I am not an attorney, I am a Judgment and Collection Agency Broker. This article is my opinion, from my experience in California, and laws vary in every state. If you want legal advice or a strategy to use, you should contact an attorney. Jurisdiction is one of the foundations of civil law. Usually, a judgment needs to be domesticated to the state and county, near the debtor. If a bank conducts business in several states, sometimes one can have the sheriff levy a branch in the creditor’s state, and levy/garnish distant judgment debtor bank accounts using long-arm statues.
New York has made progress with this. When a debtor has an account at any bank, and that bank maintains a branch in NY, you can levy on the account in NY, regardless of where their account was opened. One domesticates the judgment in NY, and levies the New York bank account.
However, in New York, there remains the problem of a new trial needed to domesticate a default judgment there. Also, in NY, most often the first $1,716 to $2,500 in the debtor’s bank account is exempt from levy.
All garnishments are done through marshals or sheriffs, in the county where the assets of a judgment debtor is located. In California, there is a substantial difference in the performance and policies of the County Sheriffs, in each of the fifty-eight counties.
Every Sheriff in California has their own policy on how levies may be served. Always verify sheriff policies before you pay a sheriff to levy a bank account. Usually, on a California levy, the bank sends a memorandum of garnishee to the sheriff. However, if the levy is satisfied in full, the bank does not have to return the memorandum of garnishee to the sheriff.
It’s a big advantage, when you can choose which county the bank garnishment will be done at. Each civil sheriff office is different, all require you to pay them. Some will serve garnishments themselves, others require you to hire a registered process server. Some civil sheriffs are quick, others are slow. All California Civil Sheriff Departments are professional and do the best job they can.
When it comes to processing, or serving, levy paperwork; most California Civil Sheriffs are average. Some are slower or faster than average, and below is a list of what I have learned about “non-average” California County Civil Sheriff departments in recent years:
Los Angeles County – the primary downtown Los Angeles civil sheriff is very slow. Use a registered process server to do levies. The sheriffs of Santa Monica, Indio, Van Nuys, Chatsworth, Riverside, Burbank, and Lancaster, are all very slow.
Los Angeles County – The sheriffs of Chula Vista, West Covina, Torrance, Pasadena, El Monte, and Inglewood, are all quick. The Malibu Sheriff is fast, however they are hard to locate with a web search: Malibu Civil Sheriff, 1725 Main Street, Santa Monica, 90401 (310) 553-5033.
Orange County – the sheriff redacts social security numbers on levy instructions to banks. Use a process server, or ask the bank to phone you for the debtor SS number. Orange county has a centralized location for issuing abstracts of judgments and writs, no matter which Orange County court generated the judgment.
Sacramento County – has a very quick and efficient Civil Sheriff department.
San Francisco County – very quick.
Santa Clara County – fairly quick, however it can take them years to return an unsuccessful garnishment report.
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