow any instructions of the Bailiff or posted signs.  If you do not, it could be considered “criminal contempt” which is punishable by jail time or a fine.  Yes, you could spend some time in jail for not turning off your phone.  That’s a far steeper fine than just dirty looks.

When in court, play it safe and turn off your phone.  A few missed calls or texts will be worth it.  After all, you planned to be in court only a few hours…. not overnight.

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