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Arizona Judgement Records

Arizona judgment records are official documents generated to provide an account of a court's final decision in a judicial hearing. According to the Arizona Public Records Law and the Rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona, Rule 123, judgment records are deemed public information. Hence, interested and eligible members of the public can access these records from the state courts as well as other Arizona court records.

Judgment records typically contain information about the parties in a case, the court's findings of fact, the parties' rights and legal obligations, and the date that the judgment was entered into the court record. These records are maintained and distributed within the Arizona Court System.

What is a Judgment?

According to the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, a judgment is a decree from which claimants or defendants can appeal. It is a decision or written order that resolves at least one claim or defense in a legal proceeding. A judgment also provides an official explanation from the court, following a hearing, that describes the parties' legal rights and obligations, as well as the court's reasoning for its decision.

Arizona Judgment Laws

Rules 54 to 63 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure outline the state's judgment laws. They highlight the legal processes that parties must follow to enforce or collect their judgments. These regulations also govern the entry of judgments in the state.

What is Judgment Lien?

After a judge or jury renders a verdict in a civil dispute, a judgment lien ensures that the person who obtained the judgment (the judgment creditor) receives what is due to them. The lien gives creditors the right to collect a set sum of money from the sale of the debtor's property. A judgment lien can only be attached to a debtor's real estate in Arizona.

Judgment liens in Arizona are governed by Section 33-964 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. According to this law, a judgment lien remains linked to the debtor's property for ten years whether or not ownership changes over time.

To impose a lien on a debtor's property, the creditor must file and record a judgment with the county recorder in the Arizona county where the debtor currently owns or will own property in the future.

What is an Arizona Summary Judgment?

In Arizona, a summary judgment is declared when a judge determines that specific issues or claims do not represent a substantial dispute of material fact. Hence, a judgment is entered in one party's favor, and the lawsuit is dismissed as a matter of law. Rule 56 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure governs the summary judgment process.

According to Rule 56, either party in a civil case can file for summary judgment. A summary judgment becomes appropriate when the facts are undisputed, and the law favors the moving party. In essence, the court will only grant summary judgment when "there is no serious dispute as to any major fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."

What is a Summary Judgment Motion in Arizona?

In Arizona, a summary judgment motion is a request made by a litigant for the court to issue a judgment without trial and in their favor. This enables courts to dismiss claims that do not require a trial quickly.

In most cases, a summary judgment motion must be filed no later than the court's dispositive motion deadline. If there is none, the motion must be filed within 90 days of the trial date. Any party can file for summary judgment. A claimant can move for summary judgment when the opposing party has not filed a responsive pleading or to dismiss a summary judgment motion by the opposing party. Unless the court concludes that the motion should be dismissed or that the motion is uncontested, the court will schedule an oral argument once the action is filed.

The summary judgment process allows the moving party (the party filing the motion) to submit a supporting statement of facts and the other party to counter those facts if they wish. If the other side counters, the moving party can also file a counter-reply. In filing for summary judgment, the moving party must identify which facts are not in dispute. The individual must also explain why the summary judgment is appropriate under the law. On the other hand, the opposing party must uncover factual inconsistencies or demonstrate how the law contradicts the moving party's request. Note that the opposing party has 30 days to respond and provide any supporting evidence once service is performed. Also, any reply memorandum and supporting papers must be served 15 days after the answer is served.

In making its decision, the court will analyze affidavits, deposition testimonies, admissions, and other evidence.

Arizona Judgment Record Search

According to the Arizona Public Record Law, judgment records are accessible to the public because they are part of civil court records. Requesters can obtain copies of judgment records in person, by mail, or through the internet.

While some records can be accessed online for free, interested parties must pay a small fee to get print copies from the courts. Copy requests can be made by visiting the courthouse where a case was filed. At the courthouse, the court clerk will assist in obtaining the document.

How Do I Look Up a Judgment in Arizona?

The Arizona Judicial Branch's website is a good starting point to look up judgments in Arizona. The website provides the physical locations of courthouses in the state and allows users to access case information from the municipal and justice courts. Furthermore, the Judicial Branch offers quick access to public court case information through eAccess, a web-based interface. Though the site is open to the general public, authorized entities, such as attorneys, government agencies, and litigants, have access to more information.

There are fees associated with obtaining judgment records from eAccess. Only select government agencies are exempt from paying such fees. Requesters must register and pay a monthly subscription to view records using the site. After successful registration and login, the portal allows the user to review nonconfidential court records. The cost of membership is assessed by the number of documents obtained each month.

What Happens if You Have a Judgment Against You in Arizona?

When a court issues a judgment after a hearing, the court must mail a copy to all parties within five days. As a final order of the court, this judgment is binding and will indicate each party's obligations. A judgment is due and payable once it is rendered by a justice of the peace or small claims court hearing officer. Typically, failure to pay the judgment voluntarily will cause the judgment creditor to enforce the judgment.

How Do I Find Out if I Have Any Judgments Against Me Arizona?

According to court rules, the state courts must deliver a copy of any judgment rendered to all parties involved in the case. Thus, when a judgment is entered against a person, the person will be notified. Parties who want to find out if any judgment has been entered against them may check their mail for the notice of entry of judgment.

Alternatively, if notified as a party to a lawsuit or issued a summons to attend court, an individual can contact the court clerk's office for information on outstanding judgments.

How Long Does a Judgment Stay on Your Record?

Although judgments form part of the permanent record of a court, they only appear on a judgment debtor's credit report for about ten years or until the appropriate statute of limitations ends.

If a judgment appears on a debtor's credit report, it can negatively impact the individual's credit score because it indicates difficulty paying off debts. As a result, potential lenders may infer that the person cannot be trusted to repay loans and most likely impose strict terms and higher interest rates as the debtor will be viewed as a high-risk customer.

To have a judgment removed from one's credit record, the debtor must pay the judgment and supply the credit reporting agency with the necessary paperwork to ensure that their report is updated.

How to Enforce a Judgment in Arizona

Before enforcing a judgment, a creditor must acquire information about the debtor's property and assets. An asset search or a judgment debtor examination (JDE) can be used to accomplish this. A JDE summons the debtor to the court or an attorney's office to answer questions about their assets. Following the acquisition of asset information, the creditor may seek to enforce the judgment by:

  • Recording the judgment: After obtaining a signed judgment, the creditor can record it in the county where the debtor resides and any other county that the debtor may own real property. With this action, the judgment becomes a lien on any real property that the debtor owns or may acquire in the future.

  • Renewing the judgment: Because judgments have a limited validity period, the judgment creditor may file a renewal affidavit to extend the validity period of the judgment within ninety days before it expires. Doing this will give the judgment creditor more time to pursue collection.

How to Collect a Judgment in Arizona

The legal process of collecting a judgment issued in Arizona is governed by sections 22-243 through 22-246 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.

Pursuant to these statutes, the courts are prohibited from collecting judgments on behalf of creditors or providing legal advice for that purpose. As a result, the judgment creditor is fully responsible for collecting the judgment and deciding on their preferred collection method. Collecting a judgment will often involve filing forms in court. The costs for requesting and serving the essential documents, as well as obtaining information to pursue collection, are the creditor's responsibility as well.

The creditor can begin collection by sending a demand letter to the debtor, stating the intention to execute the judgment using other legal means if the debtor fails to pay willingly or enter a payment agreement. If the judgment debtor refuses to pay, there are various options for collection, including garnishment and property executions. The creditor may even hire attorneys and collection agencies for assistance.

The judgment creditor will pursue collection until the judgment is paid in full. Once paid, the creditor has 30 days to file a satisfaction of judgment, which tells the court that the debtor has paid the debt.

What Happens if a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment in Arizona

When a defendant fails to pay a judgment, it could lead to devastating consequences. A judgment does more than compel debtors to pay or comply with a court order. It also permits the creditor to take the money from the debtor even if they do not pay voluntarily. This can cause the judgment debtor to lose their real estate or personal property.

What Personal Property Can Be Seized in a Judgment in Arizona?

In Arizona, a judgment debtor's personal property can be seized during collection unless exempted by law. Under Arizona Revised Statutes § 33-1125, the following personal items and assets are shielded from creditors after the entry of judgment:

  • Up to $300 cash
  • Clothing apparel of up to $500
  • Musical instruments with a market value of up to $400
  • Household pets
  • Wedding or engagement ring with an aggregate fair market value of up to $2,000
  • Books, published materials, and stationery of up to $250
  • Firearms worth up to $1,000
  • A motor vehicle worth up to $6,000
  • A wheelchair or prosthetics that aids a person's mobility

Arizona Judgment Interest Rate

Per section 44-1201 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the judgment interest rate in Arizona is 10% per annum unless an alternative rate is negotiated in writing. As such, until a judgment debtor pays a judgment, the outstanding judgment amount will accrue interest at this statutory or contract rate each year.

What is a Default Judgment?

A default judgment is issued by a court or judge when a case party fails to perform a court-ordered action, and the failure not only prevents the issue from being presented to the court but also causes a delay in proceedings. When this happens, the court can settle the legal dispute in the compliant party's favor.

Arizona utilizes a two-step process before issuing default judgments. When a defendant is served and does not file an answer within twenty days, the plaintiff will file an "Application for Default." The defendant will then have ten days after the application is filed to respond to the default. If the defendant fails to reply within the ten-day deadline, the plaintiff will file a Motion for Default Judgment. In the motion, the plaintiff must justify their entitlement to judgment.

How to File a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment in Arizona

Under Part X and Rule 140 of the Justice Court Rules of Civil Procedure, if a defendant files a written answer after the plaintiff files an Application for Default, the court, on its initiative or based on the defendant's "good reason," may set aside the default judgment and allow the underlying case to take its course. This applies to other courts as well.

Nonetheless, Rule 141(c) specifies that if the defaulting party files a motion to set aside the default judgment based on reasons justifying relief from the judgment's operation, the court may set aside the decision. The party seeking to have the judgment overturned must prove that the relief is justified.

Note that the process of setting aside a judgment is similar to the process of filing a motion to vacate a judgment in Arizona. The necessary steps are stated below.

File Motion to Vacate Judgment in Arizona

To vacate a judgment is to declare it null and void. Any party can petition the court to be released from judgment by filing a request with the court. Similar to a default judgment, the court may relieve a party from a judgment for the following reasons:

  • Mistake or excusable neglect on the defendant's part
  • Misconduct of an opposing party
  • The judgment is void
  • The judgment has been satisfied or discharged.

Any party wishing to file a motion to vacate in Arizona must do so within a reasonable time. The deadline for filing this motion depends on the reason for filing. For instance, if the reason for filing is a mistake or misconduct, the party must file the motion no later than six months following the judgment's entry. After filing, the moving party must deliver a copy of the motion to the opposing party. Then, the opposing party has fifteen days to file a response.

How to Remove an Abstract of Judgment in Arizona

An abstract of judgment summarizes a judgment. It typically indicates the following:

  • The court name
  • The legal action and case number
  • The date of the judgment, as well as the docket record for the judgment
  • The names of the judgment debtor and creditor
  • The judgment amount
  • The attorney for the judgment creditor

When an abstract of judgment is filed with a county recorder, the creditor can place a legal claim on any real estate that the judgment debtor owns in that county. It serves as a lien and usually hinders the owner from selling it or obtaining a mortgage.

In Arizona, a debtor must often satisfy a judgment to have it removed from their property. Otherwise, the lien will be attached to the debtor's property for the next ten years.

If the judgment is fulfilled, the judgment creditor must file a satisfaction of judgment with the court, usually within a specified period. For example, a creditor who won a judgment in the justice court has thirty days to file a Satisfaction of Judgment. This action legally releases the lien. However, the document must also be filed with the county recorder or clerk's office in the county where the property lies.

How Long is a Judgment Good for in Arizona

According to Arizona Revised Statutes § 12-1551, a judgment or judgment lien in Arizona is valid for ten years from the date of entry.

Typically, an Arizona judgment must be enforced within the ten-year range, or it will be deemed void and unenforceable. However, the law permits judgments to be renewed by filing a complaint or affidavit renewal with the appropriate court. The ten-year time limit holds for judgment liens, regardless of whether the debtor's property is sold or transferred.

Arizona Judgment Statute of Limitations Law

Title 12, Chapter 5 of the Arizona Revised Statutes establishes the statute of limitations governing Arizona judgments.

Initially, judgments entered in Arizona had to be executed or renewed within five years from the date of entry. However, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2240 on March 20, 2018. This bill increased the judgment enforcement period from five to ten years.