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Marshals Judgements FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Marshals and Judgments

  1. I started a legal action to recover money in civil court and won. How do I now go about collecting?

  2. What is the difference between a marshal and a sheriff?

  3. Should I choose a marshal or a sheriff to collect my money judgment?

  4. How much does a marshal charge?

  5. Reimbursable expenses?

  6. How do I know what a marshal should be charging me?

  7. Does the marshal take his fees directly from the money he collects?

  8. How does a marshal go about collecting a judgment?

  9. If I know where the judgment debtor lives, can I have the marshal seize the person's house?

  10. How does a marshal go about garnishing somebody's wages?

  11. What about property executions and sales?

  12. Can you give an example of how a marshal seizes assets?


Q:
I started a legal action to recover money in civil court and won. How do I now go about collecting?
A:

If the judgment debtor (the person you sued) does not pay the money judgment, an enforcement officer -- either the City Sheriff or a city marshal -- may be able to help you collect it, but success cannot be guaranteed. A city marshal, if given the proper court document, called an Execution, by your attorney or the court clerk, has legal authority to collect part of the judgment debtor's income, money, or other personal property to enforce your judgment. However, the marshal is not responsible to search for such assets; he or she will ask you where to find them. Also, the marshal must follow the law, including any statutes and court orders that limit the kinds and amount of income and property that may be taken to satisfy your money judgment. In Small Claims cases, the court clerk can give you a booklet that offers suggestions on how to increase your chances of collecting your judgment.

Simply put, a successful collection requires teamwork -- you tell the marshal where to find the judgment debtor's income, money, or other property, and the marshal uses his or her legal authority to obtain it to satisfy your judgment.

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Q:
What is the difference between a marshal and a sheriff?
A:

New York City Marshals are public officials, appointed by the Mayor, but they are not paid employees of the City of New York. They earn income by performing certain tasks in Civil Court cases, including the enforcement of judgments. City marshals charge fees for their services and receive a percentage of the money they collect. In August 1997, the New York State Legislature authorized marshals to also collect money judgments of the New York State Supreme Court and the Family Court.

The City Sheriff is the enforcement officer of the New York State Supreme Court and is authorized to collect judgments of the Supreme, Family, and Civil Courts. The Sheriff and his or her deputies are paid employees of the City of New York. Both city marshals and the City Sheriff are required by law to charge the same fees for their services, although their procedures for collection of fees may differ.

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Q:
Should I choose a marshal or a sheriff to collect my money judgment?
A:

The Department of Investigation cannot advise you to choose either the City Sheriff or a city marshal. The choice is yours to make based upon all the information available to you about their services.

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Q:
How much does a marshal charge?
A:

New York Law sets fixed fees city marshals must charge for specific services. See the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) §8011-8012 and the New York City Civil Court Act (CCA) §1915. While the amount of each fee is fixed by law, the fees that apply to individual cases may differ, according to the specific services that the marshal performs. The marshal may also require payment, in advance, of his or her reimbursable expenses.

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Q:
Reimbursable expenses?
A:

By law, a city marshal is entitled to advance payment of expenses incurred in the performance of his or her official activities in a particular case. See CPLR §8013. The expenses should be reasonably related to an act performed by a marshal for you. The marshal is entitled to ask for expenses in advance, and, upon request, the marshal can provide you with an itemized estimate of expenses. At the conclusion of the marshal's service you may also request an itemization of and refund of any unspent funds.

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Q:
How do I know what a marshal should be charging me?
A:

The marshal can give you a breakdown of the fees and expenses applicable to your case and answer your questions about them. If you believe that the marshal's charges are incorrect, and the marshal has not provided a satisfactory explanation, the Department of Investigation can look into the matter. Call the Bureau of City Marshals at 212 825-5953 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The following are examples, but not a complete list, of the fees that marshals charge.

Mileage -- Whenever a city marshal must travel within the City of New York to perform an official act, he or she is entitled to a Mileage Fee, currently $25, in advance.

Income Execution -- To garnish a judgment debtor's wages, a marshal may take several separate actions, each involving a separate fee: (1) Receiving, making a record of, and returning the Income Execution to court: $15, in advance; (2) Service of the Income Execution upon the judgment debtor: $15, plus a Mileage Fee, if the debtor is served in person, and the cost of postage, if service is made by mail, all in advance; (3) Service upon the judgment debtor's employer, if needed: $15, plus a Mileage Fee, if applicable, and the cost of postage, if applicable, all in advance.

Property Execution -- To satisfy a money judgment out of the judgment debtor's personal property, for example, money in a bank account within the City of New York, the marshal needs a Property Execution. Again, several separate fees apply: (1) For receiving, making a record of, and returning the Property Execution to court, $15, in advance (except in Small Claims, where this fee is not charged in advance); (2) for levying upon the property, by serving the Property Execution upon the bank, $15 (not in advance), plus a Mileage Fee, in advance; (3) for making an inventory of seized property, if needed, $15 (not in advance), plus a Mileage Fee, in advance, if the inventory is made at a different time than the levy. The costs of postage for any necessary mailings are additional and may be collected in advance.

A city marshal is also entitled to keep 5% of any judgment money he or she collects. This fee is called Poundage. Whenever possible, the marshal will add his or her poundage to the judgment and collect it from the judgment debtor.

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Q:
Does the marshal take his fees directly from the money he collects?
A:
Yes, and he must forward the balance to the judgment creditor within thirty days. If the marshal has previously collected advance fees from you, he or she must refund them, after collecting them from the judgment debtor.
Q:
How does a marshal go about collecting a judgment?
A:

When you first retain a city marshal, he or she can begin the collection process by mailing a notice of execution to the judgment debtor, informing him or her of the obligation to pay the judgment. If the judgment debtor then pays, further collection expenses can be avoided. If, however, the judgment debtor does not pay, the marshal can take further steps, by following legal procedures that apply to Income Executions and Property Executions. Remember, to increase your chances for a successful collection, it is in your interest to find out about the judgment debtor's assets and inform the marshal.

A judgment debtor may limit the property that the marshal can collect by seeking a protective order from the Civil Court. Also, some property such as welfare and social security payments, household furniture and appliances, and a resident's security deposit held by a landlord or utility company is exempt under the law.

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Q:
If I know where the judgment debtor lives, can I have the marshal seize the person's house?
A:

No. Marshals are not permitted to seize or sell real property. (The City Sheriff has the authority to sell real property to enforce a money judgment, although it is used infrequently.) However, after you have located the judgment debtor's assets or place of employment, the marshal can either seize and sell personal property at auction or garnish wages, subject to certain limitations prescribed by law. Additionally, with the consent of the judgment creditor, a marshal may make a payment arrangement with the debtor in lieu of removing and selling the debtor's personal property. Such an arrangement would avoid the expense of advertising the sale and other costs of removing and safeguarding the property.

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Q:
How does a marshal go about garnishing somebody's wages?
A:

When you know the employer of the judgment debtor, the marshal can levy upon his or her wages by performing an income execution. When the judgment debtor is employed in the City of New York, this method of collection may be used. If the judgment debtor is employed outside New York City, the marshal can send the income execution to the enforcement officer of that jurisdiction. By law, once the judgment debtor's employer is properly served with the income execution the employer must deduct a certain percentage of wages each pay period and forward these funds directly to the marshal, who, in turn, forwards it to the judgment creditor. The marshal must first serve or mail a copy of the income execution to the judgment debtor (first stage) so that he or she will have an opportunity to make voluntary payments without informing the employer that a judgment has been entered against him or her. If the judgment debtor defaults on any payments, only then can the marshal serve the income execution upon the employer (second stage) and begin making legal payroll deductions, not to exceed 10% of gross wages per paycheck. Certain limitations apply, including the ability to garnish the wages of members of the armed forces and Social Security beneficiaries. The marshal's office can provide further details on this collection process.

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Q:
What about property executions and sales?
A:

Property executions are an effective way to collect a judgment where the judgment creditor has located assets of a judgment debtor. A city marshal may only levy upon, and sell, the personal property of the judgment debtor. City marshals cannot levy on, or sell, real property to satisfy a judgment. In collection cases, it is the responsibility of the judgment creditor to locate the assets of the judgment debtor. Assets include bank accounts, office equipment, automobiles, stocks and bonds. Once the judgment creditor locates the assets of a judgment debtor, he or she should provide the marshal with all relevant information and documentation as to the whereabouts of the property. The marshal can then properly levy upon and sell the assets of the judgment debtor to satisfy the judgment amount and pay the marshal's fees, mileage, poundage, and reimbursable expenses. Or, in the alternative, the marshal may negotiate a payment arrangement with the judgment debtor.

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Q:
Can you give an example of how a marshal seizes assets?
A:

A good example is where a car owner receives parking tickets and takes no action to either pay the fine or attend a hearing. If a car owner fails to answer tickets, penalties will be added to the fines due. Eventually, the NYC Department of Finance can obtain a judgment and hire a marshal to enforce it against the motorist. In these circumstances, Finance has identified the car as an asset and retains a marshal to seize it to persuade the owner to pay the fines. If the owner has $350 or more in judgment debt, the car may be towed. At that point, the registered owner has 10 business days from the date of the tow to pay the judgment, as well as the tow charge and marshal's fees, and redeem the car. Vehicles that are not redeemed within 10 business days will be auctioned at a regularly scheduled auction held by the City Marshal's Office. Notice of the auction must be published and a licensed auctioneer, or a city marshal, must conduct the proceedings. Typically, auctions are advertised in the New York Times, and they are also posted on the Finance web site at www.nyc.gov/finance.The marshal may, by law, request advertising fees be paid in advance by the judgment creditor. If the marshal is aware of any liens or encumbrances against the property, he must announce that prior to the start of the bidding; otherwise, the marshal must make a general announcement that all property is sold subject to any legally filed liens or encumbrances. Further, the marshal must state that he or she reserved the right to adjourn the sale at any time if the bids are too low. Rules and regulations for vehicle auctions are also posted on the Finance web site.

You Should Know