Collection Law: Post Judgment Discovery

I came into work this morning thinking I would just return a few telephone calls and head back out to finish off my 4th of July extended weekend. One of the messages left on my answering machine was an individual (I'll call him Mr. Jones) begging me to help him get out of jail. It appears Mr. Jones was picked up by the Dade County, Florida Sheriff's Department on an order of Contempt of Court. He spent the weekend in jail because he thought it best to ignore several court orders I had served on him during the past month. Yes, I admit it. I often moonlight as a collection law attorney. Something has to pay the bills; right?

The background of the case is as follows:

Sometime last year Mr. Jones lost his job and became unable to repay my client (a large financial institution) for a loan he had been given to purchase a vehicle. My client repossessed the vehicle, sold it at auction and retained my firm to file suit. The suit was to recover the deficiency left after the vehicle was sold. If you have read through my other posts you will notice that sometimes I represent the little guy and sometimes the 800 pound gorilla. In this case I represent the 800 pound gorilla.

Don't Ignore the Lawsuit
Mr. Jones ignored the lawsuit I filed against him (probably hoping it would just go away) and I obtained a judgment for the entire principal amount, interest and attorney's fees. Had Mr. Jones just responded and tried to work out a settlement I would have been willing to waive attorney's fees and most of the interest. Most of the financial institutions I represent are more than willing to do this. When Mr. Jones failed to respond he lost most of his bargaining leverage.

Post Judgment Discovery
Once the judgment was obtained, I sent Mr. Jones a legal form with questions relating to his finances. In Florida we call the form the Fact Information Sheet, Post Judgment Interrogatories or Form 1.977 (they all mean the same thing). The Florida Supreme Court has approved the questions as a lawful way for obtaining financial information about someone who has a judgment against him or her. Mr. Jones was then required by law to fill out the Fact Information Sheet and return it to me. He didn't.

When he failed to timely complete the Fact Information Sheet the Court entered an order compelling him to do so. Still no response. The Court then held him in Contempt for failing to comply with its order.

Order of Contempt
You probably know that there is no such thing as debtor's prison in the United States. For that I am thankful. However, when Mr. Jones failed to comply with the Court's order requiring him to complete the Fact Information Sheet he was held in Contempt of Court and thrown in jail. Mr. Jones was not put in jail because he couldn't pay his debt. He was put in jail because he would not comply with a Court order. I ended up spending most of this morning trying to get Mr. Jones the Fact Information Sheet so he could complete it and fax it back to me.

Most attorneys will not respond quickly to help obtain a debtor's release under the circumstances outlined above. They think the longer the debtor is in jail the more incentive the debtor will have to pay the debt off.
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