Judgment records, also known as "judgment files," are documents in which entries of judgments are recorded and preserved as permanent court records. Colorado judgment records are official records that are created and stored within the state's judicial branch. Like other Colorado court records, judgment records are available to interested and eligible members of the public on request.
What is a Judgment?
According to Rule 54 of the Colorado Code of Civil Procedure, a judgment is a decree and order from which an appeal lies. A judgment is an official court decision regarding the rights and liabilities of the parties to a lawsuit.
A court can render different types of judgments, depending on the circumstances of a case. However, there are two basic forms of judgment: oral and written. Oral judgments can be rendered in cases that require an urgent decision and in courts with high workloads. On the other hand, a written judgment can be issued for complex cases, cases that are likely to be appealed, or cases that affect or are important to the public. Regardless, a judgment is only considered valid when a judge passes it.
Colorado Judgment Laws
Colorado judgment laws are outlined under Chapter 6, Rule 54 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. These regulations govern the issuance of judgments in the state's judicial system. The Code of Civil Procedure also outlines legal procedures to guide judgment creditors in collecting their judgments from debtors.
What is Judgment Lien?
A judgment lien gives a judgment creditor (the winner of a lawsuit) a legal claim on a judgment debtor's (the losing side) real property. The lien allows the creditor to satisfy the judgment from proceeds made from the sale of the debtor's property. It may also be attached to the debtor's business, allowing the plaintiff to take over and access the business to satisfy the judgment.
Ordinarily, no creditor needs a debtor's consent to record a lien against their property. If the debtor has no real property at the time of the ruling, the lien can be attached to future acquisitions.
A Colorado judgment lien can remain attached to a debtor's property for six years, despite property ownership changes. However, this lien can only be placed on real properties in Colorado, such as lands, homes, and buildings.
What is a Colorado Summary Judgment?
A Colorado summary judgment is a final decree issued by a state court without a trial. This judgment is made upon the motion of the plaintiff or defendant when there is no reason for a case to proceed to trial, and the moving party is entitled to a judgment per the law.
What is A Summary Judgment Motion In Colorado?
A motion for a summary judgment in Colorado is a request for the court to settle a lawsuit without a trial. According to Rule 56 (a) and (b) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, any case party can file this motion when a civil action has no merit or defense.
Any plaintiff can file a summary judgment motion after 21 days from the commencement of an action. Meanwhile, the defendant can file for a summary judgment at any time.
Colorado Judgment Record Search
There are two ways that individuals can search for a judgment record in Colorado: online (remotely) or in person at the courthouse.
Requesters who intend to find a judgment record in person can do so by going to the court where the case was filed. This record can easily be obtained from court clerks who have this information in paper format.
For online searches, the Colorado State Archives also allows the public access to unsealed and non-confidential court records. However, this only pertains to archived judgment records.
How Do I Look Up a Judgment In Colorado?
When an individual is interested in obtaining a judgment record in Colorado, there are specific steps the party must take. These steps include:
- Find the court where the case was filed. Requesters can locate the correct court using the Court Docket Search tool provided by the state judiciary.
- Visit the courthouse during working hours to use the public access computers, or visit the record custodian's office (the court clerk) to request the judgment record.
Alternatively, the individual can fill a Record Request Form online to obtain the record within three business days.
What Happens if You Have a Judgment Against You in Colorado?
In Colorado, a court's judgment binds both parties to a lawsuit. The losing party becomes the judgment debtor, and the winning party becomes the judgment creditor. The losing side is liable to comply with the court's judgment, while the winning side ensures compliance.
Hence, when a debtor fails to satisfy the judgment, the creditor can execute upon the debtor's bank accounts, real or personal property, wages, or money to collect the judgment. Also, the debtor may be liable to pay additional sums to the creditor. For example, the interest accrued on the unpaid judgment and the reasonable expenses incurred by the creditor while attempting to collect the judgment.
However, suppose the debtor has a solid, admissible reason to remove the judgment obligation. In that case, the party can ask the court to overturn the judgment by filing an appeal or a motion for relief.
How Do I Find Out If I Have Any Judgments Against Me In Colorado?
Any resident of Colorado can easily find out if there is any judgment against them by checking their mail. This is because the court will usually notify the debtor of the entry of judgment. Another option is to check with the court where the litigation began. The clerk of the court will usually have this information.
Previously, an individual might have found the judgment displayed on the public section of their credit report. However, most judgments no longer appear on consumer credit reports or affect credit scores.
How Long Does A Judgment Stay On Your Record?
A judgment is a permanent court record in Colorado. As such, an individual cannot request the removal of the record over time. However, a judgment can expire and void the legal obligation of the debtor. A Colorado judgment can expire after six years if the suit was filed in the county court and after twenty years if filed in the district court.
How To Enforce A Judgment In Colorado
After a Colorado court enters a judgment, that person is responsible for ensuring the satisfaction or payment of the judgment. Sometimes, the judgment debtor complies with the judgment immediately, but in many cases, the creditor will have to make the judgment debtor obey the judgment.
There are several ways by which a judgment debtor can enforce a judgment in Colorado upon a debtor's failure to pay the judgment. These include:
- Obtaining a lien against the judgment debtor's real estate.
- Wage garnishment. This involves levying the debtor's property. To use this method of enforcement, the creditor must obtain a Writ of Continuing Garnishment, which permits the creditor to obtain what is owed from the debtor's salary. A Writ of Continuing Garnishment is valid for up to 6 months in Colorado. A creditor can garnish a debtor's royalties, workers' compensation fees, rent, and other sources of the debtor's income. Pension and retirement payments are exempt from wage garnishment.
- Negotiating with the debtor.
- Bank account levy. When a debtor refuses to honor a court judgment, the creditor can levy the debtor's bank account by requesting a writ of garnishment from the court.
How To Collect A Judgment In Colorado
To collect a judgment in Colorado, an individual must have been awarded a money judgment in court. A judgment can be collected in various ways. For one, a judgment creditor can place a lien on the judgment debtor's real property. This lien can make it impossible for the judgment debtor to sell or mortgage the property until the judgment is paid and the lien released. However, if the property is sold, the proceeds from the sale will go to the settlement of the judgment first.
Other ways to collect a judgment in Colorado can be found in the state judiciary's informational handbook.
What Happens if a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment in Colorado
A defendant who does not pay a judgment in Colorado is positioned to face some consequences, such as:
- Seizure of property and wages: Upon a defendant's failure to pay a judgment, the creditor can request an execution from the court. With this, the defendant's properties and wages can be seized, auctioned, and sold to pay off the debt.
- Judgment lien: When a defendant fails to pay a judgment, the creditor may place a lien on the party's property until the judgment is fully paid. This can prevent the defendant from selling or mortgaging the property, as no one usually wants to buy a property whose title has been clouded. However, if the property is sold, the sale proceeds go to the satisfaction of the debt.
- Garnishment of wages: A defendant who refuses to pay a judgment can have their wages and other sources of income garnished by the creditor.
What Personal Property Can Be Seized in a Judgment in Colorado?
A typical judgment in Colorado allows any creditor to take a debtor's personal property to pay off the judgment debt. However, debtors can protect some of their properties from seizures. Such properties are "exempt" under the law.
The Notice of Levy, which a debtor will receive after a judgment, contains a list of personal properties that the creditor cannot take away. If any exempt property is among those to be executed upon, the debtor must file a claim of exemption with the clerk within 14 days of receiving notice.
This list of exempt property includes:
- The clothing of the debtor or each of the debtor's dependent up to $2,000 in value.
- Jewelry, watches, and other articles of adornment up to $2,500 in value.
- The library, family pictures, and school books of the debtor and the debtor's dependents up to $2,000 in value. This excludes properties that constitute part or all of the stock in trade of the debtor.
- For debtors who are into agriculture as their principal occupation, all crops, dairy products, and agricultural products produced, raised, or grown, including all tractors, trucks, seed, machinery, agricultural tools, farm implements, and harvesting implements in the aggregate value of $50,000.
- One or two vehicles or bicycles used or kept by the debtor in the aggregate value of $7,500.
Colorado Judgment Interest Rate
According to Section 5-12-102(4) of the Colorado Revised Statutes, the current post-judgment interest rate is 8% per annum unless a rate is indicated in a contract or legal instrument. If the contract or instrument specifies a variable rate, then the interest rate is that which was in effect on the date the judgment was rendered.
However, for judgments involving personal injury damages caused by a tort, the interest rate is 9% per annum (C.R.S. 13-21-101).
What is a Default Judgment?
A default judgment is a judgment entered without trial because a defendant failed to file a response to a summons or defense. However, if the defendant has a genuine reason for failing to respond, the person may file to set aside/vacate the judgment and revive the case in court.
How to File a Motion To Set Aside Default Judgment in Colorado
A default judgment can be set aside in Colorado for a good cause. When a judgment is set aside, the court will grant the defendant a new trial or schedule a new trial date. The act of setting aside a default judgment is also known as vacating a judgment.
Rule 60 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure states the circumstances in which a judge can set aside a default judgment upon a defendant's motion:
- Mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect of the defendant.
- Misrepresentation, fraud, or other misconduct of the party who filed the case.
- The judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged.
Citing any of these grounds, a defendant can file a Motion and Order to Set Aside Default Judgment with the court.
File a Motion to Vacate Judgment in Colorado
Vacating a judgment means canceling the judgment. However, a judgment can only be vacated in Colorado upon a case party's motion and upon grounds specified in Rule 60 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure.
For example, a defendant can vacate a judgment by filing a motion under Colo. R. Civ. P. 60 and citing mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. The party can also file this motion with the court if no notice of the associated lawsuit was received or if the judgment is void.
How To Remove A Transcript Of Judgment In Colorado
A transcript of judgment is a legal document that a judgment creditor obtains from the court to attach a lien to a debtor's real property to recover a judgment debt. It costs $25 to obtain this document. This judgment lien can be recorded in every county where the debtor owns real estate.
The court is not involved in any legal collection processes. As such, unless the statute of limitations releases a lien (6 years for county court judgments and 20 years for district court judgments), only the creditor can remove the judgment lien.
To remove a lien created by a transcript of judgment in Colorado, the debtor must pay what is owed to the creditor and ask the creditor to discharge or release the lien. The creditor will do this by filing a Satisfaction of Judgment (Form JDF 111) with the court, mailing the document to the debtor, and notifying the county clerk's office in every county where the lien was recorded.
How Long Is a Judgment Good For Colorado
According to Rule 60 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, judgments rendered in the Colorado county courts are good for six years. Meanwhile, judgments awarded in the district courts last for twenty years. However, judgments can be revived in the state, as given by Rule 54(h).
Colorado Judgment Statute of Limitations Law
Every state has a deadline by which civil actions may be filed, including claims to recover a judgment debt. This is the Statute of Limitations Law.
In Colorado, the judgment statute of limitations can be found in C.R.S 13-52-102. Per the law, judgments are valid for six and twenty years—six years if the judgment was issued by a county court and twenty years if issued by a district court.