Cristall v. Cristall – 12/2/2010

December 8, 2010

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That the Five-Year Period in Which a Judgment Creditor May Renew a Foreign Judgment Under A.R.S. § 12-1612 Runs from the Date the Trial Court Resolves an Objection over Domestication, Not the Date the Foreign Judgment Was Filed by the Judgment Creditor.

In 1986, Barbara and Robert Cristall entered into a property settlement agreement following their divorce, resulting in a consent judgment entered by a California superior court.  On December 2, 1996, Barbara filed the California judgment in the Yavapai County Superior Court with an affidavit and Notice of Filing Foreign Judgment pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-1703(B).  In February 1997, Robert filed an objection to domestication of the judgment.  The trial court overruled Robert’s objection and entered a “judgment domesticating foreign judgment” on May 8, 1997.  Pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-1612, Barbara renewed the judgment by affidavit every five years after that date – on May 1, 2002, and April 27, 2007.  In January 2007, Barbara assigned all collection rights in the judgment to Paragon Financial Fitness, Inc. (“Paragon”).  Paragon initiated collection proceedings against Robert and informed him that Barbara had assigned the judgment to Paragon.  In February 2009, Barbara petitioned the trial court for supplemental proceedings, specifically requesting a debtor’s examination.  The trial court ordered the examination. Robert objected to both the order and Barbara’s petition for supplemental proceedings.  He also moved to set aside the judgment and stay its enforcement, arguing that Barbara’s 2002 and 2007 renewals were untimely and that she could not renew the judgment in 2007 because she had transferred ownership to Paragon.  He also moved to compel Paragon to comply with a subpoena requesting information about the ownership of the judgment.  After an oral argument, the trial court denied Robert’s motions.  Robert timely appealed. 

The ArizonaAppeals Court affirmed.  The Court first held that Barbara timely renewed the judgment in 2002 and 2007 because the five-year period for renewal of a judgment by affidavit under A.R.S. § 12-1612(B) began on May 8, 1997, the day the trial court entered the foreign judgment, not December 2, 1996, the day Barbara filed the judgment in Arizona.  The Court explained that foreign judgments filed under A.R.S. § 12-1702 are not immediately enforceable.  Rather, the creditor must first comply with the notice and mailing provisions of A.R.S. § 12-1703 – which give the debtor the opportunity to object – and then the judgment becomes effective after twenty days.  In this case, Robert’s objection put the matter of domestication at issue until it was resolved by the trial court on May 8, 1997, when the court domesticated and entered the judgment.  Accordingly, that is the “date of entry” for purposes of renewal under A.R.S. § 12-1612(B).

The Court next held that Barbara owned the judgment because her signed declaration stated that she only transferred “all collection rights” to Paragon, and the Paragon letter to Robert stating that she transferred ownership of the judgment to Paragon was incorrect.  Accordingly, she had authority to renew the judgment in May 2007.  Furthermore, because Robert failed to establish any credible issue with respect to Barbara’s ownership of the judgment, and because he failed to domesticate the Arizona subpoena to Paragon in California, the Court also affirmed the denial of his motion to compel.

Finally, the Court rejected Robert’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his requests for oral argument, explaining that the court did hold arguments once on the motions and that neither Yavapai County Local Rule 2(C) nor Ariz. R. Civ. P. 7.1(c) requires a court to hold oral argument upon request.

Judge Thompson authored the opinion; Presiding Judge Kessler and Judge Barker concurred.