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Pennsylvania Judgement Records
In Pennsylvania, judgment records are files or documents containing the court’s decision on a court case. Like most Pennsylvania court records, judgment records are accessible to the public. Judgment records can take different formats, including electronic and physical. While electronic records and documents are available on public access websites and other online avenues that the court provides, physical records may only be available in courthouses or Court Clerk offices in the state.
Judgment records also contain other important information about a case, including the litigants’ names, case summary, judgment date, case number, judge name, and signature. Case parties’ responsibilities and rights may also be outlined in a judgment record.
What is a Judgment?
A judgment is a court order stipulating the responsibilities of parties in legal action. This order designates one party as the judgment debtor and another as the creditor. The judgment debtor is required to pay money or other forms of damages to the creditor. According to 231 Pa.C.S. § 3001, a judgment is a court order that requires “the payment of money or adjudicating the right to possession in an action of replevin, including a final or interlocutory order for the payment of costs entered in any court.”
For a judgment to be valid, a competent officer such as a judge or magistrate must issue and sign the judgment. In Pennsylvania, it is possible to transfer a judgment from one county to another by filing certified copies of all case records and a certification stating the judgment amount.
Pennsylvania Judgment Laws
41 Pa.C.S. § 81 and 231 Pa.C.S. § 3001 highlight judgment laws in the state. These statutes outline laws that pertain to the execution and collection of a judgment, judgment types, entering and transferring judgment, liens, exemptions from enforcement, petitions, motions, and service, and judgment priority. Summarily, Pennsylvania’s judgment laws highlight judgment processes and the litigant’s responsibilities.
What is Judgment Lien?
A judgment lien is a court order that grants a judgment creditor claim to a debtor’s property or proceeds from the sale of the property. Liens are a way to ensure that the creditor is able to recover the judgment amount and any accrued interests. Pennsylvania laws allow a creditor to place a lien on a debtor’s real estate property. Judgment liens are involuntary, which means that a creditor may attach a lien to a debtor’s property without the debtor’s consent.
If the debtor defaults on payment, the creditor may be able to seize and take possession of the liened property. In some cases, the creditor may only take possession of proceeds from the property and not the property itself. The court does not initiate or enforce judgments for creditors. Such parties must initiate enforcement and collection methods by themselves.
What is a Pennsylvania Summary Judgement?
A summary judgment is one that the court renders whenever there is no evidence or fact supporting the necessity of a full trial. This means that the court enters summary judgments without trials. Summary judgments may be rendered after the discovery process is complete, including witness and expert reports that can prove that a trial is necessary. Any of the case parties may move the motion for a summary judgment; however, necessary conditions must exist for the court to grant the motion.
What is a Summary Judgment Motion in Pennsylvania?
According to 231 Pa. Code Rule 1035.2, a summary judgment motion is one that a case party files in petitioning the court to render judgment without a trial. This type of judgment applies to cases where a full trial is not needed due to a lack of evidence or complex facts. Interested parties must file a summary judgment motion no later than 90 days before the scheduled trial. The petitioning party must include necessary records when filing the motion. The respondent has 30 days to file a response to the summary judgment motion and to file any supplemental record.
The petitioning party may file a record containing an admission with the summary judgment motion. Also, this party may file a record showing that the case facts are not disputed and there is no reason for a trial. However, interested parties must note that oral testimony by itself is not sufficient to establish the absence of a genuine issue.
Pennsylvania Judgment Record Search
As provided by the state’s Right to Know Act, Pennsylvania courts provide access to public records on request. Unless such records are sealed by court order or state statutes, judgment records are public court records. Interested parties may conduct judgment record searches through the available channels that Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System provides, including courthouse public access terminals, electronic databases and websites such as the Appellate Courts and Disciplinary Board’s court post search.
Other search websites include the UJS Case Search web portal, which allows requesting parties to search court records by attorney, court, citation number, date filed, organization, docket number, complaint number, incident number, participant name, parcel, OTN, and SID.
The UJS web portal operates on a public access policy, which details the state’s public records definition and how to request public records. There are exemptions or limits to public access on the UJS portal. These include complaints filed in magisterial district courts, and juror notes in civil cases.
How Do I Look Up a Judgment in Pennsylvania?
To look up a judgment in Pennsylvania, interested parties may visit the courthouse where the case was heard. There, the Court Clerk or record custodian may be able to provide access to copies of court records, including judgments. Individuals may also use the public access terminals at Pennsylvania courthouses, to access judgment records. The court website offers information on court locations in the state.
Another way to look up judgments in Pennsylvania is by filing open records requests with the Open Records Officer. Interested parties may file the required form by email, US mail, fax, or in person. Open records requests must be addressed to the Open records officer, and it must be specific and concise. There are no filing fees for open records requests, but the requesting party may have to pay before gaining access to or receiving copies of requested records.
A third way to look up judgment is through the Unified Judicial System (UJS) case search portal.
What Happens if You Have a Judgment Against You in Pennsylvania?
When the court enters judgment against a party, the party becomes a judgment debtor and must pay a specified judgment amount. The court notifies both the creditor and the debtor of the judgment. A judgment debtor may appeal the judgment within 30 days. It is important to note that a debtor must have valid legal reasons to file an appeal. If the debtor does not appeal the judgment and does not pay, the debt may continue to accrue interest. Also, the judgment creditor may initiate enforcement or collection processes in order to recover the judgment amount. Enforcement processes may include property liens, wage garnishment, and others.
It is important for persons who have judgments against them to pay the required amounts as the debts will not go away over time.
How Do I Find Out if I Have Any Judgments Against Me in Pennsylvania?
The court provides notice of judgment, so case parties can expect to receive notifications from the court by mail, email, or other available channels. Alternatively, case parties may contact the clerk in the court where the case was heard to inquire about any case updates, including judgments. Case parties may also look up case updates using the remote access search portals and public access terminals that the court provides.
How Long Does a Judgment Stay on Your Record?
Pennsylvania courts retain records of judgment entries for at least seven (7) years. Judgments also appear on a debtor’s credit report. This could result in reduced credit scores and increased difficulty in accessing loans and other credit instruments. Upon payment of the judgment, the debtor may be able to have the judgment removed from their record by obtaining proof of payment. Typically, this proof is called Entry of Satisfaction.
According to Pennsylvania’s Rules of Civil Procedure, before a debtor files a request for Entry of Satisfaction with the court, such a debtor must have satisfied the judgment debt in some manner, whether in full or part. Upon receiving notice of the petition, the judgment creditor must enter the satisfaction within 90 days.
How to Enforce a Judgment in Pennsylvania
In many cases, a court verdict does not equate to compliance. Even after the court has rendered a verdict, a judgment creditor may need to take additional steps to ensure that they recover the judgment amount. The court does not collect or enforce judgments on behalf of case parties. To enforce a judgment in Pennsylvania, the judgment creditor must first convert the court’s verdict into judgment. The creditor can do this by filing a Praecipe to Enter Judgment with the Prothonotary in the county where the court rendered the verdict.
After converting the verdict to judgment, a creditor may initiate enforcement processes, including liens, writs of execution, and garnishment.
How to Collect a Judgment in Pennsylvania
Enforcement and collection are used interchangeably in Pennsylvania. They both define means through which a judgment creditor may recover the judgment amount from the debtor. In order to begin the collection or enforcement process, a judgment creditor must file the judgment in the county where the debtor lives or owns property. Since judgment liens only attach to property in the county where the creditor files judgment, the creditor must conduct title and credit report searches to determine all the counties where the debtor owns property and file the judgment in all the counties.
Another way to collect judgments is by filing a writ of execution with the court. The writ allows the Sheriff’s Office to execute or collect the judgment by selling personal property and assets like vehicles, property, or land. The writ also authorizes the Sheriff to seize monetary accounts, including credit unions and bank accounts. However, in order for the Sheriff to be able to seize monetary accounts, the creditor must file interrogatories to the garnishee. The interrogatories are a legal request sent to the bank or other third parties to inquire whether the debtor has any money with the party. Banks are required to respond to interrogatories within 30 days. Once the Sheriff serves the execution order and interrogatories to the garnishee or third party, the debtor’s accounts are frozen. The bank or third party may then release the judgment amount to the sheriff.
It is important to note that enforcement or collection methods for judgments rendered by a magisterial district court are limited to property seizure. The sheriff may sell the property, after which the creditor may recover the judgment amount from the proceeds. However, if the Court of Common Pleas enters the judgment, the creditor may enforce or collect the judgment by other means in addition to property seizure, including bank account seizure, membership or partnership interests, accounts receivable and brokerage account seizure. Wage garnishment is not available in Pennsylvania.
What Happens if a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment in Pennsylvania
If a defendant fails to pay a judgment in Pennsylvania, it could result in serious consequences. The longer it takes a defendant to pay, the higher the amount they will have to pay as interests accrue on damage amounts. Additionally, the creditor may initiate enforcement proceedings, which may result in the loss of property and money for the debtor. Since judgments appear on a debtor’s credit report, refusing to pay may result in a reduced credit score and difficulty in accessing credit facilities.
In some cases, a debtor may face jail time over judgment debt. For example, if the debtor fails to appear in court for debtor examination, the court may find the debtor in contempt and issue a warrant for their arrest.
What Personal Property Can Be Seized in a Judgment in Pennsylvania?
Even though a judgment creditor may employ enforcement tactics to recover judgment, Pennsylvania exempts certain property or assets from enforcement or execution. According to 41 Pa.C.S. § 8123, bank notes, securities, money, and real property to the tune of $300 are exempt from execution. Other exemptions include:
- Sewing machines owned by private families or seamstresses, excluding those for hire or sale
- Group insurance proceeds
- Accident or disability policy proceeds
- Fraternal benefit society relief
- School books and Bibles
- Workmen’s compensation
- Personal earnings
To protect exempt property, the judgment debtor may file a claim exemption. The debtor may also include a demand for a hearing in the claim. The court holds such hearings within five (5) days of the sheriff’s notice.
Pennsylvania Judgment Interest Rate
As provided by 42 Pa. C. S. § 8101, interest begins to accrue on a judgment from the day the court renders the verdict or judgment. The interest rate for judgments in Pennsylvania is a minimum of six (6) percent per annum. Contract parties may agree to a higher rate. If a judgment debtor fails to make payment when due, the debtor will be liable for the agreed interest percentage.
What is a Default Judgment?
A default judgment is one that the court enters against a defendant without a trial. This typically happens when a defendant fails to appear in court as required or respond to the plaintiff’s motion. If a defendant fails to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint within the required time, the plaintiff may file a motion for a default judgment. If the court grants the motion, the court will rule in favor of the plaintiff and award the plaintiff damages without a hearing or trial. Similarly, the defendant may file a praecipe, in which case the court will require the plaintiff to file a complaint. If the plaintiff fails to file the complaint within 20 days, the court may enter a judgment of non pros.
The petitioning party must serve the respondent a notice of intent to file for default judgment at least ten (10) days before filing. A certification of service must be included in the motion.
How to File a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania courts enter default judgement against case parties who fail to respond to filings or motions when due or who fail to appear in court when required. In cases where a defendant has reason to believe that the default judgment was not entered appropriately, the defendant or respondent may file a motion with the court to void or set aside the default judgment.
In some cases, parties who fail to respond may not receive notice or service of the filings and thus are unable to respond. Other acceptable reasons for failure to respond or appear include sickness or death. The court may grant the motion to set aside the default judgment in these cases. Additionally, if there is any mistake, misrepresentation, or fraud by the petitioning party, the court may set aside the default judgment. If the court grants the motion, the court sets a new trial date, giving the defendant or respondent an opportunity to state their defense.
File Motion to Vacate Judgment in Pennsylvania
To vacate a judgment in Pennsylvania is to void or set aside the judgment. As provided by 231 Pa. Code Rule 237.3, interested parties may file for Relief from Judgment by Default within ten (10) days of the judgment entry. The motion must contain copies of the preliminary objections, complaints, responses, and grounds for relief.
How to Remove an Abstract of Judgment in Pennsylvania
An abstract of judgment is a legal court document that contains the court’s decision on a case, including the rights and responsibilities of each case party, judgment amount, interest rates, and other court costs. This document allows judgment creditors to lay claim to or place a lien on property owned by judgment debtors. To place a lien on a debtor’s properties, the creditor must file the abstract of judgment with the Court of Common Pleas in each county where the debtor owns property.
There is only one way to remove an abstract of judgment in Pennsylvania, and that is simply by satisfying the judgment. The judgment debtor must contact the creditor to either pay the judgment amount in full or agree to a payment plan. Once the judgment is satisfied, the debtor may then obtain an Entry of Satisfaction, which allows the debtor to remove the abstract of judgment from their property.
How Long is a Judgment Good for in Pennsylvania
A judgment is good for five (5) years in Pennsylvania, after which it must be renewed. Property liens can be renewed for up to 20 years. After 20 years, a judgment becomes ineffective and the creditor may no longer enforce or execute the judgment. However, in cases of absence from the Commonwealth, bankruptcy proceedings, and other circumstances that may stay debt collection but not discharge the debt, a creditor may be able to enforce the judgment after 20 years.
Pennsylvania Judgment Statute of Limitations Law
As provided by 42 Pa. C. S. § 5529, judgment liens against personal property must be executed within 20 years of the judgment entry. However, judgments typically need renewal after five (5) years. 42 Pa. C. S. § 5526 stipulates that all action to renew or revive judgment liens on real property must commence within five (5) years. These statutes govern judgment enforceability and renewal in the state.