The final disposition of any lawsuit initiated within the Connecticut Judicial Branch is recorded for public inspection and evidentiary purposes. These records are known as "judgment records or files."
A Connecticut judgment record contains information about the litigants (their names and addresses), the presiding judge and court, related filings and events, the total award (including court costs and interest) if applicable, and the entry date of the judgment, among other details. Like other Connecticut court records, judgment records can be accessed by interested and eligible members of the public.
What is a Judgment?
A judgment is the ultimate determination of the rights and duties of parties to a civil, family, housing, or small claims action or proceeding. It indicates which party is liable to compensate the other for a loss, damage, or injury, and in what manner.
Any judgment entered in Connecticut will be either monetary or nonmonetary. A judgment can direct one side to pay money to the other side (also known as amoney judgment or damages). At the same time, it can order one party to perform or cease an action (equitable relief) or set out each party's rights without granting a monetary award or equitable remedy (also known as a declaratory judgment).
A civil judgment can be rendered by a Connecticut court or one based outside the state. When rendered by a non-state court, it is a "foreign judgment." Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-604 defines a foreign judgment as any judgment, order, or decree of a United States court or any other court, apart from a judgment obtained by default or confession of judgment.
Connecticut Judgment Laws
Connecticut's judgment laws are primarily established under Title 52 (Civil Actions) and Title 50a (International Law) of the General Statutes. Also, court rules outlined in the Connecticut Practice Book (e.g., Chapter 17 and 24) govern judgment procedures in the state.
What is Judgment Lien?
A judgment lien gives a person the right to claim another's property until a debt is paid. It is a collection tool used when the court issues a money judgment, and the losing side fails to pay the debt. This lien is non-consensual/involuntary because a creditor does not need a debtor's approval or agreement to place the lien. Plus, it can be used to force the sale of a debtor's property to recover a debt.
Judgment liens can be attached to real estate (lands, condos, buildings) and personal property in Connecticut. Chapter 906 of the Connecticut General Statutes contains the state's judgment lien laws, particularly Sections 52-355a (judgment lien on personal property) and 52-380a (judgment lien of real property).
What is a Connecticut Summary Judgment?
A summary judgment is a final ruling entered by a judge before a trial for the sake of a litigant. In Connecticut, either side of a lawsuit (plaintiff or defendant) can move for a summary judgment to resolve a lawsuit, and the moving side will often do this to save time and minimize litigation costs when there is no reason to continue the case.
However, a Connecticut court will only render a summary judgment if the pleadings, affidavits, and other submitted proof show that no "genuine issue of material fact" (i.e., no detail that will change the case's outcome) exists and one side deserves a judgment by law.
Aside from granting a summary judgment that ends a lawsuit, the courts can also enter a partial summary judgment under Conn. Practice Book § 17-51 to resolve certain issues and leave the rest for trial. At the same time, the courts may enter a summary judgment regarding liability under Conn. Practice Book § 17-50, but will hold a trial to determine the damages due to one side.
What is A Summary Judgment Motion In Connecticut?
In Connecticut, a summary judgment motion asks the court to enter a judgment in one's favor without a trial. This motion can be filed in any civil action, including administrative appeals, by any party.
The procedures for filing a motion for summary judgment in Connecticut are outlined in Sections 17-44 to 17-51 of the Connecticut Practice Book. The Connecticut Judicial Branch also publishes a helpful resource (forms included) for prospective movants and adverse parties (people who want to challenge a summary judgment motion).
Connecticut Judgment Record Search
One reason why the Connecticut courts maintain judgment records is to promote transparency in the judicial system. For this reason, the public can search for judgment records via electronic record access platforms provided by the Judicial Branch.
An individual can begin their judgment record search in Connecticut with the Superior Court Case Look-up system. Judgments entered in civil, family, small claims, and housing cases can be viewed on the platform using the following search criteria:
- A party's name
- The docket number
- An attorney/firm's Juris number
- The address of a property. (However, this is available for housing and foreclosure cases alone.)
Through Case Look-up, an individual can view a party's full name, the case name, docket number, court location, and whether the party was self-represented or not.
By selecting the docket number, the following information about a judgment can be obtained:
- The disposition (e.g., a judgment of support, judgment without trial, judgment of possession, judgment establishing paternity, etc.)
- The date the court entered the judgment
- The presiding judge or magistrate
For civil, housing, and small claims cases, an individual can also find the order and notice of judgment at the very least. These documents may contain:
- The judgment amount (plus interest, costs, reasonable attorney fees, service fee, and other charges)
- The court that rendered the judgment
- The names of the plaintiff and defendant (plus the plaintiff's address)
- The amount approved for weekly payments (if applicable) and the due date of the first payment
For family cases, it is only possible to check if a judgment has been entered (including the type of judgment) and the issuing judicial authority. No judgment documents for these cases are available to the public online.
While access to a judgment record is granted to everyone via Case Look-up, civil and family case information are only accessible for one to ten years from the disposition date, except a shorter deadline is indicated by Conn. Practice Book § 7-10 and 7-11.
How Do I Look Up a Judgment In Connecticut?
Looking up a judgment in Connecticut can be achieved by going to the Superior Court that rendered the judgment. This should be done during normal business hours.
At the courthouse, the interested individual can view the judgment electronically through public access computers or request the paper files from the court clerk's office. The hours, addresses (plus directions), and contact numbers of the courts can be obtained from Connecticut Judicial Branch's website.
What Happens if You Have a Judgment Against You in Connecticut?
Anyone who loses a lawsuit in Connecticut is a judgment debtor. Such a person must comply with the court's final orders (e.g., the payment of damages and costs). Failing to do so can lead the creditor (winner of the lawsuit) to take action against the person to satisfy the judgment. For instance, the creditor can obtain an execution from the court to collect the debt from the debtor's wages, property, or bank accounts.
Debtors with a serious reason for not paying their judgment are advised to file a motion with the court to alter the payment terms before any collection activity begins.
How Do I Find Out If I Have Any Judgments Against Me In Connecticut?
Other than receiving a notice from the court by mail, it is quite easy to determine if someone has had a judgment entered against them in Connecticut. All one has to do is search the Superior Court Case Look-up system. If aware of the court where a judgment might have been entered, the interested party can contact the court clerk to make inquiries.
Furthermore, an unsatisfied judgment can be discovered by becoming the recipient of collection efforts like wage garnishments.
How Long Does A Judgment Stay On Your Record?
Any judgment entered in Connecticut is recorded in a civil court's official case file. Per the law, these records are permanent and cannot be erased like their criminal counterparts. This means that, whether satisfied or unsatisfied, a judgment will remain in a court file indefinitely or until the file is destroyed according to the rules of court (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-36(d)).
Although no judgment can be removed from a Connecticut court record, an individual can mitigate the negative effects of the judgment by paying what is owed to the creditor, seeking post-judgment relief (e.g., filing an appeal, motion to vacate, or motion for a new trial), or discharging the debt via a bankruptcy proceeding.
How To Enforce A Judgment In Connecticut
In every action involving compensation in Connecticut, there will be a winner (the judgment creditor) and a loser (the judgment debtor). While the debtor is legally responsible for paying any damages that the court imposes, the court cannot force the debtor to pay up. Ensuring that a debtor pays a judgment is the creditor's burden - and debtors do not always readily pay their debts.
If a debtor fails to satisfy a judgment, either because of limited funds or an outright refusal, a creditor has other legal means to enforce the judgment (i.e., to collect what is owed). Generally, the creditor can begin enforcement procedures (e.g., wage executions) by filing a written application with the court. Connecticut also refers to this process as "Collecting a Judgment." (See below)
The Connecticut laws governing enforcement or collection procedures are established in Chapter 906 of the General Statutes and Sections 17-52, 24-30, and 24-32 of the Connecticut Practice Book. Also, the Judicial Branch has an Enforcing Money Judgments site for persons who want to begin enforcement procedures in the state. (The applicable civil forms are also available on the site.)
How To Collect A Judgment In Connecticut
Prevailing in a lawsuit in Connecticut is half the battle, and collecting the judgment is the other (and often the most challenging) half. The court can only determine who owes whom and the amount owed, but not how or when the judgment should be paid. Fortunately, creditors have some tools available to them to ensure that a debtor pays up.
Generally, there are three ways to collect a judgment in Connecticut: a wage, property, or bank/financial institution execution. An execution simply means that the creditor will collect the judgment amount from the debtor's wages, property, or bank account. However, initiating any of them requires some knowledge on the creditor's part about the debtor's income or assets. If these are unknown, the creditor can file a Petition for Examination of Judgment Debtor with the court to have the debtor declare their assets or income under oath.
What Happens if a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment in Connecticut
A defendant or judgment debtor who delays paying a judgment in Connecticut can become subject to collection activities instigated by the creditor. As such, the defendant's real or personal property, wages, and financial accounts can be taken to satisfy the judgment.
Furthermore, suppose the creditor moves for a debtor's examination and the defendant fails to appear for the associated hearing. In that case, the court may find the party in contempt, leading to imprisonment and a fine.
By failing to pay the judgment promptly, the defendant will also be liable to pay the interest on the judgment amount, calculated daily.
What Personal Property Can Be Seized in a Judgment in Connecticut?
Section 52-352b of the General Statutes contains a list of personal property protected from execution or attachment in Connecticut, including:
- Health and disability insurance payments
- Necessary apparel, foodstuffs, bedding, appliances, and household furniture
- The burial plot for the debtor and the debtor's immediate family
- Child support
- Engagement and wedding rings
- An award under the crime victim's reparations act
- Unemployment, social security, workers' compensation, and social security benefits
- Books, instruments, tools, farm animals, and livestock feed that are required in the debtor's profession, occupation, or farming operation
If the property is not exempted from execution by the law, creditors can collect it to pay a judgment.
Connecticut Judgment Interest Rate
Chapter 673 of the Connecticut General Statutes establishes the interest rates for judgments entered by state courts. Accordingly, the interest rate for actions to recover money (damages) is 10% per annum (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 37-3a). However, if the debt arose from hospital services, the prejudgment and post-judgment interest is capped at 5% per year and assessed at the court's discretion.
What is a Default Judgment?
In Connecticut, a default judgment can be entered against a defendant who fails to appear, plead, or otherwise comply with the order of a court (Conn. Practice Book. § 17-19). Any judgment rendered upon a defendant's default has the force and effect of a final judgment, and it is an automatic victory for the plaintiff.
How to File a Motion To Set Aside Default Judgment in Connecticut
According to Conn. Gen Stat. § 52-84, the court may enter a judgment against a defendant if the party fails to appear (i.e., file an appearance) on or before the second day after the return of service to the court.
While Connecticut law allows defendants to file a motion to open or set aside a default judgment under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-212, the court cannot grant this motion without a bona fide defense. For example, mistake, fraud, accident, or any other reasonable cause that prevented a party from defending a claim. Per the law, a default judgment can be set aside within four months after it was passed upon good cause.
The laws governing default motions and judgments, plus the relevant court procedures, can be gleaned from the Connecticut Judicial Branch's website.
File Motion To Vacate Judgment in Connecticut
In Connecticut, individuals can file a motion to vacate or open any civil judgment entered by the Superior Court under Conn. Gen Stat. § 52-212a. While this post-judgment relief is available to either party of a lawsuit, it must be demanded within four months of the entry date of a judgment.
- $75 for a housing or small claims matter
- $180 for a family relations matter
- $130 for others
There is no fee assessed for juvenile matters.
How To Remove An Abstract Of Judgment In Connecticut
One method to enforce or collect a judgment in Connecticut is to attach a lien to the debtor's real estate or nonexempt personal property. However, a judgment rendered by a Connecticut court does not automatically become a lien. For that to happen, the creditor must record the judgment in the appropriate office as directed by Conn. Gen Stat. §§ 52-355 and 52-380a.
Some states refer to the document used to create a judgment lien as an "abstract or transcript of judgment." However, this document is not used in Connecticut. Instead, to establish a lien on real property to secure an unpaid judgment (plus interest and costs), a creditor must record a judgment lien certificate with the town clerk of the county where the property is situated. This should be done within four months after the judgment is rendered, and the certificate must be signed by the judgment creditor, their attorney, or personal representative. Any lien placed by such means has a validity of twenty years (ten years for small claims judgment liens).
On the other hand, to place a judgment lien on personal property, the creditor must file a judgment lien certificate with the Secretary of the State. This lien has a shorter duration: five years from the filing date, but it can be extended for an additional five years.
According to Conn. Gen Stat. § 52-380d, only a creditor, their attorney, or personal representative who signed the judgment lien certificate can release the lien. Usually, this happens only if the creditor collects what is owed to them.
How Long Is a Judgment Good For In Connecticut
Any judgment rendered by a Connecticut court for money damages is good for 20 years from the date it was rendered (10 years for small claims actions).
Meanwhile, actions on judgments for money damages cannot be initiated once 25 years have passed from the judgment's entry date (15 years for small claims judgments).
Connecticut Judgment Statute of Limitations Law
The statute of limitations law governing judgments and actions on judgments in Connecticut is established in Section 52-598 of the Connecticut General Statutes.