Schlussel v. Gerlach (7/5/2016)

July 19, 2016

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that the time to renew an amended judgment runs from the date the amended judgment is entered, not the date of the original judgment, and that the renewal of an amended judgment is effective as to all relief granted in the amended judgment.

In Arizona, judgments must be renewed every five years to remain enforceable.  A judgment debtor filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment that certain amounts owed under a judgment against him had expired due to non-renewal.  The judgment creditor had first obtained a judgment in 2009 on a breach of contract claim.  The trial court in that action then entered an amended judgment in 2010 which (1) denied the debtor’s motion for a new trial, (2) awarded additional attorneys’ fees to the creditor, and (3) incorporated all amounts awarded by the 2009 judgment.  The judgment creditor did not separately renew the 2009 judgment but timely renewed the 2010 amended judgment.  The judgment debtor argued that because the 2009 judgment was not separately renewed, the amounts awarded in it had expired and were unenforceable.  The trial court disagreed and dismissed the judgment debtor’s complaint.  The judgment debtor filed a petition for special action. 

The Court of Appeals accepted jurisdiction but denied relief.  Looking to the statute on judgment renewal (A.R.S. § 12-1611), the Court found that the unambiguous language of the statute provided that any judgment may be renewed within five years of the date of entry, including amended judgments.  The Court further concluded that the 2010 judgment manifested a clear intent to replace the 2009 judgment “in all respects.”  The Court stated that nothing in the judgment renewal statutes supported the judgment debtor’s argument that a judgment creditor should be required to renew all previous judgments in order to enforce an amended judgment that incorporates the earlier judgments.  Accordingly, the Court held that the timely renewal of an amended judgment renews all components of the amended judgment even if the renewal of an earlier judgment would be time-barred.  Because it was undisputed that the 2010 judgment had been timely renewed, the Court denied relief. 

Judge Swann authored the opinion of the Court, which was joined by Judges Winthrop and Kessler.

Disclosure: Osborn Maledon attorneys were involved in this case.