The first district recently released its opinion in Maniez v. Citibank, F.S.B., et al. (Citation not yet available.) The plaintiff in that case sought to foreclose on a judgment lien. Judgment was entered February 28, 1997. However, the memorandum of judgment that plaintiff recorded, and which plaintiff eventually sought to foreclose upon, said that the judgment was entered on February 27, 1997, one day sooner than it was actually entered.
The defendants moved to dismiss based on the faulty date, but their motion was denied. Defendants then appealed. The question certified for appeal was "Whether a memorandum of judgment inaccurately describing a judgment as having been entered on a specific date can serve to create a lien as provided by the relevant statute." Basically, the defendants argue that there is no judgment lien to foreclose upon because the memorandum of judgment was incorrect.
The appellate court noted that a court entered judgment did not created a lien against the real estate of the debtor at common law. A judgment lien is purely a statutory creation. That being the case, it must be strictly construed. Very strictly in this case, I might add, because the court found that a memorandum of judgment inaccurately describing the judgment does not create a lien against real estate, and the trial court's decision was reversed.
This case is prime example of the importance which needs to be given to every small detail in your case. The plaintiff made several arguments to the appellate court which did not fly, one of which was a scrivener's error argument, and the other was that judgment memos are designed purely for notice. By recording this memo, plaintiff argued, the public was notified that a judgment was entered against this particular property. Yes, the appellate court said, the public was notified that a judgment was entered (erroneously) on February 27, but the public was not notified that a judgment was (accurately) entered on February 28.
Must have been pretty difficult to explain that one to the client!