Civil judgments are an order issued by the court as its final decision and order. In its simplest term, a judge makes a decision that is binding upon the people involved in the lawsuit. (We call those involved in the lawsuit “parties”). In a civil lawsuit the parties are usually referred to as the plaintiff (the person who brings the lawsuit) and the defendant (the person the suit is against). The most common type is a judgment for money. The court finds that “John Doe” owes “CitiCard” $5,000 and enters a judgment to that effect. The judgment means that CitiCard can use that judgment to collect its debt. This is usually done by garnishing wages or a bank account.
Money judgments in Minnesota earn interest – the rate is currently 4% for judgments under $50,000 and 10% for judgments of $50,000.00 or more. Judgments are valid for ten years from entry and can be renewed.
The credit reporting agencies look for judgments in court files and list it in your credit report, in the public records section of the credit report. A judgment against you will drag down your credit score noticeably.
In Minnesota a plaintiff can bring a lawsuit against you without having to immediately file it with the court. The process is that a summons and complaint are handed to you, or someone living at your house; that starts a 20 day period within which you must serve an answer (a written denial); if you don’t contest the claim the court will enter a judgment against you.
There are other sorts of civil judgment that, for instance, determine that “Susan Roe” owns Lot 1, Block 2, Smith Addition (a quiet title action), or that “Allen Smith” must vacate apartment 12 (an eviction) or that that the marriage of Paul Jones and Helen Jones is dissolved (a divorce).