Day of Judgments

A customer named Dan called us after paying for a $5.00 Bankruptcy, Judgment & Tax Lien search through our Premium service. His search in Nevada brought up a 2010 judgment for the subject “EDWARD L. STEVENS” but it did not return a result for a 2005 judgment that Dan found using another online service.

Dan explained that the 2005 judgment in Clark County, NV against Edward Stevens was for $2,250, and awarded to Players Place, LLC. Dan wanted to know why our system didn’t show this judgment. Ours only showed him the 2010 judgment in the amount of $500, awarded to a medical office. We added that there were actually two questions we needed to answer: 1) Why isn’t the 2005 judgment in our database? and 2) Why isn’t the 2010 judgment in the database of the other service Dan used?

We explained to Dan that both online services he used are third party vendors. Search Systems gets the bankruptcy, judgment and tax lien data from the county courts at regular intervals. To uncover the full truth about both judgments, we should look at the source of these filings – the Clark County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

Using our free public records directory, we visited the Recorded Documents page for Nevada and clicked on the link for Clark County Recorded Documents. That brought us to a search page, where we input the name of the defendant: “Edward Stevens.” Scrolling through the results, we found both judgments and verified their filings numbers with the results Dan had from his pay searches. As it turned out, the County showed us that the 2005 judgment was satisfied and the 2010 judgment was still open. The reason the 2005 judgment did not appear in our pay database is likely because it was satisfied and the court amended their data upload to us, removing the record from view.

So why did Dan’s first pay search at the other online service not show the satisfaction of the 2005 judgment? Why did that service not show the 2010 judgment at all? As we’re not privy to the details of the other company’s database we can only make an educated guess. We believe their judgment database is outdated and static. If they aren’t receiving regular updates from the sources (the courts), then satisfied judgments are still showing as outstanding. And more recent filings do not appear at all.

By using both the pay search and the free directory at Search Systems, we were able to get the full picture on the debts owed by Edward Stevens. This is a good reminder about how important it is to make sure your sources are giving you current, complete information. Otherwise, you could make the wrong judgment about your research subject.

Fishing for Debtors

We frequently get calls from lenders and debt-management companies that are looking for a resource to help them cast a net for all new debtors with judgments or tax liens. Often they notice our Bankruptcy, Judgment & Tax Lien pay database and inquire about the search criteria. Can they run a search by area and date and get a list of all debtors with recent judgments and/or tax liens?

Regrettably, the answer is No. While that database contains nationwide bankruptcy, judgment and tax lien filings going back ten years, and updated weekly, we can only query the database by Name, or Name and Address, or Social Security Number/Tax ID Number (although the last method is not recommended for judgment searches). So it is a great resource if you need to search for filings belonging to a specific person or company across an entire state (or nationwide). It is not designed to give you a list of all debtors in your city, county or state.

If you require a search for the latter, you might consider a few of these options:

1. The large legal research solutions like Lexis-Nexis, WestLaw and ChoicePoint often have judgments and tax liens in their mega databases. Those services can simultaneously search many different types of databases at once, by almost any type of term or keyword. Once you understand the search logic they employ, you can craft very targeted searches. The downside to using these mega services? Typically they require long-term accounts with very high monthly fees. Also, their data is often weeks old, as it must be sent in batches by the courts and other government agencies, then processed internally.

2. Some companies are able to set up accounts with specific county government offices, and pay a monthly fee to acquire direct data uploads on a regular basis. Essentially they have cut out the middle-men like Lexis-Nexis.

3. You can also try doing simple searches right at the county clerk-recorder websites. Often those online databases include tax liens and judgments, and allow a search by date range in addition to the traditional searches by name or filing number. Each county is different, so you’ll have to investigate them on a case-by-case basis. To find those types of recorded documents databases, use this directory, and select your state from the list under the “Categories” heading. Each state page will include a list of clerk-recorder links organized by county.