As all civil litigators know and any experienced litigants, well over 90% of lawsuits settle before trial. That is, many end in compromise settlements, i.e., voluntary transfers of money, most often, precluding the need for any further court or legal action.
Nevertheless, as thousands of cases resolve by negotiated settlements, many more thousands of lawsuits result in judgments every year.
Let’s focus one area of civil litigation: debt collection. An enormous number of lawsuits, every year, result in judgments, whether by default, by confession of judgment, or summary judgments before trial.
And, in these cases, obtaining the judgment is a relatively simple process; the hard part is getting the cash, of course.
Few civil litigators (and almost no non-lawyers) spend much time thinking about the post-judgment collection process (see Paragraph No. 1, above).
A Minnesota Court of Appeals decision came out this week highlighting a subtle but critical post-judgment detail: the difference between entering a judgment and docketing a judgment under Minnesota law.
Basically, a court administer, having received instruction from a judge performs the bureaucratic task of entering a judgment. The “judgment creditor” (that is, the party who has been determined to be owed money, in most cases) must perform the separate bureaucratic task of docketing the judgment. (Important to note: the judgment creditor cannot simply docket a judgment herself. Again, a court administrator must perform the tasking of docketing the judgment, but only after the judgment creditor does her part.)
Why does this matter?
As a judgment creditor in Klingelhutz Judgment LLC v. Klingelhutz learned this week in a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision, judgments in Minnesota have life-spans of 10 years. They can be renewed for ten years, but only if the action to renew them is within the ten year period.
And when does the 10-year clock start to run?
From entry of judgment and not docketing of the judgment…