Judgment Debtor’s Examination

| by Heather Duncan, Esq.

This month’s Network News is focused on clearing some of the confusion that often surrounds the handling of a judgment debtor’s examination (JDE). A JDE, also known as an Order for Appearance or ORAP, is a common preliminary step taken by a judgment creditor before initiating collection efforts.

The JDE should not be treated in the same manner as a deposition. A JDE is a court proceeding. Therefore, different rules apply to noticing, read-and-sign provisions and the handing of the original transcript. The JDE is governed largely by California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) sections 708.110-708.205

A JDE may be obtained following the entry of a money judgment through an ex parte application and notice under the provisions of CCP section 708.120. A JDE usually starts out in open court, where the case is called. The judgment debtor is then placed under oath by the clerk and sent to a nearby room to conduct the examination. A court reporter is not generally provided by the court and must be arranged beforehand by the party conducting the examination. If the examination goes smoothly, the parties most often leave without checking back in with the judge. However, if the judgment debtor refuses to answer questions or didn’t bring a requested document, the attorneys may return to open court for judicial assistance.

As a general rule, the transcript is treated like any other court proceeding, even though it may be conducted outside of the courtroom. As provided in the Court Reporters Board of California’s answers to Procedural Frequently Asked Questions, a transcript produced at a Judgment Debtor’s Examination “is treated like any other court transcript, with no right to read and correct, and no sealing of the original.”

Although there are some dissenting opinions, there is California case law stating that a JDE examination is a public proceeding. This means that the examination may be observed by any member of the public and any one may obtain a copy of a transcript, assuming the proceeding is transcribed.

There are many advantages to having a transcript of a judgment debtor examination. As soon as a date is given by the court, serious thought should be given to scheduling a court reporter.

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