Jones v. Weston (CA2 4/22/09)


This case will tell you a little about renewal of judgments and a lot about how grateful you are that there are insurance companies in the world.

The members of a partnership sued each other.  Judgment was entered on July 18, 2001.

After its entry, the judgment debtors moved to amend the judgment to delete one cause of action. The court granted their motion and on January 16, 2002 entered a new judgment, still against the debtors but eliminating the one cause of action. In May 2002 the debtors filed Chapter 7; the Bankruptcy Court ruled the debt non-dischargeable. The creditor then (by this time it was 2004) garnished. The debtors responded with a Rule 60(c) motion arguing that they should be severally, not jointly, liable. The trial court granted the motion, vacated the judgment, and entered a new one. The creditor appealed. The debtors filed Chapter 13 to stay the appeal. Eventually, the Bankruptcy Court dismissed it. The Court of Appeals  (now it was 2007) ruled in the creditor’s favor, reinstating the joint-liability judgment.

In May 2008 the creditor again filed writs of garnishment. The debtors moved to quash them, arguing that the 2001 judgment had never been renewed. Their motion was granted, resulting in this appeal.

The creditor made three arguments – that the bankruptcy proceedings extended the time for renewal, that garnishment was an “action on the judgment” effecting renewal, and that  the fact that the judgment was vacated extended the time for renewal.

The Court of Appeals made short work of the first two. Well, actually, not-short-enough work. Rather labored work, really. The prose that appears over this judge’s name is often wise but rarely graceful.

As to the last argument, the court pointed out – or, rather, chugged to a conclusion about – a couple of things. First, the January 2002 judgment was just as much a judgment as the July 2001 judgment, so the renewal period is calculated from the latter. Second, when that judgment came up for renewal it couldn’t be renewed because it had been vacated. The court ruled that vacating the judgment and then reinstating it extended the period for its renewal by the number of days it had been vacated.

So, the creditor won and can continue the quest to collect money awarded almost eight years ago.