Schlussel v. Gerlach (CA1 7/5/16)

“We . . . hold that the time to renew an amended judgment runs from the time the amended judgment is entered.” Well, no, that’s a truism, not a holding. The real holding is that “such renewal is effective as to all relief granted in the amended judgment.”

A court entered a money judgment and then, several months later, entered an amended judgment that added attorney’s fees resulting from a motion for new trial and, also, “consolidated all previous awards.” The judgment holder timely renewed the amended judgment but not the original. The judgment debtor filed this action for declaratory judgment, seeking a ruling that only the additional amounts added in the amended judgment were collectible. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings; the debtor took special action.

The Court of Appeals accepts review but denies relief. The legal issue is, its says, “straightforward”: the effect of a judgment is “ascertained by a construction of its terms,” the amended judgment said that it incorporated the original and therefore it did, and thus its renewal renews the whole thing.

The judgment debtor actually had an argument, based on a Hawaii case. The court mentions it in a footnote, reserving the body of the opinion for criticism of the debtor’s position. But the Hawaii renewal statute specifically applies to the “original judgment” so the case is distinguishable.

The court holds that “timely renewal of an amended judgment serves to renew all components of the amended judgment, even if renewal of an earlier judgment would be time-barred.”

The court feels that to insist on renewal of “all previous judgments” would be a “convoluted requirement.” It was too convoluted for this judgment creditor, who had tried to renew the original judgment but managed to foul up the paperwork. But for those who can clear that hurdle it is of course safer to renew them all. Its just a matter of time before someone relies on this case but has forgotten to write the second judgment so as to include the first. The procedural implications of rolling up judgments seriatim – which is the only truly convoluted part of this –  are problems for another day.

(Opinion: Schlussel v. Gerlach)